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  • Titill er á ensku Distinguishing Between Polysemy and Homonymy: A Critique of a Common Dictionary Approach
  • Bakkalár
  • Abstract
    Polysemy and homonymy are semantic phenomena that are part of our everyday language. Polysemous words possess two or more related senses; homonyms possess two or more unrelated meanings. These phenomena are distinguished by dictionaries based on two criteria: first, the word’s etymology, second, the word’s core meaning. Polysemous words are given one single entry, as they are believed to have arisen from the same historical source and possess a core meaning. Each homonym receives a separate entry, based on the claim that homonyms have arisen from different historical sources and that they do not possess a shared core meaning. This paper argues for various weaknesses in this approach. Etymology, the evidence used by scholars to support it, is assessed in order to argue that the historical origin of the word cannot always be determined, therefore some words are classified as being homonyms while they are really polysemous. It is also unclear how far back in history one must go in order to determine the true origin of the word. Various theories are assessed that argue for/against the existence of a core meaning being possessed by polysemous words as opposed to homonyms, along with the experiments that support/undermine this argument. Theories, such as Sense Enumeration Lexicon(SEL) and General Lexicon Approach(GL) have been discussed, both having opposing views when dealing with polysemy and homonymy. The paper concludes-that the theories and research aimed at distinguishing between polysemy and homonymy are conflicting- therefore that the approach used by dictionaries in distinguishing between polysemy and homonymy is arbitrary.

  • 25.1.2017

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