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Why a word has more than one meanings?
Thread poster: chopra_2002

chopra_2002  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:44
Member (2008)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Jan 13, 2008

If a word has so many meanings, it sometimes leads to confusion.

Do you know why a word has more than one meanings? Is it due to the reason that there is/was scarcity of words?

Or were the same words coined by different people at different places but later they came to know that particular word already existed, and thus there were so many meanings for the same words?

Or there are some other causes behind it?


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Daniel Šebesta  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 17:14
Member (2007)
English to Czech
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Capacity of human brain Jan 13, 2008

langclinic wrote:
Do you know why a word has more than one meanings? Is it due to the reason that there is/was scarcity of words?


Yes, it certainly has to do with the number of possible (pronounceable) sound (letter) combinations. Also, the fact that words have several meanings, which are mostly related in some way, suits the capacity of our brains.

Daniel


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Fabiana Papastefani-Pezzoni  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 18:14
Member (2003)
English to Albanian
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Definitively capacity of our brain Jan 13, 2008

Daniel Šebesta wrote:

langclinic wrote:
Do you know why a word has more than one meanings? Is it due to the reason that there is/was scarcity of words?


Yes, it certainly has to do with the number of possible (pronounceable) sound (letter) combinations. Also, the fact that words have several meanings, which are mostly related in some way, suits the capacity of our brains.

Daniel


Hello all,

Humans could have inventet additional words, just like the the one that has several meanings, so I would not really say scarity of words. Speaking, the word, is in fact our life, we describe, explain our life, emotions, experience with them. Brain puts together the emotions, the circumstance, experience, imagination, fantasy, the innovative capacity tu use tools in different ways (I definitively believe the word is our most imporatnt tool we have in life) and comes out with "ways of saying" things.

I find it amaising, fantastic. I also think often about what you asked here, langclinic (love your nick name ). It is fantastic though. Brain consideres the word just like our other tools, you do not use one tool at home exeptionally for one purpose....well now more and more yes, but imagine before!

We are amaising creatures, aren't we?

Kind regards,

Fabiana


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Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 17:14
Member (2007)
Dutch to English
Be glad Jan 13, 2008

I'm glad words have more than one meaning, because if they did not, then anyone could be a translator. LOL

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bia_free  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 18:14
Member (2007)
French to Romanian
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A few words about homonymy Jan 13, 2008

Hello,

This is certainly an interesting and very ample topic
There are many “causes” of homonymy. Some of them would be:
- Phonetic changes – undergone by words throughout their evolution. In this case words pronounced differently can develop identical sound forms. Example: night/knight
- Borrowings – some borrowed words may end up by adopting the pronunciation of an existing word. Ex: site (Latin: situs)/vs/sight
- Shortenings – Ex: fan (


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:14
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Actually... Jan 13, 2008

langclinic wrote:
Do you know why a word has more than one meanings?


You will never find the answer to your question because your unit of division is artificial. We don't speak in words. We speak in syllables. It just so happens that certain syllables often occur together, and then we group them permanently into "words". And the reason why syllables can multiple meanings, is because syllables are always used in a context.


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ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:14
English to Spanish
+ ...
Polysemy/semantics Jan 13, 2008

Hi langclinic,

I agree with Bianca Constandin that this is certainly an ample topic, and I would like to add that it is a great question for linguistics'/semantics' lovers in general!

It motivated me to search the Internet, which in turn made me refresh some concepts learned at university.

I found some quite interesting texts/links, which may also interest you:

http://fds.oup.com/www.oup.co.uk/pdf/0-19-823842-8.pdf

http://webdata.soc.hawaii.edu/fredr/homonymy.htm

http://www.ru.ac.za/academic/departments/linguistics/Mark/Ling2/Language%20change/week2-LangChange-ohp.pdf

In the last one, you get a syllabus of a linguistics' course from a university in South
Africa (Rhodes University), which gives you a basic summary that indirectly answers your question:


Why is the semantic system so open to change?

• arbitrariness
• imperfect learning
• meaning is defined by social convention
• vocabulary is a very loose system
• polysemy


Causes of semantic change

• Historical causes
• Social causes
• Psychological causes

[...]

Types of semantic change

• metaphoric extension
• extension/restriction
• perjoration/amelioration

[/quote]


On the other hand, an off-topic reply to Buck:

Buck wrote:

I'm glad words have more than one meaning, because if they did not, then anyone could be a translator. LOL


Buck, I am afraid that anyone can be/become a translator. This has been commented/debated in these forums many times.

As this website (among other similar websites in the Internet) proves, the translation market has become even more "crowded" since the Internet made things easier in terms of translation resource availability/access.

AFAIK (and as you probably know), the only exception about restrictions to work as a translator is when you wish to produce "official" certified translations. In this case, you then need to take the corresponding required government translation test and usually anyone prepared to take it (not necessarily with a translation background) can potentially pass it.

I guess unless each and every country makes government translation certification obligatory for *all* types of translations, anyone will still be able to work as a translator, whether you have studied translation/linguistics or not.

Best,

Ivette


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Sultan Khanfar
United Arab Emirates
Local time: 19:14
Arabic to English
+ ...
Yes? Jun 17, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:

langclinic wrote:
Do you know why a word has more than one meanings?


You will never find the answer to your question because your unit of division is artificial. We don't speak in words. We speak in syllables. It just so happens that certain syllables often occur together, and then we group them permanently into "words". And the reason why syllables can multiple meanings, is because syllables are always used in a context.

Syllables don't have meanings of their own, they need to be combined together to form different meanings, right?


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