Monosemy

Monosemy means 'one-meaning' and is a methodology primarily for lexical semantic analysis, but which has widespread applicability throughout the various strata of language.

Originator

Despite several precursors,[1] monosemy as a theoretical model was developed most prominently by the transformational-generative linguist, Charles Ruhl.[2][3]

Principles

Monosemy as a methodology for analysis is based on the recognition that almost all cases of polysemy (where a word is understood to have multiple meanings) require context in order to differentiate these supposed meanings.

Since context is an indispensable part of any polysemous meaning, Ruhl argues that it is better to locate the variation in meaning where it actually resides: in the context and not in the word itself.[4] Wallis Reid has demonstrated that a polysemous definition does not actually add any additional information that is not already located in the context, such that a polysemous definition is exactly as informative as a monosemous definition when the effects of context are "controlled" for (i.e. systematically factored out of a definition).[1]

A monosemous analysis assumes that any sign in a sign system signals one value within its paradigm, with a substance that arises out of its diachronic history.[5]

There are some cases where a word genuinely has two meanings that cannot be brought under a singular, more abstract sense, but these are better understood as instances of homonymy.

Recent Applications

Monosemy has been used in work by the Columbia School of Linguistics,[6][7] in areas of cognitive linguistics,[8] and in linguistic research into Ancient Greek.[9][10][11][12][5][13]

Other Understandings of Monosemy

Monosemy can also be understood as an attribute of a language (though this is not precisely what Charles Ruhl's theory articulates), namely the absence of semantic ambiguity in language. The artificial language Lojban and its predecessor Loglan represent attempts at creating monosemous languages. Monosemy is important for translation and semantic computing.[14]

See also

References

  1. Reid, Wallis (2004), "Monosemy, homonymy and polysemy", Studies in Functional and Structural Linguistics, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 93–129, ISBN 9789027215604, retrieved 2019-07-29
  2. Ruhl, Charles, 1936-2009. (1999). On monosemy : a study in linguistic semantics. NetLibrary, Inc. ISBN 058506492X. OCLC 1053022622.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Ruhl, Charles (2002), "Data, Comprehensiveness, Monosemy", Studies in Functional and Structural Linguistics, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 171–189, ISBN 9789027215574, retrieved 2019-07-29
  4. Ruhl, Charles, 1936-2009. (1999). On monosemy : a study in linguistic semantics. NetLibrary, Inc. pp. xii. ISBN 058506492X. OCLC 1053022622.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Wishart, Ryder A. “Monosemy: A Theoretical Sketch for Biblical Studies.” BAGL7 (2018) 107–39. http://bagl.org/files/volume7/BAGL_7-4_Wishart.pdf
  6. Reid, Wallis; Otheguy, Ricardo; Stern, Nancy. (2002). Signal, meaning, and message perspectives on sign-based linguistics. John Benjamins Pub. Co. ISBN 9027282234. OCLC 1109375613.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. International Columbia School Conference on Linguistics (6th : 1999 : Rutgers University) (2004). Cognitive and communicative approaches to linguistic analysis. J. Benjamins. ISBN 1588115666. OCLC 56318193.
  8. Németh T., Enikö Bibok, Károly (2001). Pragmatics and the flexibility of word meaning. Elsevier Science, Ltd. ISBN 0080439713. OCLC 464060189.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. Fewster, Gregory P. (2013). Creation language in Romans 8 : a study in monosemy. Brill. ISBN 9789004246485. OCLC 907619236.
  10. Porter, Stanley E., 1956- editor, writer of supplementary textual material. Fewster, Gregory P., editor, writer of supplementary textual material. Land, Christopher D., editor. Modeling Biblical Language : selected papers from the McMaster Divinity College Linguistics Circle. ISBN 9789004309265. OCLC 928615102.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  11. Porter, Stanley E., 1956- , autor. Linguistic analysis of the Greek New Testament : studies in tools, methods, and practice. ISBN 0801049989. OCLC 1105263328.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. Lappenga, Benjamin J. Verfasser. Paul's Language of Zēlos : monosemy and the rhetoric of identity and practice. ISBN 9789004302457. OCLC 1024095071.
  13. Wishart, Ryder A. “Monosemy in Biblical Studies: A Critical Analysis of Recent Work.” BAGL6 (2017) 99–126. http://bagl.org/files/volume6/BAGL_6-5_Wishart.pdf
  14. Wishart, Ryder A (2018-08-10). "Hierarchical and Distributional Lexical Field Theory: A Critical and Empirical Development of Louw and Nida's Semantic Domain Model". International Journal of Lexicography. 31 (4): 394–419. doi:10.1093/ijl/ecy015. ISSN 0950-3846.
  • The dictionary definition of monosemy at Wiktionary
  • A theoretical sketch of monosemy
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