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Results of Semantic Change
Results of the semantic change may Vie observed in the changes in the denotative meaning of the word (extension and narrowing of meaning) or in the alteration of its connotative meaning (elevation and degradation of meaning).
Extensionof meaning is a semantic process when a word comes to be applied to a greater number of referents.
For example, the word salary comes from Latin solarium, which
Other examples of extension:
Camp - originally a military camp; now a place where people (soldiers, scouts, tourists, climbers, geologists etc.) live in tents or huts for some time
Box - originally it was a small container for drags, jewels and money; now any container
Barn - originally a place for storing barley; now a place where grain and hay are kept
Narrowing(or specialization) of meaning is the process contrary to extension. It is a semantic process when a word comes to be applied to a I fewer number of referents. Examples of narrowing:
Meat - (originally) edible flesh
Hound - (originally) dog
Worm - arty reptile or insect
Poison - a drink
The old meaning of some words is preserved in phraseological units, set phrases and proverbs,
e.g. sweetmeat fowls of the air
There is room for improvement.
One man's meat is another man's poison.
Narrowing of meaning is obvious in the use of the material instead of the object that is made of it.
e.g. silver-silver coins, silver goods
iron - a tool for smoothing out the linen irons - chains
glass - a drinking vessel; a mirror
The process of narrowing occurs when a proper noun is used as a common noun.
e.g. cenotaph (an empty tomb) - the Cenotaph (in London)
border (frontier between two countries) - the Border (frontier
city ~~ the City (in London) peninsula - the Peninsula (Iberian Peninsula) The process of narrowing may be also present when an abstract noun becomes a concrete noun.
e.g. beauty - a beauty (a beautiful girl)
In the above examples it is mainly the denotational component of the lexical meaning that undergoes the change while the connotative component remains unchanged. In other cases it is the connotative meaning that is changed. These changes may be divided into two groups: a) elevation of meaning and b) degradation of meaning.
Elevationor ameliorationof meaning is the improvement of the connotative component of meaning.
e.g. minister - (originally) a servant or an attendant
fame - report, common talk, rumour
Such changes are not always easily accounted for, but on the whole social changes are of importance for words that acquire better meanings.
For example, the word 'blight', which originally meant a boy-servant, acquired a better meaning through military and feudal associations; later it came to be also used as a title of rank.
Other examples illustrating this process of elevation of meaning:
Nice - (originally) foolish, ignorant
Nimble — adroit in stealing
Guest - a foreigner, an enemy
Degradation of meaning is the acquisition by the word of some derogatory emotive charge.
For example, 'boor' originally denoted 'a villager, a peasant'; later it acquired a derogatory, contemptuous connotative meaning and came to denote 'a clumsy or ill-bred fellow.'
Other examples of degradation of meaning:
churl -- (originally) a man
knave — a boy
gossip - a godparent
silly - happy
idiot — a private person
The degradation of meaning is often affected by social backgrounds. 'A villain', for example, was originally a man who worked on a farm, or villa. Such a peison was believed to have a'low sense of morality because his social status was low, and the word came to mean 'a scoundrel.'
Words which originally were, onomatopoeic acquired a derogatory meaning.
e.g. gabber - talk in a rapid or thoughtless manner
gabble — talk fast and foolishly .
babble - talk nonsensically
jabber — talk rapidly and unintelligibly
giber - speak inarticulately, and often foolishly
twaddle - speak foolishly
wish-wash - talk idly and insipidly