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Polysemy and Homonymy
One of the most debatable problems in semasiology is the demarcation line between homonymy and polysemy, i.e. between different meanings of one word and meanings of two homonymous words. Scholars use different criteria to distinguish between polysemy and homonymy.
(1) Semantic criterion,ft is usually held that if a connection between various meanings is apprehended by the speaker, they are to be considered as making up the semantic structure of a polysemantic word, otherwise it is a case of homonymy.
Thus, the semantic criterion implies that the difference between polysemy and homonymy is actually reduced to the difference between related and unrelated meaning. This traditional semantic criterion does not seem to be reliable; firstly, because it is subjective, various meanings of the same word and the meanings of two homonymous words may be equally apprehended by different speakers as related or unrelated.
Secondly, the meanings of homonyms arising from conversion are related (seal, n. - seal, v.; Jump, v. —jump, n.), so this criterion cannot be applied to a large group of homonymous word-forms in Modem English.
So the semantic criterion is rather vague and in many cases it cannot be used-to discriminate between several meanings of one word and the meanings of two-different words.
(2) The criterion of distribution.This criterion is helpful in cases of lexico-grammatical homonyms. For example, in the homonymic pair 'paper, n. -paper, v.' the distribution of these words is different. The noun may be preceded by an article and followed by a verb. The verb 'to paper' can never be found in identical distribution. This formal criterion can be used only with lexico-grammatical homonyms, but it often fails in case of lexical homonymy.
(3) The criterion of spelling.Homonyms differing in graphic forms such as 'knight' and 'night' or '/lower and 'flour' are easily perceived to be two different lexical units.
It is the duty of lexicographers to define the boundaries of each word, i.e. to differentiate homonyms and to unite lexico-grammatical variants deciding in each case whether the different meanings belong to the same polysemantic word or whether there are grounds to treat them as two separate words identical in forn.