Chapter in:Figurative Language – Intersubjectivity and Usage
Edited by Augusto Soares da Silva
[Figurative Thought and Language 11] 2021
► pp. 287–306
Metaphor, metonymy and polysemy
A historical perspective
Polysemy is a basic principle of the lexis of English, but the full range of senses of a lexeme and the ways in which these interact are not often considered in accounts of metaphor and metonymy. This paper presents a case study of the lexeme dull, which develops multiple meanings that do not appear to represent the kind of straightforward concrete > abstract metaphorical mapping that might be assumed. Rather, the complex semantic history of the word reveals gradual shifts in meaning involving metonymy, and change motivated by analogy. I argue that ignoring word histories risks synchronic ‘misreading’ of the relationship between their senses (Geeraerts, 2015), and that polysemy should be acknowledged more prominently in standard accounts.
Keywords: historical semantics, lexical semantics, metaphor, metonymy, polysemy, semantic change, analogy, lexical gaps, antonymy
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