The semantic change of ato ‘later, behind’ in Japanese
From the Peircean sign to metonymy
This paper explores the semantic change of the polysemous Japanese word ato from the perspective of metonymy. In order to define how metonymy contributed to ato’s semantic development, I employ Peirce’s conception of the sign. I argue that the rise of ato’s meanings reflects the relations between the components of Peirce’s semiotic model; that is, representamen, object and interpretant. This account challenges a major previous study by Heine, Claudi and Hünnemeyer that approaches semantic change from the perspective of the conceptual notion “metaphor from metonymy”, putting two aspects, namely family resemblance and unidirectionality, to the fore. While I concur with Panther, who identifies metonymy as an indexical (pointing-to) operation, it will be shown that the crucial factor in ato’s semantic change is that indexicality operates in a triadic fashion facilitated by various cognitive processes. That is, Peirce’s “thirdness”, the concept that a sign mediates between the interpretant and its object, is the key to an account of ato’s semantic change.