Publication details [#12392]

Anderson, John and Fran Colman. 2004. On Metonymy as Word-formation: With Special Reference to Old English. English Studies 85 (6) : 547–565. 19 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Taylor & Francis Online


Word-formation including conversion and affixation can be seen as metonymically motivated. We argue for a view of metonymy as an act of pragmatic, not lexical, nature. Thus, it does not result in polysemy but in temporary meaning extensions. The metonymy-based morphological changes can be either class-changing or class-preserving. We illustrate metonymy in Old English via kennings, also known as ‘poetic paraphrases’, like seglrad ‘sail road’, i.e. ‘sea’. In short, metonymy is to be recognized as a form of word-formation. A systematic diachronic comparison of metonymy-based inflectional and derivational patterns, just like the ones we present in English, will be illustrative of the whole process.