Homonyms

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Economica
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Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 7:56 pm UTC

Homonyms

Postby Economica » Sun May 01, 2011 12:10 am UTC

I've recently discovered an interest in the linguistics of homonyms, particularly words that are homonyms in multiple languages and are the *same* homonym across multiple languages.

I find it somewhat difficult to articulate precisely what I mean, but here are two examples:
1. In English, "man" can mean either a male human being or can be used loosely to refer to all humans. In Spanish, the word "hombre" can fulfill both of these functions as well.
2. In English, "day" can mean: a 24-hour period (two days from now...), the lit portion of a 24-hour period (during the day of Saturday) or an indefinite time period (in my day...). In Hebrew, "yom" (Strong's H3117) fulfills all three of these functions as well.

Counterexamples:
In ancient Greek, Heraclitus informs us that "life" and "bow" (the weapon) are the same word (bios), yet clearly in English we have two words for these two concepts.

I am interested in exploring the extent to which (1) and (2) occur; that is, the extent to which words are homonyms in different languages. Is there any particularly good resource on this? I know I'm not the first to try to explore this area but a quick search of JSTOR was not fruitful.

My guess is that these "shared homonyms" are more common within language groups than across them, and that it is possible that some homonyms evolved early and were carried through daughter languages...

best regards,
Travel well, we'll see you on the other side.

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TheGrammarBolshevik
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Location: Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.

Re: Homonyms

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Sun May 01, 2011 6:49 am UTC

Nothing rhymes with orange,
Not even sporange.

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Gigano
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Location: Groningen, The Netherlands

Re: Homonyms

Postby Gigano » Sun May 01, 2011 9:55 am UTC

I can give a few Dutch words that have multiple meanings.

zin
1. a sentence; De zin begint met een hoofdletter en eindigt met een punt. The sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period.
2. a purpose or meaning; De zin van het leven is... The purpose/meaning of life is...
3. a desire; Ik heb zin om te dansen. I have a desire to dance.

lopen
1. to walk; Wij lopen in naar het station. We walk to the train station.
2. to unfold, to turn out; De dag loopt anders dan we hadden verwacht The day turned out differently than we had expected.
3. to flow, to run; Het bloed liep bij hem de neus uit. The blood flowed out of his nose.

And there are loads more.
Omne ignotum pro magnifico.

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Roĝer
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Re: Homonyms

Postby Roĝer » Sun May 01, 2011 10:23 am UTC

Economica wrote:I find it somewhat difficult to articulate precisely what I mean, but here are two examples:
1. In English, "man" can mean either a male human being or can be used loosely to refer to all humans. In Spanish, the word "hombre" can fulfill both of these functions as well.
2. In English, "day" can mean: a 24-hour period (two days from now...), the lit portion of a 24-hour period (during the day of Saturday) or an indefinite time period (in my day...). In Hebrew, "yom" (Strong's H3117) fulfills all three of these functions as well.


Those are not homonyms. They are simply literal and less literal uses of the same word. A homonym is when two unrelated words have the same pronounciation (and spelling) through language evolution.
Ik ben niet koppig, ik heb gewoon gelijk.

tetromino
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Re: Homonyms

Postby tetromino » Sun May 01, 2011 10:02 pm UTC

I can think of quite a few multi-language metonyms; for instance, the words "tongue" (English), "langue" (French), and "язык" (Russian) can all mean both "flexible muscular organ located in the mouth" and "language". OP has provided two examples of multi-language polysemes; in fact, multi-language polysemes are rather common, particularly in technical and scientific terminology. However, I cannot come up with any examples of true multi-language homonyms (words that have the same spelling and pronunciation, but completely unrelated meanings, like the word "pine" in English meaning both "to yearn" and "coniferous tree").

dedeee
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Re: Homonyms

Postby dedeee » Mon May 02, 2011 12:30 am UTC

I'm not entirely sure if this one would count: "Right", as the opposite of left, and as in human rights. In Spanish, "derecho" also covers both. However, in both cases, the words do come from the same root. The latter meaning is also represented by cognates in related languages, such as "rett" in Norwegian, and "droit" in French, both of which also happen to mean "straight".

Adeimantus
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Joined: Sat Aug 27, 2011 11:16 pm UTC

Re: Homonyms

Postby Adeimantus » Sat Aug 27, 2011 11:40 pm UTC

Thanks, Gigano, for the Dutch vocabulary lesson. Dutch is a very interesting language. :!:


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