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Euphemism is the substitution of an For example, snogging was (Also known as dustman in the

agreeable or inoffensive expression for once an alternative word for UK)

one that may offend or suggest sex, though it has now been • collateral damage for "civilian
something unpleasant to the listener; ameliorated in most registers casualties"
or in the case of doublespeak, to make to mean a french kiss. • downsizing for making
it less troublesome for the speaker. redundant, itself a euphemism
for layoffs, a euphemism for
mass firing of employees.
A euphemism is a word or phrase that Other common euphemisms include: • unplanned landing for "plane
is used in place of a disagreeable or crash"
offensive term. When a phrase • restroom for toilet room (the • spontaneous energetic
becomes a euphemism, its literal word toilet was itself disassembly for explosion
meaning is often pushed aside. In originally a euphemism). • protective custody for
linguistics, the process of coining This is an Americanism. imprisonment without judicial
euphemisms is called taboo • acting like rabbits, making proceedings
love to, getting it on, doing it, • bathroom for toilet room
or sleeping with for having • motion discomfort bag for
The methods of historical linguistics sex with barfbag
can reveal traces of taboo • sanitary landfill for garbage
deformations. Several are known to dump (and a temporary
have occurred in Indo-European. Semantic change
garbage dump is a transfer
Examples include the original Indo- station), also often called a
European words for bear (*rktos), In diachronic (or historical) linguistics,
Civil Amenity in the UK
wolf (*wlkwos), and deer (originally, semantic change is a change in one of
• third-party unauthorized use
hart). In different Indo-European the meanings of a word. Every word has
for cracking a variety of senses and connotations
languages, each of these words have
difficult etymologies because of taboo • ill-advised for very poor or which can be added, removed, or altered
deformations--a euphemism was bad over time, often to the extent that words
substituted for the original, and the a • pre-owned vehicles for used of one time period mean quite different
form of original word no longer cars things to the same words as spoken in a
occurs in the language. The Germanic • A student being held back a previous time. Moreover, two words
word "bear" means "brown guy;" the grade level for having failed derived from the same original word
Slavic root (*medu-ed-) means "honey the grade level may develop in very distinct ways:
eater." • correctional facility for cognates across languages often look
prison very similar but mean entirely different
Euphemisms can eventually become • an athlete favoring a things.
taboo words themselves through a particular (body part) for
process for which the linguist Steven injuring another Semantic change is not to be confused
Pinker has coined the term corresponding body part -- with etymology, another field in
euphemism treadmill, which is for example, putting more diachronic linguistics; etymology is the
comparable to Gresham's Law in weight on one's right leg scientific study of word origin, while
economics. In this process, over the because of an injury to one's semantic change deals with the
course of time, a word that was left leg development of sense. In fact, semantic
originally adopted as a euphemism • the big C for cancer (in change is one of the factors that need to
acquires all the negative connotations addition, some people be taken under consideration, in order to
of its referent, and has to be replaced whisper the word when they evaluate a proposed etymology.
by a substitute. In extreme cases, the say it in public, and doctors
process can happen many times, and have euphemisms to use in Limitations of historical semantics
indeed may still be happening. front of patients, e.g. "c.a." or
"mitosis") In recent years semantic change has
Euphemism • bathroom tissue, t.p., or bath received a large amount of attention,
tissue for toilet paper especially within the framework of
A euphemism is the use of a (Usually used by toilet paper pragmatics and cognitive linguistics.
substitute word in an attempt manufacturers) Nevertheless, the quest for a standard
to replace or mask the • custodian or caretaker for taxonomy of semantic changes, which
negative connotations of the janitor (also originally a would adequately account for all
normal word for a certain euphemism — in Latin, it attested mechanisms, is still in doubt.
object or action. The means doorman.) Many linguists (chiefly comparatists)
substitute word undergoes an • sanitation worker (or, would agree with R.S.P. Beekes'
extension, while the word sarcastically, sanitation assertion, that "studies on change of
replaced may suffer engineer) for "garbage man" meaning do not offer satisfactory
pejoration by dissimilation. results" and no-one has so far presented
a full-scale method for interpretation (nuclear) meaning of a word culture goes along with
and classification of the data. and of marginal or peripheral changes in items, materials,
senses, that form a radial tools and concepts.
There are certain linguistic causes network. In fact, change of Nevertheless, since language
behind this deficiency, related to meaning has been sometimes abides to the principle of
inherent limitations of historical defined as drift or shift of economy (old means - new
semantics: semantic load from a nuclear usages), a certain delay in
meaning to a peripheral one. following that progress is
Unfortunately, texts and certainly expectable. The
• By contrast with the limited
inscriptions tend to be silent system of any given language
number of phonemes and
on the prototypicality of the will most likely extend the
morphemes in a linguistic
nuclear meaning and on the semantic field of an existing
system, the number of senses
relevant semantic force of word in order to cover the new
is unlimited. This bipolar
one synonym over another. usage rather than create ex
position has been described
nihilo a new lexeme. The
as resulting from the co-
Causes of semantic change importance of the simultaneous
existence of a closed
function of lexical items and
A major contribution to the theory referents had been the object of
system and an open semantic
of semantic change has been a linguistic and ethnographic
Antoine Meillet's 1905 article field back in 1910, which was
'Comment les mots changent de named Wörter und Sachen
• There are no semantic rules (“Words and Things”). Though
sens'. This article has influenced
or principles that may not reflecting mature linguistic
many later essays, as it addresses
exclude a certain change of analysis, this field focused on
the most important aspects of
meaning (according to producing a descriptive pattern
meaning change. Meillet
Antoine Meillet's to account for both the word
discusses the causes of semantic
ascertainment). Therefore, and its cultural background or,
historical grammars and briefly, to connect the history
handbooks, after dealing with of a word to the history of its
the development of phonetic • Structural (structurelles): referent.
and morphological system of This category refers to the
the language, tend to proceed linguistic structure of lexical
Types of change
with the study of lexical items. The limited number of
change or origin (loanwords, phonemes / morphemes
reduces, as such, the possible The four most widely recognised types
lexical diffusion, dialectic
contexts for these elements. of semantic change are extension,
split etc.), setting aside any
By striking contrast with the narrowing, amelioration, and pejoration.
need for a logical
morphophonemic part, there The first two represent changes in a
classification of semantic
are no a priori context limits word's scope, while the second pair can
related to the meaning of a also cover changes in a word's
word, concerning its possible individual meanings.
• Information on the
connotations and positions in
circumstances that
a sentence. In addition, • Generalization
contributed to an alteration
lexical fields allow for Also known as extension, generalization
are rare and scarce. A linguist
powerful semantic interaction is the use of a word in a broader realm
cannot retrieve (or verify)
among their members, though of meaning than it originally possessed,
valuable evidence concerning
the results are usually visible often referring to all items in a class,
style, intonation (the
only after the conclusion of rather than one specific item. For
suprasegmental parts of
the process. instance, place derives from Latin
language) and the relevant
platea, "broad street", but its meaning
position of synonyms in a
Two noteworthy structural grew broader than the street, to include
lexical field. Accordingly, he
mechanisms that affect "a particular city", "a business office",
is not able to define and
semantic change are "an area dedicated to a specific purpose"
evaluate the sociolinguistic
grammaticalisation and before broadening even wider to mean
background which may have
reanalysis. "area". In the process, the word place
favoured a certain change or
displaced (!) the Old English word stow
a degree of intentionality that
and became used instead of the Old
lead to the entrenchment of • Referential (referentielles):
English word stede (which survives in
the new meaning. This category includes
stead, steadfast, steady and -- of course
changes affecting the
-- instead).
• Polysemy, which constitutes referent, i.e. the object or
Generalization is a natural
a prerequisite for semantic thing that a linguistic unit
process, especially in situations of
change, is based upon the stands for. Normally,
"language on a shoestring", where the
construction of a central progress in technology and
speaker has a limited vocabulary at For instance, the word silly
her disposal, either because she is begins Suffield's poem and
young and just acquiring language or meant in Old English times
because she is not fluent in a second Amelioration "blessed", which is why
language. A first-year Spanish student
Suffield calls his poem a
on her first vacation in Spain might
find herself using the word coche,
Amelioration occurs as a beatitude (Christ's
"car", for cars, trucks, jeeps, buses, word loses negative beatitudes begin with
and so on. When my son Alexander connotations or gains "blessed are the..."). How
was two, he used the word oinju (from positive ones. For did a word meaning
orange juice) to refer to any type of example, mischievous used "blessed" come to mean
juice, including grape juice and apple to mean "disastrous", "silly"? Well, since people
juice; wawa (from water) referred to where it now only means who are blessed are often
water and hoses, among other things. "playfully annoying". This innocent and guileless, the
is often a result of word gradually came to
Extension is the widening of semantic bleaching. mean "innocent". And some
a word's range of meanings,
of those who are innocent
often by analogy or
simplification. For example, Pejoration might be innocent because
virtue was initially a quality they haven't the brains to be
that could only be applied to Pejoration occurs as a anything else. And some of
men, like our modern word word develops negative those who are innocent
manliness, but in connotations or loses might be innocent because
contemporary society, it can positive ones. For they knowingly reject
equally be applied to women example, notorious opportunities for temptation.
as well. Maverick used to be initially meant "widely In either case, since the
a rancher's term for an known". Yet it has gone more worldly-wise would
unbranded cow but can now
through the process of take advantage of their
mean a person who doesn't
conform to the conventions
extension to now mean opportunities, the innocents
of a group (Jeffers & "widely and unfavourably must therefore be foolish,
Lehiste). Meanings can be known". Awful originally which of course is the
borrowed from other had a meaning closer to current primary meaning of
languages (semantic loans). the modern meaning of the word silly.
awesome, yet it now The word goddy in the poem
Narrowing means the opposite. A is a metaplasmus (artful
famous example is of the misspelling) of gaudy. The
Narrowing is the reduction in word gay, which can mean word gaudy was derived
a word's range of meanings, happy or colorful and was from the Latin word
often limiting a generic word
used commonly until it gaudium, "joy", which was
to a more specialised or
technical use. For example, became a reference to applied to praying (as a type
broadcast originally meant homosexuals. While this of rejoicing). Because the
"to cast seeds out"; with the may or may not have been most common prayers in
advent of radio and a euphemisation in itself, Middle English times were
television, the word was the word in the original the prayers of the rosary,
extended to indicate the sense is avoided. Gay is Middle English gaude came
transmission of audio and also extended in certain to be associated with the
video signals. Today, because slang vocabularies as a rosary and came to mean
of narrowing, very few pejorative adjective. See "an ornamental rosary
people outside of agricultural
also euphemism treadmill. bead". Unfortunately, not all
circles use broadcast in the
earlier sense (Jeffers &
who prayed with the rosary
Lehiste). Pejoration is the process were genuinely pious; many
by which a word's were like the Pharisees of
meaning worsens or old and just wanted to be
Word Old Meaning degenerates, coming to seen praying -- religion for
"men's wide represent something less them was decorative
breeches favorable than it originally (ornamental) rather than
extending from did. Most of the words in functional. As a result,
waist to ankle" Suffield's poem have modern English gaudy
place "broad street" undergone pejoration. gradually acquired its
current meaning of tasteless
or ostentatious annulled to become abbess of Moving on to the next line of
ornamentation. a monastery on the Isle of Suffield's poem (for they shall
A related word to gaudy, Ely. This act of sacrifice and christgeewhiz bow down before
which is not explicitly her subsequent holiness him), we find another religious
prompted others to revere her figure, of greater stature than
referenced in Suffield's
as a saint. Legend has it that Mary Magdalene or St. Audrey,
poem but is implied, is she died of a disease of the who has had his name spawn
bead (in the poem, bedead throat, a disease that she many new words. Of course,
is probably an regarded as judgment upon this is Jesus Christ, whose
anagrammatic play on the vanity of her youth, when name has become an oath.
beaded). In Middle she loved to wear beautiful Because swearing is considered
English times, bead (then necklaces in court. inappropriate in polite society,
spelled 'bede') referred Eventually, AEthelthy/rth people slightly changed the
only to a rosary bead. was beatified, and -- as by sound of the invective. Damn
Middle English bede was this time phonetic change had it! became darn it!, shit!
itself descended from Old simplified her name to became shoot!, Jesus! became
English gebed, prayer. The Audrey -- she was known as gee, gee whiz and geez and
phrase telling one's beads St. Audrey. An annual fair Jesus Christ! became Jiminy
was literally "saying one's was held in her memory each Crickets, among others. These
prayers", with each rosary October 17th, and at the fair euphemistic changes are called
bead used to keep count of were sold cheap souvenirs, minced oaths.
the number of prayers said. including a neck lace called The final word in Suffield's
In the days when all English- St. Audrey's lace. In England, poem to undergo pejoration is
speaking Christians were the initial [s] of saints' names paternoster, which is
Catholics, using the rosary is often elided (for instance, descended from the Latin pater
was such a common practice the town of St. Albans in noster, which represents "Our
that it was only natural for Hertfordshire is locally Father", the first words of the
the word for prayer to pronounced as [talbans] by Lord's Prayer. As a result of
become the word for the bead some). As a result of this this relationship, the words
used to say a prayer. process, by the 1800s, the came to be known as another
In this way, Suffield is necklaces were called tawdry name for the Lord's Prayer and
arguing, deep spiritual laces. It wasn't long before came to mean one of the large
communication has been tawdry was applied to the beads on a rosary on which the
trivialized into a trinket. other cheap souvenirs sold at Paternoster was recited (those
Modern English bead has the annual fair, with the result beads again!). As its meaning
come so far from its original that tawdry became a general radiated outward from "large
center that its sphere of adjective meaning "gaudy bead", it even came to mean "a
meaning no longer includes and cheap in appearance". weighted fishing line with
prayer -- but does include The word tawdry is not the hooks connected by bead-like
other small round objects, only eponymous word to swivels". The word paternoster
such as beads of sweat. degenerate: the last word in also came to mean any word-
The word rosary, Suffield's first stanza, formula spoken as a prayer or
incidentally, originally was maudlin, is short for magic spell. Since the
Latin for "a rose garden", Magdalene. Mary Magdalene Paternoster was in Latin, and in
which was applied as a was the reformed prostitute Medieval times Latin was no
metaphorical description of who wept at Christ's tomb longer the native language of
the prayer cycle, which was that first Easter morning; this any of the reciters, the prayer
"a rose garden of prayers", weeping has been was often recited quickly and
with the rose garden memorialized in innumerable with little regard for the sense
symbolizing both the Garden medieval paintings and stain- of the words. Because of this,
of Eden (or paradise, which glass windows. As a result, paternoster came to mean
originally meant, well we her name came to be used to meaningless chatter, words
could go on forever...) and describe anyone who was empty of meaning -- this sense
the rose of the Virgin Mary. weeping, and from there the of the word gave rise to the
A word that has shown meaning radiated out to form patter. (The word pitter-
similar semantic degeneration "excessively sentimental." patter, though used by Suffield
to gaudy is tawdry. In the Magdalene came to be in his poem, is actually
eighth century, AEthelthy/rth, pronounced maudlin through etymologically unrelated to the
Queen of Northumbria, gradual phonetic change; in word patter with this meaning.)
abdicated her office and fact, Magdalen College at Patter has the sense of
renounced the pleasures of Oxford University is locally meaningless words, and sharp
the flesh, having her marriage known as Maudlin. Silly are words can become rounded and
to the King of Northumbria the goddy tawdry maudlin. dull. But although Suffield
laments that no word is still "be cold" (since it evolved French word pas, which
the Word [of God], some through the meaning "to die literally means "step" but is
words do assume a dignity of cold"). Though both words also used with ne in forming
they had not before arose from a common West negating statements like je ne
possessed. Germanic root *sterb-a- ("to pense pas ("I don't think so")
die"), and their meanings are as well as by itself: ma voiture
Word Old Meaning still somewhat related, a un toit ouvrant, la leur pas
semantic drift has caused ("my car is convertible, theirs
crafty "strong" their specific meanings to isn't").
cunning "knowing" differ. The same may occur
"distinguished, language-internally, Metonymy
egregious standing out especially when one form is
from the herd" specifically agglutinated. For A type of extension,
example, English to hurdle is metonymy or synecdoche is
harlot "a boy" cognate to hard and is the use of a part of an object to
notorious "famous" agglutinated with the -le refer to a whole. In many
obsequious "flexible" frequentative suffix. languages, the word for head
A more extreme example is can be used as a substitute for
vulgar "popular" with the English word black, the word for person. In
which is cognate with Slavic English, we have the phrase "a
words for white (Russian head", resembling the Latin
Semantic shift белый); the reconstructed phrase "per capita", which we
Proto-Indo-European root for also use. The word "poll",
Semantic shift occurs as a both is *bhel. English black originally meaning the top of
word moves from one set of derives from Germanic the head, can refer to the whole
circumstances to another, *blakaz, a past participle of a head, and a "poll tax" is a fixed
resulting in an extension of verb meaning "to blaze." As tax applied to each person. The
the range of meanings. An an adjective, the word would convention of using capital
example of this is navigator, indicate something that has cities to represent countries or
which once applied only to burned and since what is their governments is another
ships but, with the burnt is generally black, the example of metonymy.
development of planes and shift in meaning makes more
cars, now applies to multiple sense. Political correctness
forms of travel. Another
example is Old English, Figurative use Political correctness is a real
meat, (or rather mete), which or perceived attempt to refine
referred to all forms of solid Figurative use is a change in or restrict language and terms
food while flesh (flæsc) meaning that is based on an used in public discussion to
referred to animal tissue, and analogy or likeness between those deemed acceptable or
food (foda) referred to animal things. For example, a crane appropriate. For example, in
fodder. Meat was eventually is a bird with a long neck, but the United Kingdom in the
restricted to flesh of animals, the word can now also mean early 1990s the term
then flesh restricted to the a piece of equipment for "blackboard" became perceived
tissue of humans and food lifting weights. The earlier by some as being "politically
was generalized to refer to all examples of maverick and incorrect", and so some schools
forms of solid food (Jeffers & broadcast are also examples instructed teachers to refer to it
Lehiste). of figurative use. as a "chalkboard"

Semantic drift Grammaticalisation

Grammaticalisation is the
Semantic drift is the development of function
movement of the entire words and grammatical
meaning of a lexeme to a new affixes from content words. It PREPARED BY:
meaning, and is particularly often begins with extension GERALDINE C. AÑASCO
evidenced by semantic of a word to include a I-BSPT
differences between grammatical function, and the PROF. TIAMSON
cognates. subsequent narrowing of the
For instance, the English word (usually after the word
word to starve is cognate has suffered morphological
with the German sterben ("to changes) to a solely or
die") and in some parts of predominantly grammatical
England, the word can mean use. An example of this is the