[OT] Languages and cultures (was Re: survey)

Richmond Mathewson richmondmathewson at gmail.com
Sat Feb 20 03:03:14 CST 2010


On 20/02/2010 10:23, J. Landman Gay wrote:
> Kay C Lan wrote:
>
>> OK, I wasn't going to say anything, but seeings you are stumped, just
>> think of the other benefits the Gay family enjoys... Divorces must be
>> cheap, all you need do is move to a State where Gay marriages aren't
>> recognized ;-)
>
> I'll keep that in mind. :) So far we still like each other though.
>
All I can say is that, despite being boringly monogamous and heterosexual
I am almost continually "Happy, Bright and Gay"

AND . . .

How a word that 500 years ago meant heterosexually loose managed to go
via "Jolly" to what it means now entirely escapes me - 'tis very queer . 
. .  :)

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Currently I am working on a paper for a Linguistics conference that will be
held in Bucharest in June. It largely revolves about a diachronic analysis
of meanings of the English word 'pig' (or, homonyms thereof) in comparison
with the Bulgarian word 'prase' (= 'pig'); so we can say that for the next
few months I will be pigging it.

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Back to the word 'Gay' . . .

from a diachronic perspective it looks as though there has been one word 
whose
meaning has changed over time; in fact in certain dialect regions of England
the earlier sense of 'jolly' coexists beside its current 'homosexual' 
meaning.
Now the question/problem is whether users of 'gay' in those areas where the
2 senses are used actually perceive them as 2 senses of the same word 
(Polysemy)
or whether they perceive them as 2 separate words that sound the same 
(Homonymy)
- should they be unaware of the diachronic history of 'gay' they may be 
inclined to
see 'gay' & 'gay' as 2 distinct words.

Certainly it would be quite difficult to work out the semantic step from 
'jolly' to
'homosexual' unless, of course, there was an awareness of the even 
earlier sense
of 'heterosexual looseness'.

A cognitive radial category diagram for 'gay' would probably not work as 
there do
not seem to be speech communities that have or had concepts that somehow 
connected
jollity with being homosexual.

Neither polysemy nor homonyny exist as external 'things', being 
psychological
categories that came about as there was a perceived need to make language
as efficient as possible; polysemy being concerned with efficiency in 
regard to
conceptualisation, homonymy in regard to formality. This is probably more
easily understood if we fall back on the ideas of FUNCTION versus FORM.

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Sorry, chaps, wearing one of my other hats for a bit there . . .  :)



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