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English Historical Semantics

Christian Kay, Kathryn L Allan

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An overview of the structural and cognitive approaches to English historical semantics

This guide gives students a solid grounding in the basic methodology of how to analyse corpus data to study new words entering the language or language change. It uses a number of case studies to provide insights into collocations, phraseology, metaphor and metonymy, syntactic structures, male and female language, and language change. Students will become proficient in the key concepts in semantic change by applying ideas from theoretical semantics to historical data. They will also cover recent work at the intersections between historical semantics and other disciplines.

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Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: A brief history of the English lexicon
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Old English (OE: 700–1150)
2.3 Middle English (ME: 1150–1500)
2.4 Early Modern English (EModE: 1500–1750)
2.5 Late Modern English (LModE: 1750 to present day)
2.6 Conclusion: The Present Day
Chapter 3: Categories of meaning
3.1. Introduction
3.2 Traditional approaches to Semantics
3.2.1 Reference
3.2.2 Sense Sense relationships
3.2.3 Components, sets and fields
3.2.4 A note on homonymy
3.2.5 A memory aid
3.3 Categories and prototypes
3.3.1 Prototypes in action
3.3.2 Lexical prototypes
3.3.3 Homonymy revisited
3.4 Domains and frames
3.5. Conclusion
Chapter 4: Tracing the development of individual words
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Introducing the OED
4.2.1 OED1
4.2.2 OED2
4.2.3 OED3
4.3 What the OED tells us
4.3.1 manga2
4.3.2 monster Formal history and etymology of monster Semantic history
4.3.3 Overview
4.4 Some other historical dictionaries
4.4.1 Middle English Dictionary (MED)
4.4.2 Anglo-Norman Dictionary (AND)
4.4.3 Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL)
4.4.4 Dictionary of Old English (DOE)
4.4.5 Other dictionaries
4.5 Historical corpora
Chapter 5: How and why words change meaning
5.1 Introduction
5.2 The significance of meaning change
5.3 Studying semantic change
5.4 The process of semantic change
5.5 Categories of meaning change
5.5.1 Widening (or broadening or generalisation) and narrowing (or specialisation)
5.5.2 Amelioration (or elevation) and pejoration (or deterioration or degeneration)
5.5.3 Metaphor and metonymy
5.6 Grammaticalisation
5.7 Why do words change meaning?
5.7.1 External factors
5.7.2 Internal factors: polysemy, homonymy, synonymy
5.7.3 Stylistic factors
5.8 Conclusion
Chapter 6: Larger categories
6.1 Introduction
6.2 A brief history of thesauruses
6.3 The structure of thesauruses
6.3.1 Basic level and other categories
6.3.2 Folk and expert categories
6.4 Using HTOED
6.4.1 The structure of HTOED
6.4.2 Inside HTOED categories
6.5 Conclusion
Chapter 7: English Colour Terms: A case study, C. P. Biggam
7.1 Introduction
7.2 How to describe colour
7.3 What are Basic Colour Terms?
7.4 The evolution of basic colour categories
7.5 The development of colour terms in English
7.5.1 Old English (OE: 700–1150)
7.5.2 Middle English (ME: 1150–1500)
7.5.3 Modern English (ModE 1500–)
7.6 The changing nature of a basic category: BLUE
7.7 Summary
7.8 Conclusion
Chapter 8: Language and culture
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Linguistics and anthropology
8.3 Pronouns of address
8.4 Kinship
8.4.1 Recent changes
8.5 Time
8.6 Conclusion
Chapter 9: Metaphor and metonymy
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Metaphor in language and thought
9.3 Another kind of mapping: metonymy
9.4 Metaphor and motivation
9.5 Metonymy and motivation
9.6 Conclusion
Chapter 10: The big picture and a look ahead
10.1 Introduction
10.2 The big picture
10.3 Green as an example
10. 4 Looking ahead
Glossary of key terms

About the Author

Christian Kay is Professor Emeritus and Honorary Professorial Research Fellow in English Language at the University of Glasgow. She was an editor of the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, and A Thesaurus of Old English, and founded the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech. She has written on historical semantics and lexicography and contributed to projects on metaphor and semantic annotation based on the Historical Thesaurus of English dataset.

Kathryn Allan is Senior Lecturer in the History of English at University College London. Her research interests are in historical semantics and lexicology, and she is the co-editor of Historical Cognitive Linguistics and Current Methods in Historical Semantics. Her monograph Metaphor and Metonymy: A Diachronic Approach was published in the Philological Society series, and she is a collaborator on the Keywords Project


To conclude, this is an important textbook which can be recommended to everyone teaching English historical semantics.
- Heli Tissari, Stockholm University, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen

One of the greatest accomplishments of the books is its presentation of sophisticated and complex subject matter in an accessible, even friendly, discussion. That pedagogical voice is one students will appreciate. Crucially for a textbook, English Historical Semantics mixes concise, direct clarity with engaging turns of phrase that convey a pesonal voice; it is the voice of experienced teachesr working to engage students using stimulating language. English Historical Semantics fills an obvious gap in the literature - there is not comparable advanced textbook on the subject - and it can be recommended strongle for advanced students of semantics and pragmatics, lexicology and lexicography, and Cognitive Linguistics.

- Seth Mehl, University of Sheffield, Journal of Historical Pragmatics

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