Semantic change. Evidence from false friends.

Beeching, K. (2010) Semantic change. Evidence from false friends. In: UNSPECIFIED., pp. 139-165 Available from:

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Functional linguists are in general agreement that semantic change may be triggered as part of the negotiation of meaning in interactional contexts: a ‘one-off’contextual implicature generalises to become a new core meaning of a lexical item (Traugott and Dasher, 2002). In what ways, however, does the ‘one-off’ contextual implicature arise? Why would one language develop one aspect of meaning and another a different one? And how or why does it generalise and become a coded part of the structure of that particular language? Hansen (2008: 228)notes that “close crosslinguistic comparisons of the polysemies of semantically related items […] should turn out to be highly relevant” in this respect. ‘False friends’, forms deriving from a common etymon which have developed different meanings in different languages, offer useful insights. This paper presents lexicographic and spoken synchronic data on two false friends in French and English, effectivement/‘effectively’ and finalement/‘finally’, and explores the cognitive processes involved in their recruitment for interactional functions. The factors which are influential in the development of hedging usages of the terms are overviewed and the contribution that a detailed synchronic study of the semantics of false friends can make to the study of semantic change is evaluated.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Additional Information:The publisher (John Benjamins) should be contacted for permission to re-use or reprint the material in any form.
Uncontrolled Keywords:false friend, semantic chang, effectively, effectivement, finally, finalement
Faculty/Department:Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education > Department of Arts and Cultural Industries
Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education
ID Code:11423
Deposited By: Dr K. Beeching
Deposited On:09 Nov 2010 09:00
Last Modified:14 Dec 2016 20:13

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