[Milton-L] language question

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Fri Feb 10 13:59:24 EST 2006

let it be noted that the homonymic explanation below, whether or not
correct, is diametrically opposed to the "primal word" one.

there is an essay on metaphor (Harold Skulsky, "Metaphorese," in Garfield
and Kiteley, eds., _Meaning and Truth_), in which the author claims that
"in" is sometimes homonymic. This so that its occurrence in the phrase "in
the phrase" or "in the mind" (or "in the sense," or whatever) will not have
to be considered  figurative. One wonders whether the epistemological
commitments involved in such an assertion could reliably be sequestered from
the etymologies that might be offered to support it. 

in any case, even if words like "cleave" and "let" and "doubt" could all be
shown to be the result of homonymic convergence, the fact would remain that
language seems strangely comfortable with such semiotic identities. thus the
identity-phenomenon would remain the fact to be considered. JDF

On Fri, 10 Feb 2006 13:25:45 -0800 (PST) milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:
> The word "cleave" comes from two different roots. See:
> http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cleave
> http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=cleave
> Unfortunately, I can't recall the linguistic term for
> this, but two words have converged in sound, i.e.,
> "cleave," while retaining opposite meanings.
> In Coptic, there's the example of "E2PAI"
> [transliterated "ehrai"], which means both "up" and
> "down." Again, two words have converged in sound while
> retaining opposite meanings.
> Jeffery Hodges
> --- Anita Sherman <asherm at american.edu> wrote:
> Learned friends:
>    Please help me remember what (I think) I once knew.
>  What is it about the evolution of the English
> language that results in certain words--e.g.
> "cleave"--having antithetical meanings?  Is there a
> term of art for these kinds of words?
>    Thank you in advance for your help,
> Anita Sherman
> University Degrees:
> Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
> (Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
> M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
> B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University
> Email Address:
> jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
> Blog:
> http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/
> Office Address:
> Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
> Department of English Language and Literature
> Korea University
> 136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
> Seoul
> South Korea
> Home Address:
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> Sehan Apt. 102-2302
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James Dougal Fleming, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English,
Simon Fraser University,
(604) 291-4713
cell: 778-865-0926

Laissez parler les faits.

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