The paper investigates selected cases of semantic development in English historical synonyms of MAN/MALE HUMAN BEING. Contrary to the widespread tendency in language studies to assume that the phenomenon of semantic change is totally unpredictable, the analysis demonstrates that there are some recurring patterns that seem to crop up irrespective of the historical period and coincide with sense alterations in other, very often remotely related, languages. Thus, in the semantic development of English historical synonyms of MAN/MALE HUMAN BEING, the meanings prior, concurrent, or subsequent to the sense 'man, male human being' fall into a number of conceptual types which resemble a prototype structure. The existence of several conceptual types which tend to be universally salient and panchronically related to the conceptual domain MAN/MALE HUMAN BEING has been postulated. These include, for example, OCCUPATION/PROFESSION, WARRIOR/SOLDIER, COMPANION/FRIEND, MASTER/LORD, HUSBAND/MALE SPOUSE, FOOL/STUPID PERSON. The above mentioned domains act not only as sources, but sometimes also as targets in the rise of synonyms of MAN/MALE HUMAN BEING. All of them also seem to play a crucial part in the shaping of the semantics of the lexical item man.
Selected Proceedings of the 2005 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis (HEL-LEX)
edited by R. W. McConchie, Olga Timofeeva, Heli Tissari, and Tanja Säily
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