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Diachrony of Semantic Conversives in English

Plan

Introduction

Part I. Semantic Conversives in Competence and Performance:

1.1. The Overview of Semantic Conversives

1.2. Classification of Semantic Conversives:

1.2.1. Classification of Semantic Conversives According to their
Morphological Features

1.2.2. Classification of Semantic Conversives According to Their
Semantic Features

1.2.3. Quasi Conversives

1.3. Componential Analysis of Semantic Conversives:

“To sell” – Semantic Structure in the Language System

“To buy” — Semantic Structure in the Language System

Part II. The Overview of Semantic Changes:

Classification of Semantic Changes According to the Logical Relations
Between Successive Meanings

Etymology and Cultural Traces Implied by Semantic Changes

Hermann Paul’s Assumptions:

The Process of Isolation

Special Factors

General Assumptions

Part III. Diachrony of Semantic Conversives:

Text / Discourse Definition

3.2. Diachronic Aspects of Semantic Conversives Development

Diachrony of the Conversive Pairs “to give : to take” and “to sell : to
buy”:

Semantic Structure of the Old English “ayfan” and the Middle English
“yiven”

3.3.2. The Functioning of the Verbs with the Meaning of “to take” in
Anglo-Saxon and Middle English

3.3.3. Diachrony of the Semantics of the Verb “to sell”

Evolution of the Semantic Conversive “to buy”

Conclusions

Bibliography

Supplement 1. The Semantic Structure of the Conversive “To Sell”

Supplement 2. The Semantic Structure of the Conversive “To Buy”

Supplement 3. Extracts from “Beowulf” Containing the Verb “to sell”

Supplement 4. Extracts from “Beowulf” Containing the Verb “to buy”

Introduction.

The language is a phenomenon which can be represented as a system of
systems. Semantics can also be presented as a system of subsystems.
Besides, all the languages fall under the influence of semantic changes.
History of the language deals with the descriptive analysis of the
changes that took place during the latter’s development. For example,
the history of the English language traces the changes that occurred in
one of the dialects of Primitive West Germanic during the last 1500
years. More specifically, historic semantics is the study of the
semantic diachronic changes that took place in the word stock of a
certain language during a certain period of time.

Thus, the objective of this paper is the study of semantic conversives
in English competence and performance and examining of the changes in
their semantic structure that occurred from the Old English period and
later on.

With the exception of the units, «conversive by themselves» (that are
further analyzed in the present thesis), conversion occupies a definite
place among the types of the lexical semantic correlations: it is
characterized by the equipollent opposition of the units (that are
differentiated by «converse» sememes), their contrastive distribution,
and the conversives’ ability of being used in the same context (cf. to
win/to lose (a game), to sell/to buy a house, etc).

The topicality of this paper is determined by the following factors:

Semantic conversives expressing «oppositions of meaning» is one of the
most important semantic correlations in the lexical system of the
language. It can lay the basis of organizing some lexical units into a
semantic field and can be successfully implemented in the translation
theory (especially concerning lexical and grammatical transformations in
the translation process).

Semantic changes that took place in the lexical conversives’ structure
can give us a glimpse of the world outlook of primitive Germans and can
enable us to clarify their causes and results.

The inadequacy of studies of conversive correlation and conversives
functions in the discourse.

A tendency of complementary examination of conversives (as well as other
lexical «oppositions».

A necessity of developing a contemporary linguistic theory, in which
semantics (and, particularly, types of semantic fields correlation) can
play a crucial role.

The research is based on theoretical postulates of the linguistic and
historic semantics, semasiology and semantic fields theory, primarily —
ones of the Moscow Semantic School formulated by Yu.Apresyan, I.Melchuk,
L.Novikov, A.Ufimtseva, V.Levytskyi and others.

The scientific significance of the investigation lies in the use of
reliable methods of analysis (such as component and contextual analysis)
and the broad scope of the lexicographic and theoretical sources, the
analysis of texts of Old English, Middle English and New English periods
dated from IIV c. AD (“Beowulf”) to XIX c. (“Don Juan” by G. Byron).

As the data of the contextual analysis of semantic conversives, we’ve
taken three OE, ME and NE texts (“Beowulf”, “The Canterbury Tales” by
G. Chaucer and “Don Juan” by G. Byron accordingly) that constitute
total number of 928 cases of the semantic conversives «to give — to
take» and «to sell — to buy» usage. The lexicographic sources include 5
dictionaries of contemporary British and American English (dated from
1982 to 1993), on which basis the component analysis of semantic
conversives has been carried out.

Thus, the main objective of the thesis is to give a systematic analysis
of semantic conversives in competence and performance, to determine
their position in the lexical system of the language and to show their
paradigmatic semantic relations id the language.

To reach the end-goal we are to solve the following problems:

Comparative analysis of the main approaches to conversive correlation
betwen lexical units in competence and performance;

Determination of the semantic structure of conversives (of the semantic
pair «to buy — to sell» in particular);

Diachronic analysis of the conversives;

Approximative-quantitative study of the expression of conversives in the
texts of different periods of the English language development;

Designing the principles of compiling a glossary of conversives.

The theoretical significance of the paper lies in a thorough analysis of
both diachronic and synchronic aspects of conversion. We have tried to
discuss such essential linguistic concept as a semantic change. Careful
attention is paid to the classification of conversives according to
their syntactic and semantic features.

The scientific novelty of the thesis lies in the approach to linguistic
conversion which is analyzed not only on the horizontal (synchronic),
but also in the vertical plane, evolving the data from main European
languages (Greek, Latin, English, German, Hittite, Russian, Ukrainian
and others), and particularly – the English language. Besides, we have
done the contextual analysis of selected conversives in the texts
belonging to OE, ME and NE periods and examined their semantic structure
(with subsequent determination of their dominants).

The practical application of the given research is possible in compiling
a glossary of conversives; in teaching semantics, lexicology,
translation and cognitive linguistics classes. The results of the
research can be further verified in students’ term-papers, B.A. and
University Degree theses, seminars in semantic and historic linguistics
and semasiology.

The main objective, problems solved and the methodology of the research
stipulated the composition of the paper: Introduction, Part I «Semantic
Conversives in Competence and Performance», Part II «The Overview of
Semantic Changes», Part III “Diachrony of Semantic Conversives”,
Conclusions, Bibliography and Supplements.

Part I. Semantic Conversives in Competence and Performance.

1.1. The Overview of Semantic Conversives.

The conversive correlation unites the words that define the same
situation from the points of view of the participants that are engaged
in its different aspects. The examples of this correlation are the
following pairs of words: «to win — to lose”, “over — under», «to have —
to belong (to)», «younger — older», etc.

Thus, conversives constitute members of pairs which are antonymic,
though their meanings are interrelated and are often synonymic.

E.g. engl. «give — take» — «To provide or supply someone with something»
vs. “To get something in your possession «;

«sell — buy» — «To give up, deliver, or exchange (property, goods,
services, sc.) for money or its equivalent» vs. «To acquire by paying or
agreeing to pay money or some equivalent».

(Cf. Latin «emo», gothic «niman», and German «nehmen» «to take» with
Greek «nemo» «to distribute».)

I.A. Melchuk defines conversives as one of the linguistic functions [23,
p.78]. Linguistic function (LF) describes the correlations that connect
the words with their lexical correlatives. Lexical correlative is the
paradigmatic variants and syntagmatic partners of the word. Namely, the
LF f describes the correlation that determines (for a certain word or
phrase X) such a multitude of the words or phrases {Yi} = f (X), that
the following statement is true for any X1 and X2: if f(X1) and f (X2)
do exist, between f (X’) and X2 on one hand and /(X2) and X1 on the
other hand the following semantic correlation always takes place:

‘f (X1)’ : ‘X1’ = ‘f (X2)’: ‘X2’, where

X (the keyword or keyphrase of the statement) is the argument of the
lexical function f, and {Yi} is its expression.

The theory of conversion is abundant in algebraic formulae and
expressions, as the notion of conversibility, or converse relation,
first appeared in the higher algebra. Following statement is extremely
important for studying of the conversives and sounds as follows: the
binary relation R-1 is considered to be conversive to the relation R in
the given multitude of the elements M, if bRa results from aR -1b, and
vice versa. The definition illustrates that the direct and conversed
relations possess the identical properties.

Conversive correlation (the expression of the «reverse relation» between
the language units) as a linguistic phenomenon first claimed the
linguists’ attention in the syntax, particularly concerning the
interrelation between a subject and an object. The expression of such
relations can be clearly illustrated by the grammatical category of
voice.

E.g. The workers build a house. <=> A house is built by the workers.

This fact was also examined by John Lyons: «In the English language
there exist passive constructions in which the «surface» subject is
identical to the «oblique object» of the corresponding active sentence»
[22, p.496]:

E.g. John’s father gave him a book.

John was given a book by his father.

Such parallel constructions were later connected with broader universal
correlations. Certain pairs of words were found to be in the same
relations as the words over and about, bigger and smaller, older and
younger, etc:

A precedes B < => B follows / succeeds A

The action in the first sentence is viewed from the point of view of A,
whereas sb the second sentence it is viewed from the point of view of B.
The famous English semasiologist John Lyons considers conversibility to
be one of the varities of the lexical «opposition» [22, p.496]. He
states that the opposition between the meanings is already acknowledged
as one of the most important semantic correlations.

The lexical substitution of a word by its conversive is connected with
the syntactic transformation, due to which the nominal groups (i.e. the
subject and the object with the dependent words) are changing their
places and certain «automatic changes» concerning the selection of a
preposition or a declensional ending are made:

Peter sells the books to Andrew. < => Andrew buys the books from Peter.

Thus, during the process of conversion two main changes are done: 1) the
preceding and the following elements are exchanging their places, and 2)
the lexical unit that expresses the relations between the antecedent and
the consequent is substituted by its conversive. The following formula
will illustrate this process:

ARB <=> BR -1A,

or

AR ( = X) B <=> BR-1 ( = Y) A,

where X and Y are conversives that express the converse actions R and
R-1, and A and B are the participants of the action. The necessary
condition of the whole process is the complete denotative identity of
the initial and converse statements:

E.g. Susan is Paul’s wife. <=> Paul is Susan’s husband.

If we compare the conversives «older -younger», «to include — to be a
part of”, «teacher — student», «husband — wife», «to sell — to buy» with
polysemantic words (and homonyms as well), we will notice what
differentiates and what unites them. On one hand, conversives have
different component structures, whereas both polysemantic words and
homonyms are characterized by the similarity and continuity of their
forms. On the other hand, the simultaneous usage in the discourse, or
the so called «coocurrence in the text», is not typical of both
conversives and polysemantic words. One of the conversives is used in
the discourse, while another is staying apart, in the «system of
possibilities». The latter is always implied due to the natural
initerchange between the subject and the object that are connected by
the conversive correlation:

E.g. «The Moon and Sixpence» is a work by W.S. Maugham» vs. ‘W.S.Maugham
is the author of «The Moon and Sixpence «.

The mutual substitution between the initial and conversed statements
always takes part freely, as they are completely synonymic, which cannot
be said about the conversives themselves. Conversives (usually there are
two of them, in contrast to the lexico-semantic variants of the word),
like the meanings of a polysemantic word, perform the function of mutual
addition, but have the same meaning in the phrases.

The use of the whole paradigm of conversives in the text is a rare
phenomenon. It is a specific expressive means that emphasizes the
significance of a certain opinion: In the hostile struggle the victory
of one part is the defeat of another. Compare also the stylistic means
that is based on the implied conversive relations of the figurative
nature that are «hidden» in the paradigm:

«The novel possessed brevity, but there was a lack of its brother» (O.
Donskoy). Cf. Brevity is a sister of talent. <=-> Talent is a brother of
brevity.

Conversive correlation as a lexico- grammatical category is the
linguistic expression of the converse relations with the help of
different words (or lexico-semantic variants), the opposite sememes of
which enable such words to express subjective-objective relations in the
sentences that denote the same situation, i.e. have the same denotatum
[25, p.214]. Being a mainly «onomasiological» category, like synonymy
and antonymy, it is characterized (in contrast to the above-mentioned
two kinds of correlation) by the «remote» usage of lexical units.

The following example will help illustrate the basic features of
conversive correlation and conversives. The semantically equal sentences
«She sells the house to us” and «We buy the house from her» express the
same situation, which is viewed from the points of view of its
participants (actors). The conversive predicates «to sell» and «to buy»
express the two-sided subject-object relations (which is the necessary
condition of conversive correlation), as though presenting the same
contents in two directions — (1) from A to B and (2) from B to A:

(1) sells to (R = x)

(R — 1) buys from (2)

She/her We/us

From the point of view of the situation, the predicates have the same
meaning: selling the house to one of the participants is the same as
buying it by that participant from the seller.

In the syntactic respect, such lexical pairs are characterized by the
presence of correlative direct and converse role structures [25, p.215].
It should be added that the predicates X and Y are supposed to have
converse role structures, if they have at least two semantic valencies
that satisfy the following conditions:

a) the set of roles for these valencies is the same;

b) in the «semantic trees» of X and Y the valencies with the same number
correspond to different roles.

In accordance with this fact, the subject of the initial statement
becomes the object in the conversed one. Consequently, the word that
expresses the subject-object relatons in the sentence is substituted in
the conversed sentence by its conversive:

__________________________________

A sells to B <=> B buys from A

(Y)

It is obvious that the participants of such statements have the ability
to exchange the roles of the antecedent (the preceding element) and the
consequent (the subsequent element), while the conversives themselves
are acting as pairs of lexical units (words) with the conversed role
structures.

Denoting the same fact of reality, conversives possess at me same time
different significative meanings. In the componential respect,
conversives are much like synonyms and antonyms. They are differentiated
by their distinction – i.e. the opposition of contradictous semes: e.g.
to win — to lose, to sell — to buy, to export — to import, etc.
Therefore the conversives, like antonyms, correspond to the logically
incompatible notions. However, in contrast to the latter (that can be
univalent) conversives are necessarily bivalent and express
subject-object relations of different kinds. Therefore the conversives’
semes are not only incompatible, but can enable them (due to the
reversed role structures) to give both «direct» and «conversed»
reflection of the same action. It can be illustrated by the common,
coinciding structure of the conversives: e.g. A wins (gains a victory
over B), but B loses, i.e. gives the victory up to A.

Consequently, the initial and conversed statements are synonymic.
However, like lexical synonyms, they possess some semantic nuances: with
the help of conversives the differences in the logical emphasis of the
utterance can be conveyed, as well as the semes of definiteness and
undefiniteness that cannot be expressed in Ukrainian (cf. the definite
and indefinite articles in the English language). E.g. in the sentence
«The novice defeated the pro » the success of the novice is emphasized,
whereas the conversed statement «The pro lost to the novice» points out
the poor performance on the behalf of the pro changing the roles of the
actants.

Thus, it should be mentioned that the interaction between conversives
and synonyms, as well as formation of the former on the basis of the
latter is impossible due to their different role structures (i.e.
conversed and identical accordingly). On the contrary, conversives and
antonyms interact fruitfully: a number of conversives are based on the
certain use of antonyms (e.g. young — old: X is younger than Y <=> Y is
older than X, etc).

As conversives are united into a paradigm according to their associative
features and as they are the units the component contents of which is
extremely close and homogeneous, they are differentiated only by the
opposite sememes that makes it impossible for the conversives to be used
in the same context. It was already mentioned that 1) the substitution
between the subject and the object of the action and 2) certain
syntactic changes (that are required by the conversives’ features) are
necessary for the transformation of the statement.

Also, it should be observed that the words that constitute a semantic
field receive their meaning only as a part of corresponding field. The
speaker of a certain language fully knows the meaning of the word only
if he knows the meanings of the other words belonging to the same field.
Similarly, it is impossible to separate the meaning of the constituent
of the conversive pair from the word opposed to it.

Conversives are not to be mistaken for the so-called correlative, or
nominal sentences [17, p. 339]. Such constructions are peculiar to
proverbs and sayings and are considered by many linguists to be the
relic of the nominal sentences that were obviously more frequent in the
Indo-European language than in modern ones. Thus, the components of the
German proverb «Neuer Arzt neuer Friedhof” («New doctor – new cemetery»)
can not be transposed, as we get quite another meaning of the utterance.
The logical process of conversive correlation cannot take place in such
cases, as the conversed statements must have the same meaning, i.e. be
synonymic.

Besides, conversive correlation is often confused with conversion (or
zero-inflection), which is a word-building technique that lies in one
part of speech becoming another, i.e. conversion is a special
non-affixal type of transposition of words.

1.2. Classification of Semantic Conversives.

Lexical conversibility belongs to the categories that are not explored
enough. Nevertheless, generalization of the available data about
conversive correlation makes it possible to outline a number of
structural types of this linguistic phenomenon. As a rule, conversives
are classified according to 1) their morphological features and 2) their
semantic features, i.e. in accordance with the general semantic
categories inherent to them. Besides, the classification suggested by
Yu.Apresyan and I.Melchuk is based on the number of transformations
performed during the process of conversive correlation. This division is
rather arbitrary, so all these types of classification are interrelated
and often presented as a single unity (it can be illustrated by the
classification given by Yu.Apresyan [14, p. 266-272]).

1.2.1. Classification of Semantic Conversives According to Their
Morphological Features.

According to the morphological and syntactic features of conversives,
L.A.Novikov divided them into a number of groups [25, p. 217 — 219]. It
should be mentioned that conversive correlation, above all, is
characteristic of verbs which has also designed its own means of
conversiveness expression: the grammatical category of voice.

I. Verbal conversives:

1) Voice structures of the type to build — to be build, to describe —
to be described, to decide — to be decided, to discuss — to be
discussed, etc. This type is in essence purely grammatic.

2) Verbs (predicates) with the meaning of cause and consequence: to
frighten — to be afraid, to make happy — to be happy, to cause death —
to die (of), etc. Such predicates are often viewed as «deep verbs», thus
this variety is very close to the purely grammatical one.

3) Verbs (predicates) with the meaning of an action and the object of
this action: to export — to be the object of export, to study — to be
the subject of study. The following conversive statements have the same
meaning:

We study math. < = > Math is the subject of our study.

4) The verbs that are opposite according to the participants of the
action: to sell- to buy, to export — to import, to let — to rent (an
apartment), to give — to take, to lean (on) — to support, to win — to
lose, etc.

5) The verbs that can be found in both initial and conversed
statements without being substituted by their conversives (due to their
specific features). They are «conversives by themselves», i.e. the words
that that do not have their conversive counterparts and contain the
conversive correlation in their semantic structure (e.g. to talk with,
to quarrel with, to make friends with, to rhyme with, etc.).

E.g. Susan made friends with Paul <=> Paul made friends with Susan.
«Mine» rhymes with «thine» <==> «Thine» rhymes with «mine».

II. Substantival conversives.

Substantival conversives are represented by a number of oppositions:
e.g. producer – production/output, author – work/piece (of fiction,
music, etc.), inventor – invention, teacher – student, proprietor –
property, husband – wife, brother – sister, etc.

However, quantitative data show that the number of substantival
conversives is rather limited. Moreover, the majority of them are verbal
nouns of action or condition: X’s domination over Y < ==> Y’s submission
toX.

Attention should be paid to the noun «cousin» which is a substantival
conversive «by itself”. It can be clearly illustrated by the example
given by John Lyons [22, p. 497]: «NP1 is NP 2’s cousin» implies and is
implied by the sentence “NP2 is NP1’s cousin «.

III. Adjectival conversives.

Adjectival conversives are represented by the adjectives used in the
comparative degree: e.g. bigger — smaller, taller — shorter, heavier —
lighter, more expensive — cheaper, younger — older, etc.

IV. Adverbial conversives (on the right — on the left).

V. Prepositional conversives (over – under, in front of – behind).

VI. Conjunctional conversives:

Conjunctional conversives often have two active valencies, in particular
concessive, comparative conjunctions and conjunctions of reason.

E.g. The director fell ill and therefore the premiere was postponed.
<==> The premiere was postponed, as the director felt ill.

VII. Phraseological conversives:

E.g. She looked death in the face. – She was within a hair’s breadth of
death.

1.2.2. Classification of Semantic Conversives According to Their
Semantic Features.

Lexical conversives can be classified according to their meaning. In
accordance with the nature of such words, they express converse
relations, correlation, interdependency, interaction, etc. between the
corresponding objects and phenomena of reality. The following semantic
categories are peculiar to the conversives:

1) «Transmission»:

E.g. 1) He gave her a dictionary. — She took a dictionary from him. 2)
She is selling her country-house to us. — We are buying a country-house
from her.

2) «Acquisition / loss»:

E.g. The word acquires a new meaning. – A new meaning of the word
appears.

3) «Composition»:

E.g. Three departments make up College of the Modem European Languages
of the University. — College of the Modem European Languages of the
University consists of three departments.

4) »»Availability, possession»:

E.g. The director has three deputies. — There are three deputies of the
director.

5) «Filling the volume / contents»:

E.g. The description of the technology took up the whole paragraph. — It
took the whole paragraph to describe the technology.

6) «Submersion / absorption»:

E.g. The ocean swallowed up the cutter. — The cutter submerged into the
ocean.

7) «Co-position of the objects in the space and time»:

E.g. 1) The dictionary is situated on the magazine. — The magazine is
situated on the dictionary. 2) A follows B. – B precedes A.

8) «Dependence»:

E.g. A determines B. – B depends on A.

It has already been pointed out that this division is rather arbitrary.
Thus, L.Novikov differentiates between only 8 semantic categories
inherent to conversives, whereas Yu. Apresyan points out 24 of them [14,
p. 268 — 272]. It is not worth while mentioning all of them, as the rest
of the conversives types are either infrequent, or derived from the main
eight types described above. E.g. the linguist specifies such semantic
categories as «definition» (e.g. The word «family» denotes the members
of the household» <=> «The members of the household are denoted by the
word “family»), «emission» (the process contrary to
submersion/absorption}, «the demonstration of the inherent property»,
«uncontrolled motion», «covering the surfice of something», «radiation»,
«emotional states», «opinion «, «providing» and others.

Besides, Yu.Apresyan’s classification of the conversives according to
their semantic features includes the number of transformations performed
during the process of conversion. Particularly, the scientist
differentiates between the two-transformations (1 type),
three-transformations (5 types) and four-transformations (23 types)
conversives. The topicality of this question (i.e. performing certain
transformation during the process of conversion) enabled him as well as
some other linguists (e.g. I. Melchuk [23, p. 152]) to specify another
kind of classification of semantic conversives – according to their
syntactic features.

1.2.3. Quasi-conversives.

Quasi-conversives should be differentiated from from proper conversives.
Quasi-conversives are «approximate» conversives, i.e. the ones that do
not have completely the same meaning. The differences between them can
be either neutralized in the context, or inessential for the given text.

E.g. 1) We were taken aback by the committee’s arrival (the sentence has
the sememe of suddenness). — We were not prepared for the committee’s
arrival (the sememe of suddenness is not present).

2) She has outgrown the dress (she got taller). — The dress got too
small for her. (it could shrink as well).

1.3. Componential Analysis of Semantic Conversives.

The componential analysis deals primarily with the semantic structure of
a linguistic unit, i.e. the sememes that the meaning of a certain word
contains. Meaning is the sense that a word or a group of words conveys.
Linguists usually distinguish between «grammatical» meaning as the
relationships that may be said to exist between linguistic elements such
as the words within a sentence, and «lexical» meaning as the sense a
speaker attaches to linguistic elements. In this case, we are more
concerned with the lexical meaning of the semantic conversives.

The componential analysis of the conversive pairs revealed their complex
structure. We designed the semantic structure of the conversives «to
sell — to buy» on the basis of 5 modern dictionaries of the contemporary
English language (both British and American). Thus, the semantic
structure of the verb «to sell» contained 13 major sememes, and that of
the verb «to buy» contained 11. Also, the main components of meaning
were determined. The dominant components can be represented by the
opposition «supply : demand».

1.3.1. «To sell» — Semantic Structure in the Language System.

1) American Heritage Dictionary (Dl)

1. To exchange or deliver for money or its equivalent.

2. To offer for sale, as for one’s business or livelihood: The partners
sell textiles.

3. To give up or surrender in exchange for a price or reward: sell one’s
soul to the devil.

4. To be responsible for the sale of; promote successfully: Publicity
sold that product.

5. To persuade (another) to recognize the worth or desirability of: They
sold me on the idea…

[intransitive]:

6. To exchange ownership for money or its equivalent; engage in selling.

7. To be sold or be on sale: Grapes are selling high this season.

8. To attract prospective buyers; to be popular on the market: …an item
that sells «well.

9. To be approved of; gain acceptance.

2) New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus (D2)

1. To dispose of the ownership of (goods, property or rights) to another
or others in exchange for money: he sold his house to them.

2. To effect such a transfer as an agent: he sold their house for them.

3. To offer for sale: he sells antiques.

4. To lead to the sale of: advertising sold a million copies.

5. To betray for a reward: he sold them to the police.

6. (pop.) To cheat, deceive: he was sold over the deal.

[intransitive]:

7. To offer something for sale: is she thinking of selling?

8. To find a buyer: these goods sell quickly.

3) Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English (D3)

1. To give up, deliver, or exchange (property, goods, services, etc.)
for money or its equivalent.

2. a) To have or offer regularly for sale; deal in: a store that sells
hardware, to sell real estate;

b) To make or try to make sales: to sell chain stores.

3. a) To give up or deliver (a person) to his or her enemies or into
slavery, bondage, etc;

b) To be a traitor to; betray.

4. To give up or dispose of (one’s honor, one’s vote, etc.) for profit
or a dishonorable purpose.

5. To bring about, help in, or promote the sale of: television sells
many products.

6. [Colloquial] a) To establish faith, confidence, or belief in: to sell
oneself to the public.

b) To persuade (someone) of the value of something; convince (with on):
sell him on the idea.

7. [Slang] To cheat, or dupe.

[intransitive]:

8. To exchange property, goods or services for money, etc.

9. To work or act as a salesman or salesclerk.

10. To be a popular item on the market; attract buyers.

11. To be sold (for or at), belts selling for $ 6.

12. [Colloquial] To be accepted, approved, etc.: a scheme that won’t
sell.

4) The Concise Oxford Dictionary (D4)

1. To make over or dispose of in exchange for money.

2. To cause to be sold: the author’s name alone will sell many copies;
keep stock of for sale or to be a dealer in: Do you sell candles?

3. To betray for money or other reward: sell one’s country.

4. To offer dishonourably for money or other consideration, to make a
matter of corrupt bargaining: sell justice, oneself, one’s honour or
chastity.

5. [Slang] To disappoint by not keeping engagement etc., by failing in
some way, or by trickery: Sold again!

6. Advertise or publish merits of; to give (person) information on value
of something: selling point.

[intransitive]:

7. (of goods) To find purchasers: will never sell; selling like
wildfire, hot cakes; to have specified price: it sells at or for $ 5.

5) Collins COBUILD Dictionary (D5)

1. If you sell something, you let someone have it in return for an
agreed sum of money: He is going to sell me his car.

2. If a shop sells a particular thing, it has it in the shop for people
to buy: Do you sell flowers?

3. If something sells for a particular price, it is offered for sale at
that price: These little books sell for 95 pence each.

4. If something sells, it is bought by the public: It’s a nice design,
but I ‘m not sure if it will sell.

5. If a person or thing sell something, they cause people to want to buy
it: Scandal and gossip is what sells newspapers.

6. If you sell an idea to someone or sell someone on an idea, you
convince them that it is a good thing; an informal use: Let’s hear your
proposal. You ‘ve got 10 minutes to sell it to me.

7. If you sell yourself, you present yourself in a way which makes
people have confidence in you and your abilities; an informal use: You
‘ve got to sell yourself at the interview.

8. If you sell your honour, principles, etc., you give these things up
in order to get some personal profit or advantage: He sold his
principles for a successful career.

9. If you sell someone down the river, you betray them for some personal
profit or advantage; an informal expression: He was only too ready to
sell his native country down the river.

The comparative analysis of the meanings given in the five dictionaries
enabled us to determine the common meanings that the verb «to sell» can
acquire in different contexts. 13 common meanings were defined,
Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English providing 12 of them
and the Concise Oxford Dictionary providing 7. The following table
illustrates the determined common meanings and their availability in the
above-mentioned lexical sources:

№ Complete List of Semantic Components

D1 D2 D3 D4 D5

1 To give up, deliver, or exchange (property, goods, services, etc.) for
money or its equivalent: He sold his house to them.

+

+

+

+

+

2 To have or offer regularly for sale; deal in: The partners sell
textiles. +

+ + — +

3 To offer dishonorably for money or other consideration, make a matter
of corrupt bargaining: to sell one’s soul to the devil.

+

+

+

+

4 To be responsible for the sale of, promote successfully: Publicity
sold that product. + + + + +

5 To advertise or publish merits of; give (person) information on value
of something; inspire with desire to buy something: Let’s hear your
proposal. You’ve got 10 minutes to sell it to me.

+

+

+

+

6 [Intransitive] Exchange property, goods or services for money, etc.:
Is he thinking of selling?

7 To attract prospective buyers; to be popular on the market: An item
that sells well. + + + + +

8 To effect a transfer of (goods, property or rights) as an agent: He
sold their house for them.

+

9 To be accepted, approved, etc.: a scheme that won’t sell. + — + — —

10 To betray for money or other reward: He sold them to the police. — +
+ + +

11 To be sold for or at a particular price: These little books sell for
95 pence each. + — + — +

12 [Slang] To disappoint by not keeping engagement etc., by failing in
some way, or by trickery: He was sold over the deal.

+

+

+

13 To establish faith, confidence, or belief in: You’ve got to sell
yourself at the interview. — — + — +

It can be noted that the dominant components of the meaning of the verb
«to sell» (found in all the dictionaries), i.e. «To give up, deliver, or
exchange (property, good, services, etc.) for money or its equivalent»,
«To be responsible for the sale of, promote successfully» (transitive)
and «To attract prospective buyers; to be popular on the market»
(intransitive) are closely connected to the direct meaning of the word,
that is supplying something for sale. In the majority of the periphery
meanings the verb «to sell» is used in its figurative sense. Besides,
the conversive character of this verb somewhat fades away: e.g. we can
say that somebody «sold himself/herself» at the interview, but we can
hardly say that somebody «was bought» at the interview (at least the
intended meaning will be misunderstood by the listener — «to buy» in the
latter example will attain the meaning of «to bribe»).

1.3.2. «To buy» — Semantic Structure in the Language System.

1) American Heritage Dictionary (Dl)

1. To acquire in exchange for money or its equivalent; purchase.

2. To be capable of purchasing: Certainly there are lots of things in
life that money won’t buy. (Ogden Nash).

3. To acquire by sacrifice, exchange or trade: wanted to buy love with
gifts.

4. To bribe: tried to buy a judge.

5. [Slang] To accept the truth or feasibility of: The officers didn ‘t
buy my lame excuse for speeding.

[intransitive]:

6. To purchase goods; act as a purchaser.

7. To believe in a person or movement or subscribe to an idea or theory:
couldn ‘t buy into that brand of conservatism.

2) New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus (D2)

1. To acquire by paying money, purchase.

2. To obtain at some cost or sacrifice.

3. To win over by bribary or promises.

4. To be the price of: $ 4.000 will buy the machine.

3) Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English (D3)

1. To get by paying or agreeing to pay money or some equivalent;
purchase.

2. To get as by an exchange: buy victory with human lives.

3. To be the means of purchasing: all that money can buy.

4. To bribe or hire as by bribing.

5. [Slang] To accept as true, valid, practical, agreeable, etc.: I can’t
but this excuse.

6. [Archaic] Theological To redeem.

[intransitive]:

7. To buy something.

8. To buy merchandise as a buyer.

4) The Concise Oxford Dictionary (D4)

1. To obtain in exchange for money etc.

2. To serve to procure: money cannot buy happiness.

3. To get by some sacrifice: dearly bought.

4. To win over (person) by bribery etc.

5. [Slang] To accept, believe, be deceived by, suffer, receive by
punishment, etc.: buy it, be killed.

5) Collins COBUILD Dictionary (D5)

1. If you buy something, you obtain it by paying money for it: She could
not afford to buy it… Let me buy you a drink.

2. The amount that a certain sum of money buys is its value in terms of
the quantity of goods or currency that can be obtained with it: The
value of the pension in relation to the things that it buys.

3. If you buy freedom, time, etc., you offer something in return for
your freedom, more time, etc.: They tried to buy time by saying that it
would be ready next week.

4. If someone buys someone else, they get their help or services by
bribing or corrupting them: I won’t be bought that easily.

5. If you say «I’ll buy that», you mean that you accept or believe what
somebody has told you; an informal use: OK, I’ll buy that… You’ve got
no chance. He ‘II never buy it!

The comparative analysis of these definitions proved that the semantic
structure of the verb «to buy» contains 11 major common meanings. The
American Heritage Dictionary and the Webster’s New World Dictionary of
American English provide 8 of them, whereas New Webster’s Dictionary and
Thesaurus of the English Language provides only 4.

№ Complete List of Semantic Components D1 D2 D3 D4 D5

1 To acquire by paying or agreeing to pay money or some equivalent: Let
me buy you a drink.

+

+

+

+

+

2 To be the means of purchasing, or to be capable of purchasing: All
that money can buy.

+

+

+

3 To acquire by sacrifice, exchange, or trade: buy victory with human
lives. + + + + +

4 To win over a person by bribary or promises: I won’t be bought that
easily! + + + + +

5 [Slang] To accept as true, valid, practical, agreeable, etc.: I can’t
buy this excuse. + — + + +

6 [Intransitive] To act as a purchaser. + — + — —

7 [Intransitive] To purchase / buy goods. + — + — —

8 To believe in a person or movement or subscribe to an idea or theory:
Couldn’t buy into that brand of consdervatism.

+

9 To be the price of purchasing: $ 4.000 will buy the machine. — + — — +

10 To be deceived by, suffer, or receive as punishment, etc.: buy it, be
killed. — — — + —

11 [Archaic] Theological. To redeem. — — + — —

The analysis shows that the verb «to buy», contrariwise to the verb «to
sell», is hardly ever used as an intransitive one (this assumption is
further verified by the textual analysis of the given conversive pair).
The sememes that are found in all the dictionaries are «To acquire by
paying or agreeing to pay money or some equivalent» (direct meaning of
the verb), «To be the means of purchasing, or to be capable of
purchasing» and «To acquire by sacrifice, exchange, or trade»
(figurative meaning). The textual analysis reveals that the first two of
them are dominant components of the semantic structure of the verb «to
sell».

However, it is necessary to make the diachronic contextual analysis of
the given verbs, in order to determine and verify which of their
dictionary usage meanings were dominant and which were periphery during
the earlier period of the English language development, and to compare
them with the semantic structure of the given conversives in NE.
Particularly, in Part III we trace the diachronic semantic development
of the given conversive pairs in discourse and try to analyze the
semantic changes that occurred during the period examined.

Part II. The Overview of Semantic Changes.

Innovations which change the lexical meaning rather than the grammatical
function of a form, are classed as change of meaning or semantic change
[2, p. 425].

The contexts and phrasal combinations of a form in the older written
records of the English language often show that it once had a different
meaning. The King James translation of the Bible (1611) says, of the
herbs and trees (Genesis 1, 29) “to you they shall he for meat”.
Similarly, the Old English translation in this passage used the word
mete. We infer that the word meat used to mean ‘food,’ and we may assure
ourselves of this by looking into the foreign texts from which these
English translations were made. Sometimes the ancients tell us meanings
outright, chiefly in the form of glosses; thus, an Old English glossary
uses the word mete to translate the Latin cibus, which we know to mean
‘food.’

In other instances the comparison of related languages shows different
meanings in forms that we feel justified in viewing as cognate. Thus,
chin agrees in meaning with German Kinn and Dutch kin, but Gothic kinnus
and the Scandinavian forms, from Old Norse kinn to the present, mean
‘cheek.’ In other Indo-Europea’n languages we find Greek [‘genus] ‘chin’
agreeing with West Germanic, but Latin gena ‘cheek’ agreeing with Gothic
and Scandinavian, while Sanskrit [‘hanuh] ‘jaw’ shows us a third
meaning. We conclude that the old meaning, whatever it was, has changed
in some or all of these languages.

A third, but much less certain indication of semantic change, appears in
the structural analysis of forms. Thus, understand had in Old English
time the same meaning as now, but since the word is a compound of stand
and under, we infer that at the time the compound was first formed (as
an analogic new-formation) it must have meant ‘stand under’; this gains
in probability from the fact that under once meant also ‘among,’ for the
cognates, German unter and Latin inter, have this meaning. Thus, at
first these things may have meant ‘I stand among these things.’ In other
cases, a form whose structure in the present state of the language does
not imply anything as to meaning, may have been semantically analyzable
in an earlier stage. The word ready has the adjective-forming suffix -y
added to a unique root, but the Old English form [je’re:de], which, but
for an analogic re-formation of the suffix, can be viewed as the
ancestor of ready, meant ‘swift, suited, skilled’ and was a derivative
of the verb [‘ri:dan] ‘to ride,’ past tense [ra:d] ‘rode,’ derived noun
[ra:d] ‘a riding, a road.’ We infer that when [je’re:de] was first
formed, it meant ‘suitable or prepared for riding.’

Inferences like these are sometimes wrong, because the make-up of a form
may be of later date than its meaning. Thus, crawfish and gooseberry,
adaptations of crevise and *groze-berry, can tell us nothing about any
older meanings.

Classification of Semantic Changes According to the Logical Relations
Between Successive Meanings.

We can easily see today that a change in the meaning of a speech-form is
merely the result of a change in the use of it and other, semantically
related speech-forms. Earlier students, however, went at this problem as
if the speech-form were a relatively permanent object to which the
meaning was attached as a kind of changeable satellite. They hoped by
studying the successive meanings of a single form, such as meat ‘food’ >
‘flesh-food,’ to find the reason for this change. This led them to
classify semantic changes according to the logical relations that
connect the successive meanings. They set up such classes as the
following:

1) Narrowing:

Old English mete ‘food’ > meat ‘edible flesh’

Old English deor ‘beast’ > deer ‘wild ruminant of a particular species’

Old English hund ‘dog’ > hound ‘hunting-dog of a particular breed’

2) Widening:

Middle English bridde ‘young birdling’ > bird

Middle English dogge ‘dog of a particular (ancient) breed’ > dog

Latin virtus ‘quality of a man, manliness’ > French vertu (> English
virtue) ‘good quality’

3) Metaphor:

Primitive Germanic *[‘bitraz] ‘biting’ (derivative of *r’bi:to:] ‘I
bite’) > bitter ‘harsh of taste’

4) Metonymy:

The meanings are near each other in space or time:

Old English ceace ‘jaw’ > cheek

Old French joue ‘ cheek’ > jaw

5) Synecdoche

The meanings are related as whole and part:

Primitive Germanic *[‘tu:naz] ‘fence’ (so still German Zaun) > town

Pre-English *[‘stobo:] ‘heated room’ (compare German Stube, formerly
‘heated room,’ now ‘living-room’) > stove

6) Hyperbole:

The transition from stronger to weaker meaning:

Pre-French *ex-tonare ‘to strike with thunder’ > French etonner ‘to
astonish’ (from Old French, English borrowed astound, astonish)

7) Litotes:

The transition from weaker to stronger meaning:

Pre-English *[‘kwalljan] ‘to torment’ (so still German qualen) > Old
English cwellan ‘to kill’

8) Degeneration:

Old English cnafa ‘boy, servant’ > knave

9) Elevation:

Old English cniht ‘boy, servant’ (compare German Knecht ‘servant’) >
knight.

Collections of examples arranged in classes like these are useful in
showing us what changes are likely to occur. The meanings ‘jaw,’
‘cheek,’ and ‘chin,’ which we found in the cognates of our word chin,
are found to fluctuate in other cases –such as that of cheek from ‘jaw’
(Old English meaning) to the present meaning; jaw, from French joue
‘cheek,’ has changed in the opposite direction. Latin maxilla ‘jaw’ has
shifted to ‘cheek’ in most modern dialects, as in Italian mascella
[ma’sella] ‘cheek.’ We suspect that the word chin may have meant ‘jaw’
before it meant ‘cheek’ and ‘chin.’ In this case we have the
confirmation of a few Old High German glosses which translate Latin
molae and maxillae (plural forms in the sense ‘jaw’ or ‘jaws’) by the
plural kinne. Old English [‘weor?an] ‘to become’ and its cognates in the
other Germanic languages (such as German werden) agree in form with
Sanskrit [‘vartate:] ‘he turns,’ Latin verto ‘I turn,’ Old Bulgarian
[vrte:ti] ‘to turn,’ Lithuanian [ver’cu] ‘I turn’. We accept this
etymology because the Sanskrit word has a marginal meaning ‘to become,’
and because English turn shows a parallel development, as in turn sow,
turn traitor.

Etymology and Cultural Traces Implied by Semantic Changes.

Viewed on this plane, a change of meaning may imply a connection between
practical things and thereby throw light on the life of older times.
English fee is the modern form of the paradigm of Old English feoh,
which meant ‘live-stock, cattle, property, money.’ Among the Germanic
cognates, only Gothic faihu [‘fehu] means ‘property’; all the others,
such as German Vieh [fi:] or Swedish fa: [fe:], have meanings like
‘(head of) cattle, (head of) live-stock.’ The same is true of the
cognates in the other Indo-European languages, such as Sanskrit [‘pacu]
or Latin pecu; but Latin has the derived words pecunia ‘money’ and
peculium ‘savings, property.’ This confirms our belief that live-stock
served in ancient times as a medium of exchange.

English hose corresponds formally to Dutch hoos [ho:s], German Hose
[‘ho:ze], but these words, usually in plural form, mean not ‘stockings’
but ‘trousers.’ The Scandinavian forms, such as Old Norse hosa, mean
‘stocking’ or ‘legging.’ An ancient form, presumably West Germanic, came
into Latin in the early centuries of our era, doubtless through the
mediation of Roman soldiers, for the Romance languages have a type *hosa
(as, Italian uosa [‘wosa]) in the sense ‘legging.’ We conclude that in
old Germanic our word meant a covering for the leg, either including the
foot or ending at the ankle. Round his waist a man wore another garment,
the breeches (Old English broc). The English and Scandinavian
terminology indicates no change, but the German development seems to
indicate that on the Continent the hose were later joined at the top
into a trouser-like garment.

In this way, a semantically peculiar etymology and cultural traces may
confirm each other. The German word Wand [vant] denotes the wall of a
room, but not a thick masonry wall; the latter is Mauer [‘mawer], a loan
from Latin. The German word sounds like a derivative of the verb to
wind, German winden (past tense wand), but etymologists were at loss as
to the connection of these meanings, until Meringer showed that the
derivative noun must have applied at first to wattled walls, which were
made of twisted withes covered with mud. In the same way, Primitive
Germanic *[‘wajjuz] ‘wall,’ in Gothic waddjus, Old Norse veggr, Old
English wag, is now taken to have originated as a derivative of a verb
that meant ‘wind, twist.’ We have seen that scholars try, by a
combination of semantic and archaeologic data, to throw light on
prehistoric conditions, such as those of the Primitive Indo-European
parent community.

Just as formal features may arise from highly specific and variable
factors, so the meaning of a form may be due to situations that we
cannot reconstruct and can know only if historical tradition is kind to
us. The German Kaiser [‘kajzer] ’emperor’ and the Russian [tsar] are
offshoots, by borrowing, of the Latin caesar [‘kajsar], which was
generalized from the name of a particular Roman, Gaius Julius Caesar.
This name is said to be a derivative of the verb caedo ‘I cut’; the man
to whom it was first given was born by the aid of the surgical operation
which, on account of this same tradition, is called the caesarian
operation. Aside from this tradition, if we had not the historical
knowledge about Caesar and the Roman Empire, we could not guess that the
word for ’emperor’ had begun as a family-name. The now obsolescent verb
burke ‘suppress’ (as, to burke opposition) was derived from the name of
one Burke, a murderer in Edinburgh who smothered his victims. The word
pander comes from the name of Pandarus; in Chaucer’s version of the
ancient story of Troilus and Cressida, Pandarus acts as a go-between.
Buncombe comes from the name of a county in North Carolina, thanks to
the antics of a congressman. Tawdry comes from St. Audrey; at St.
Audrey’s fair one bought tawdry lace. Terms like landau and sedan come
from the original place of manufacture. The word dollar is borrowed
ultimately from German Taler, short for Joa-chimstaler, derived from
Joachimstal (‘Joachim’s Dale’), a place in Bohemia where silver was
minted in the sixteenth century. The Roman mint was in the temple of
Juno Moneta ‘Juno the Warner’; hence the Romans used the word moneta
both for ‘mint’ and for ‘coin, money.’ English mint is a pre-English
borrowing from this Latin word, and English money is a medieval
borrowing from the Old French continuation of the Latin word.

The surface study of semantic change indicates that refined and abstract
meanings largely grow out of more concrete meanings. Meanings of the
type ‘respond accurately to (things or speech)’ develop again and again
from meanings like ‘be near to’ or ‘get hold of.’ Thus, understand, as
we saw, seems to have meant ‘stand close to’ or ‘stand among.’ German
verstehen [fer’ste:en] ‘understand’ seems to have meant ‘stand round’ or
‘stand before’; the Old English equivalent forstandan appears both for
‘understand’ and for ‘protect, defend.’ Ancient Greek [e’pistamaj] ‘I
understand’ is literally ‘I stand upon,’ and Sanskrit [ava’gacchati] is
both ‘he goes down into’ and ‘he understands.’ Italian capire [ka’pire]
‘to understand’ is an analogic new-formation based on Latin capere ‘to
seize, grasp.’ Latin comprehendere ‘to understand’ means also ‘to take
hold of.’ The Slavic word for ‘understand’, as in Russian [po’nat], is a
compound of an old verb that meant ‘seize, take.’ A marginal meaning of
‘understand’ appears in our words grasp, catch on, get (as in I don’t
get that). Most of our abstract vocabulary consists of borrowings from
Latin, through French or in gallicized form; the Latin originals can
largely be traced to concrete meanings. Thus Latin defimre ‘to define’
is literally ‘to set bounds to’ (finis ‘end, boundary’). English
eliminate has in Latin only the concrete meaning ‘put out of the house,’
in accordance with its derivative character, since Latin ellmindre is
structurally a synthetic compound of ex ‘out of, out from’ and linen
‘threshold.’

2.3. Hermann Paul’s Assumptions.

All this, aside from its extra-linguistic interest, gives us some
measure of probability by which we can judge of etymologic comparisons,
but it does not tell us how the meaning of a linguistic form can change
in the course of time. When we find a form used at one time in a meaning
A and at a later time in a meaning B, what we see is evidently the
result of at least two shifts, namely, an expansion of the form from use
in situations of type A to use in situations of a wider type A-B, and
then a partial obsolescence by which the form ceases to be used in
situations which approximate the old type A, so that finally the form is
used only in situations of type B. In ordinary cases, the first process
involves the obsolescence or restriction of some rival form that gets
crowded out of use in the B-situations, and the second process involves
the encroachment of some rival form into the A-situations. We can
symbolize this diagrammatically as follows:

meaning: ‘nourishment’ ‘edible ‘edible ‘muscular

thing’ part of part of

animal animal

body’ body’

first stage: food meat flesh flesh

second stage: food meat meat flesh

third stage: food food meat flesh

In the normal case, therefore, we have to deal here with fluctuations of
frequency like those of analogic change; the difference is only that the
fluctuations result in lexical instead of grammatical displacements, and
therefore largely elude the grasp of the linguist. The first student,
probably, to see that semantic change consists of expansion and
obsolescence, was Hermann Paul [4, p. 431]. Paul saw that the meaning of
a form in the habit of any speaker is merely the result of the
utterances in which he has heard it. Sometimes, to be sure, we use a
form in situations that fairly well cover its range of meaning, as in a
definition («a town is a large settlement of people») or in a very
general statement («vertebrate animals have a head»). In such cases a
form appears in its general meaning. Ordinarily, however, a form in any
one utterance represents a far more specific practical feature. When we
say that John Smith humped his head, the word head is used of one
particular man’s head. When a speaker in the neighborhood of a city says
“I’m going to town”, the word town means this particular city. In such
cases the form appears in an occasional meaning. In eat an apple a day
the word apple has its general meaning; in some one utterance of the
phrase eat this apple, the word apple has an occasional meaning: the
apple, let us say, is a large baked apple. All marginal meanings are
occasional, for — as Paul showed — marginal meanings differ from central
meanings precisely by the fact that we respond to a marginal meaning
only when some special circumstance makes the central meaning
impossible. Central meanings are occasional whenever the situation
differs from the ideal situation that matches the whole extent of a
form’s meaning.

Accordingly, if a speaker has heard a form only in an occasional meaning
or in a series of occasional meanings, he will utter the form only in
similar situations: his habit may differ from that of other speakers.
The word meat was used of all manner of dishes; there must have come a
time when, owing to the encroachment of some other word (say, food or
dish), many speakers had heard the word meat only (or very
predominantly) in situations where the actual dish in question consisted
of flesh; in their own utterances these speakers, accordingly, used the
word meat only when flesh-food was involved. If a speaker has heard a
form only in some marginal meaning, he will use this form with this same
meaning as a central meaning — that is, he will use the form for a
meaning in which other speakers use it only under very special
conditions — like the city child who concluded that pigs were very
properly called pigs, on account of their unclean habits. In the later
Middle Ages, the German word Kopf, cognate with English cup, had the
central meaning ‘cup, bowl, pot’ and the marginal meaning ‘head’; there
must have come a time when many speakers had heard this word only in its
marginal meaning, for in modern German Kopf means only’ head.’

The Process of Isolation.

Paul’s explanation of semantic change takes for granted the occurrence
of marginal meanings and of obsolescence, and views these processes as
adventures of individual speech-forms, without reference to the rival
forms which, in the one case, yield ground to the form under
consideration, and, in the other case, encroach upon its domain. This
view, nevertheless, represents a great advance over the mere
classification of differences of meaning. In particular, it enabled Paul
to show in detail some of the ways in which obsolescence breaks up a
unitary domain of meaning — a process which he called isolation [2, p.
432].

Thus, beside the present central meaning of the word meat ‘flesh-food,’
we have today the strange marginal (apparently, widened) uses in meat
and drink and in sweetmeats; for dishes other than flesh, the word meat
went out of use, except in these two expressions, which are detached
from what is now the central meaning of the word: we may say that these
two expressions have been isolated by the invasion of the intermediate
semantic domain, which is now covered by food, dish. In the same way,
knave has been shifted from ‘boy, young man, servant’ to ‘scoundrel,’
but the card-player’s use of knave as a name for the lowest of the three
picture-cards (‘jack’) is an isolated remnant of the older meaning. The
word charge is a loan from Old French charger that meant originally ‘to
load a wagon.’ Its present multiplicity of meanings is evidently due to
expansion into marginal spheres followed by obsolescence of intermediate
meanings. Thus, the agent-noun charger is no longer used for
‘load-bearer, beast of burden,’ but only in the special sense
‘war-horse’; the meaning charge ‘make a swift attack (on)’ is a
back-formation from charger ‘war-horse.’ The word board had in Old
English apparently the same central meaning as today, ‘flat piece of
wood,’ and, in addition to this, several specialized meanings. One of
these, ‘shield,’ has died out entirely. Another, ‘side of a ship,’ has
led to some isolated forms, such as on board, aboard, to board (a ship),
and these have been extended to use in connection with other vehicles,
such as railway cars. A third marginal meaning, ‘table,’ survives,
again, in elevated turns of speech, such as festive board. Before its
general obsolescence, however, board ‘table’ underwent a further
transference to ‘regular meals,’ which is still current, as in bed and
board, board and lodging, to board (at a boarding-house), and so on.
This use of board is so widely isolated today from board ‘ plank’ that
we should perhaps speak of the two as homonymous words.

In Old Germanic the adjective *[‘hajlaz] meant ‘unharmed, well,
prosperous,’ as heil still does in German; this meaning remains in our
verb to heal. In modern English we have only a transferred meaning in
whole. Derived from *[‘hajlaz] there was another adjective *[‘hajlagaz]
which meant ‘conducive to welfare, health, or prosperity.’ This word
seems to have been used in a religious or superstitious sense. It occurs
in a Gothic inscription in runes, but as Bishop Ulfila did not use it in
his Bible, we may suspect that it had heathen associations. In the other
Germanic languages it appears, from the beginning of our records, only
as an equivalent of Latin sanctus ‘holy.’ Thus, the semantic connection
between whole and holy has been completely wiped out in English; even in
German heil ‘unharmed, prosperous’ and heilig ‘holy’ lie on the
border-line between distant semantic connection and mere homonymy of
roots.

The Old English adjective heard ‘hard’ underlay two adverbs, hearde and
heardlice; the former survives in its old relation, as hard, but the
latter, hardly, has been isolated in the remotely transferred meaning of
‘barely, scarcely,’ through loss of intermediate meanings such as ‘only
with difficulty.’

Isolation may be furthered by the obsolescence of some construction. We
find it hard to connect the meaning of understand with the meanings of
under and stand, not only because the meaning ‘ stand close to’ or ‘
stand among,’ which must have been central at the time the compound was
formed, has been obsolete since prehistoric time, but also because the
construction of the compound, preposition plus verb, with stress on the
latter, has died out except for traditional forms, which survive as
irregularities, such as undertake, undergo, underlie, overthrow,
overcome, overtake, forgive, forget, forbid. The words straw (Old
English streaw) and to strew (Old English strewian) were in prehistoric
time morphologically connected; the Primitive Germanic types are
*[‘strawwan] ‘a strewing, that strewn,’ and *[‘strawjo:] ‘I strew.’ At
that time strawberry (Old English streaw-berige) ‘strewn-berry’ must
have described the strawberry-plant as it lies along the ground; as
straw became specialized to ‘dried stalk, dried stalks,’ and the
morphologic connection with strew disappeared, the prior member of
strawberry was isolated, with a deviant meaning, as a homonym of straw.

Phonetic change may prompt or aid isolation. A clear case of this is
ready, which has diverged too far from ride and road; other examples are
holiday and holy, sorry and sore, dear and dearth, and especially, with
old umlaut – whole and heal, dole and deal. The word lord (Old English
hlaford) was at the time of its formation ‘loaf-ward,’ doubtless in a
sense like ‘bread-giver’; lady (Old English hlafdige) seems to have been
‘bread-shaper.’ The word disease was formerly ‘lack of ease, un-ease’;
in the present specialized meaning ‘sickness’ it is all the better
isolated from dis- and ease through the deviant form of the prefix, with
[z] for [s] after unstressed vowel.

Another contributory factor is the intrusion of analogic new-formations.
Usually these overrun the central meaning and leave only some marginal
meanings to the old form. Thus, sloth ‘laziness’ was originally the
quality-noun of slow, just as truth is still that of true, but the
decline of the -th derivation of quality-nouns and the rise of slowness,
formed by the now regular -ness derivation, has isolated sloth. An Old
English compound *hus-wif ‘housewife’ through various phonetic changes
reached a form which survives today only in a transferred meaning as
hussy [‘hozij] ‘rude, pert woman.’ In the central meaning it was
replaced by an analogic new composition of hus and wif. This, in its
turn, through phonetic change reached a form hussif [‘hozef] which
survives, though now obsolescent, in the transferred meaning
‘sewing-bag,’ but has been crowded out, in the central meaning, by a
still newer compounding, housewife [‘haws-wajf]. In medieval German,
some adjectives with an umlaut vowel had derivative adverbs without
umlaut: schoene [‘??:ne] ‘beautiful,’ but schone [‘?o:ne] ‘beautifully’;
feste ‘firm’ but faste ‘firmly.’ In the modern period, these adverbs
have been crowded out by regularly formed adverbs, homonymous with the
adjective: today schon [‘??:n] is both ‘beautiful’ and, as an adverb,
‘beautifully,’ and fest both ‘firm, vigorous’ and ‘firmly, vigorously,’
but the old adverbs have survived in remotely marginal uses, schon
‘already’ and ‘never fear,’ and fast ‘almost.’

Finally, we may be able to recognize a change in the practical world as
a factor in isolation. Thus, the isolation of German Wand ‘wall’ from
winden ‘to wind’ is due to the disuse of wattled walls. Latin penna
‘feather’ ( > Old French penne) was borrowed in Dutch and in English as
a designation of the pen for writing. In French plume [plym] and German
Feder [‘fe:der], the vernacular word for ‘feather’ is used also for
‘pen.’ The disuse of the goose-quill pen has isolated these meanings.

2.3.2. Special Factors.

Paul’s explanation of semantic change does not account for the rise of
marginal meanings and for the obsolescence of forms in a part of their
semantic domain. The same is true of so-called psychological
explanations, such as Wundt’s, which merely paraphrase the outcome of
the change. Wundt defines the central meaning as the dominant element of
meaning, and shows how the dominant element may shift when a form occurs
in new typical contexts [16, p. 435]. Thus, when meat had been heard
predominantly in situations where flesh-food was concerned, the dominant
element became for more and more speakers, not ‘food’ but ‘flesh-food.’
This statement leaves the matter exactly where it was.

The obsolescence which plays a part in many semantic changes, need not
present any characteristics other than those of ordinary loss of
frequency; what little we know of fluctuations in this direction will
apply here. The expansion of a form into new meanings, however, is a
special case of rise in frequency, and a very difficult one, since,
strictly speaking, almost any utterance of a form is prompted by a novel
situation, and the degree of novelty is not subject to precise
measurement. Older students accepted the rise of marginal meanings
without seeking specific factors. Probably they took for granted the
particular transferences which had occurred in languages familiar to
them (foot of a mountain, neck of a bottle, and the like). Actually,
languages differ in this respect, and it is precisely the spread of a
form into a new meaning that concerns us in the study of semantic
change.

The shift into a new meaning is intelligible when it merely reproduces a
shift in the practical world. A form like ship or hat or hose designates
a shifting series of objects because of changes in the practical world.
If cattle were used as a medium of exchange, the word fee ‘cattle’ would
naturally be used in the meaning ‘money,’ and if one wrote with a
goose-feather, the word for ‘feather’ would naturally be used of this
writing-implement. At this point, however, there has been no shift in
the lexical structure of the language. This comes only when a learned
loan-word pen is distinct from feather, or when fee on the one hand is
no longer used of cattle and, on the other hand, loses ground in the
domain of ‘money’ until it retains only the specialized value of ‘sum of
money paid for a service or privilege.’

The only type of semantic expansion that is relatively well understood,
is what we may call the accidental type: some formal change —
sound-change, analogic re-shaping, or borrowing — results in a locution
which coincides with some old form of not too remote meaning. Thus,
Primitive Germanic *[‘awzo:] denoted the ‘ear’ of a person or animal; it
appears as Gothic [‘awso:], Old Norse eyra, Old German ora ( > modern
Dutch oor [o:r]), Old English [‘e:are], and is cognate with Latin auris,
Old Bulgarian [uxo], in the same meaning. Primitive Germanic *[‘ahuz]
denoted the grain of a plant with the husk on it; it appears in Gothic
ahs, Old Norse ax, Old German ah and, with an analogic nominative form
due to oblique case-forms, Old German ahir ( > modern Dutch aar [a:r]),
Old English [‘ehher] and [‘e:ar], and is cognate with Latin acus ‘husk
of grain, chaff.’ The loss of [h] and of unstressed vowels in English
has made the two forms phonetically alike, and, since the meanings have
some resemblance, ear of grain has become a marginal (transferred)
meaning of ear of an animal. Since Old English [we:od] ‘weed’ and
[we:d] ‘garment’ have coincided through sound-change, the surviving use
of the latter, in widow’s weeds, is now a marginal meaning of the
former. Of course, the degree of nearness of the meanings is not subject
to precise measurement; the lexicographer or historian who knows the
origins will insist on describing such forms as pairs of homonyms.
Nevertheless, for many speakers, doubtless, a corn on the foot
represents merely a marginal meaning of corn ‘grain.’ The latter is a
continuation of an old native word; the former a borrowing from Old
French corn ( < Latin cornu 'born,' cognate with English horn). In French, allure is an abstract noun derived from aller 'to walk, to go,' and means 'manner of walking, carriage,' and in a specialized meaning 'good manner of walking, good carriage.' In English we have borrowed this allure; since it coincides formally with the verb to allure (a loan from Old French aleurer), we use it in the meaning 'charm.' It may be that let in let or hindrance and a let ball is for some speakers a queer marginal use of let 'permit,' and that even the Elizabethan let 'hinder' had this value; we have no standard for answering such questions. Phonetic discrepancies in such cases may be removed by new-formation. Thus, the Scandinavian loan-word buenn 'equipped, ready' would give a modern English *[bawn]. This form was phonetically and in meaning so close to the reflex of Old English bunden, past participle of bindan 'to bind,' (> modern bound [bawnd], past participle of bind), that a
new-formation bound [bawnd] replaced it. The result is that bound in
such phrases as bound for England, bound to see it figures as a marginal
meaning of the past participle bound. Both the word law and its compound
by-law are loan-words from Scandinavian. The first member of the latter
was Old Norse [by:r] ‘manor, town’—witness the older English forms
bir-law, bur-law — but the re-shaping by-law turned it into a marginal
use of the preposition and adverb by.

Beside the central meaning please ‘to give pleasure or satisfaction,’ we
have the marginal meaning ‘be willing’ in if you please. This phrase
meant in Middle English ‘if it pleases you.’ The obsolescence of the use
of finite verbs without actors, and of the postponement of the finite
verb in clauses, the near-obsolescence of the subjunctive (if it please
you), and the analogic loss of case-distinction (nominative ye :
dative-accusative you), have left if you please as an actor-action
clause with you as the actor and an anomalous marginal use of please.
The same factors, acting in phrases of the type if you like, seem to
have led to a complete turn-about in the meaning of the verb like, which
used to mean ‘suit, please,’ e.g. Old English [he: me: ‘wel ‘li:ka?] ‘he
pleases me well, I like him.’

Partial obsolescence of a form may leave a queer marginal meaning. To
the examples already given (e.g. meat, board) we may add a few where
this feature has led to further shifts. The Latin-French loan-word favor
had formerly in English two well-separated meanings. The more original
one, ‘kindly attitude, inclination,’ with its offshoot, ‘kindly action,’
is still central; the other, ‘cast of countenance,’ is in general
obsolete, but survives as a marginal meaning in ill-favored ‘ugly’. In
the aphoristic sentence Kissing goes by favor, our word had formerly
this marginal value (that is, ‘one prefers to kiss good-looking
people’), but now has the central value (‘is a matter of inclination’).
Similarly, prove, proof had a central meaning ‘test’ which survives in
the aphorism The proof of the pudding is in the eating; this was the
meaning also in “The exception proves the rule”, but now that prove,
proof have been shifted to the meaning ‘(give) conclusive evidence
(for),’ the latter phrase has become a paradox.

The old Indo-European and Germanic negative adverb *[ne] ‘not’ has left
a trace in words like no, not, never, which reflect old phrasal
combinations, but has been supplanted in independent use. Its loss in
the various Germanic languages was due partly to sound-change and led to
some peculiar semantic situations. In Norse it left a trace in a form
which, owing to its original phrasal make-up, was not negative: *[ne
‘wajt ek hwerr] ‘not know I who,’ that is, ‘ I don’t know who,’
resulted, by phonetic change, in Old Norse [‘n?kurr, ‘nekkwer] ‘someone,
anyone.’ In other phonetic surroundings, in pre-Norse, *[ne] was
entirely lost. Some forms which were habitually used with the negation
must have got in this way two opposite meanings: thus, an *[‘ajnan]
‘once’ and a *[ne ‘ajnan] ‘not once, not’ must have led to the same
phonetic result. Actually, in Old Norse, various such expressions have
survived in the negative value: *[ne ‘ajnan] gives Old Norse a ‘not’;
*[ne ‘ajnato:n] ‘not one thing’ gives Old Norse at ‘not’; *[ne ‘ajnaz
ge] ‘not even one’ gives Old Norse einge ‘no one’; *[ne ‘ajnato:n ge]
‘not even one thing’ gives etke, ekke ‘nothing’; *[ne ‘ajwan ge] ‘not at
any time’ gives eige ‘not’; *[ne ‘mannz ge] ‘not even a man’ gives
mannge ‘nobody.’ In German, where ne has been replaced by nicht [nixt],
originally ‘not a whit,’ the double meanings due to its loss in some
phonetic surroundings, still appear in our records. At the end of the
Middle Ages we find clauses of exception (‘unless . . . ‘) with a
subjunctive verb formed both with and without the adverb ne, en, n in
apparently the same meaning:

with ne: ez en mac mih nieman troesten, si en tuo z ‘there may no one
console me, unless she do it’

without ne: nieman kan hie froeude finden, si zerge ‘no one can find joy
here, that does not vanish.’

The first example here is reasonable; the second contains a whimsical
use of the subjunctive that owes its existence only to the phonetic
disappearance of ne in similar contexts. We observe in our examples also
a plus-or-minus of ne, en in the main clause along with nieman ‘nobody.’
This, too, left an ambiguous type: both an old dehein ‘any’ and an old
ne dehein ‘not any’ must have led, in certain phonetic contexts, to
dehein ‘any; not any.’ Both these meanings of dehein appear in our older
texts, as well as a ne dehein ‘not any’; of the three possibilities,
only dehein ‘not any’ (> kein) survives in modern standard German.

In French, certain words that are widely used with a verb and the
negative adverb, have also a negative meaning when used without a verb.
Thus, pas [pa] ‘step’ (< Latin possum) has the two uses in je ne vais pas 'I don't go' (originally 'I go not a step') and in pas mal [pa mal] 'not badly, not so bad'; personne [person] 'person' (< Latin personam) appears also in je ne vois personne 'I don't see anyone,' and in personne 'nobody'; rien (< Latin rem 'a thing') has lost ordinary noun values, and occurs in je ne vois rien 'I don't see anything' and in rien 'nothing.' This development has been described as contagion or condensation. It can be better understood if we suppose that, during the medieval period of high stress and vowel-weakening, French ne (< Latin non) was phonetically lost in certain contexts [16, p. 313]. The reverse of this process is a loss of content. Latin forms like canto 'I-sing,' cantas 'thou-singest,' cantat ('he-she-it-sings'), appear in French as chante(s) 'sing(s),' used only with an actor, or, rarely, in completive speech, just like an English verb-form. This loss of the pronominal actor-meaning is evidently the result of an analogic change which replaced the type cantat 'he-sings' by a type ille cantat 'that-one sings' (> French il chante ‘he sings’). This latter change has
been explained, in the case of French, as a result of the homonymy, due
to sound-change, of the various Latin inflections; however, in English
and in German, forms like sing, singest, singeth have come to demand an
actor, although there is no homonymy.

2.4. General Assumptions.

Special factors like these will account for only a small proportion of
the wealth of marginal meanings that faces us in every language. It
remained for a modern scholar, H. Sperber, to point out that extensions
of meaning are by no means to be taken for granted, and that the first
step toward understanding them must be to find, if we can, the context
in which the new meaning first appears [, p. 439]. This will always be
difficult, because it demands that the student observe very closely the
meanings of the form in all older occurrences; it is especially hard to
make sure of negative features, such as the absence, up to a certain
date, of a certain shade of meaning. In most cases, moreover, the
attempt is bound to fail because the records do not contain the critical
locutions. Nevertheless, Sperber succeeded in finding the critical
context for the extension of older German kopf ‘cup, bowl, pot’ to the
meaning ‘head’: the new value first appears in our texts at the end of
the Middle Ages, in battle-scenes, where the matter is one of smashing
someone’s head. An English example of the same sort is the extension of
bede ‘prayer’ to the present meaning of bead: the extension is known to
have occurred in connection with the use of the rosary, where one
counted one’s bedes (originally prayers,’ then ‘little spheres on a
string’).

In the ordinary case of semantic extension we must look for a context in
which our form can be applied to both the old and the new meanines. The
obsolescence of other contexts — in our examples, of German kopf applied
to earthen vessels and of bead ‘ prayer’ — will then leave the new value
as an unambiguous central meaning. The reason for the extension,
however, is another matter. We still ask why the medieval German poet
should speak of a warrior smashing his enemy’s ‘bowl’ or ‘pot,’ or the
pious Englishman of counting ‘prayers’ rather than ‘pearls.’ Sperber
supposes that intense emotion (that is, a powerful stimulus) leads to
such transferences. Strong stimuli lead to the favoring of novel
speech-forms at the cost of forms that have been heard in indifferent
contexts, but this general tendency cannot account for the rise of
specific marginal meanings.

The methodical error which has held back this phase of our work is our
habit of putting the question in non-linguistic terms — in terms of
meaning and not of form. When we say that the word meat has changed from
the meaning ‘food’ to the meaning ‘edible flesh,’ we are merely stating
the practical result of a linguistic process. In situations where both
words were applicable, the word meat was favored at the cost of the word
flesh, and, on the model of such cases, it came to be used also in
situations where formerly the word flesh alone would have been
applicable. In the same way, words like food and dish encroached upon
the word meat. This second displacement may have resulted from the first
because the ambiguity of meat ‘food’ and meat ‘flesh-food’ was
troublesome in practical kitchen life. We may some day find out why
flesh was disfavored in culinary situations.

Once we put the question into these terms, we see that a normal
extension of meaning is the same process as an extension of grammatical
function. When meat, for whatever reason, was being favored, and flesh,
for whatever reason, was on the decline, there must have occurred
proportional extensions of the pattern:

leave the bones and bring the flesh : leave the bones and bring the
meat

= give us bread and flesh : x,

resulting in a new phrase, give us bread and meat. The forms at the
left, containing the word flesh, must have borne an unfavorable
connotation which was absent from the forms at the right, with the word
meat.

A semantic change, then, is a complex process. It involves favorings and
disfavorings, and, as its crucial point, the extension of a favored form
into practical applications which hitherto belonged to the disfavored
form. This crucial extension can be observed only if we succeed in
finding the locutions in which it was made, and in finding or
reconstructing the model locutions in which both forms were used
alternatively. Our records give us only an infinitesimal fraction of
what was spoken, and this fraction consists nearly always of elevated
speech, which avoids new locutions. In Sperber’s example of German kopf
‘pot’ > ‘head,’ we know the context (head-smashing in battle) where the
innovation was made; there remains the problem of finding the model. One
might surmise, for instance, that the innovation was made by Germans
who, from. warfare and chivalry, were familiar with the Romance
speaker’s use of the type of Latin testam, testum ‘potsherd, pot’ >
‘head’ which in French and Italian has crowded the type of Latin caput
‘head’ out of all but transferred meanings. We confront this complex
problem in all semantic changes except the fortuitous ones like English
let, bound, ear, which are due to some phonetic accident.

We can best understand the shift in modern cases, where the connotative
values and the practical background are known. During the last
generations the growth of cities has led to a lively trade in city lots
and houses, «development» of outlying land into residence districts, and
speculative building. At the same time, the prestige of the persons who
live by these things has risen to the point where styles pass from them
to the working man, who in language is imitative but has the force of
numbers, and to the «educated» person, who enjoys a fictitious
leadership. Now, the speculative builder has learned to appeal to every
weakness, including the sentimentality, of the prospective buyer; he
uses the speech-forms whose content will turn the hearer in the right
direction. In many locutions house is the colorless, and home the
sentimental word:

SENTIMENTAL,

COLORLESS PLEASANT CONNOTATION

Smith has a lovely house : Smith has a lovely home

= a lovely new eight-room house : x.

Thus, the salesman comes to use the word home of an empty shell that has
never been inhabited, and the rest of us copy his style. It may be too,
that, the word house, especially in the substandard sphere of the
salesman, suffers from some ambiguity, on account of meanings such as
‘commercial establishment’ (a reliable house), ‘hotel,’ ‘brothel,’
‘audience’ (a half-empty house).

The learned word transpire in its Latin-French use, meant ‘to breathe or
ooze’ (Latin spirare) through (Latin trans),’ and thus, as in French
transpirer ‘to exhale, exude, perspire, ooze out,’ and with a transfer
of meaning, ‘to become public (of news).’ The old usage would be to say
of what really happened, very little transpired. The ambiguous case is
it transpired that the president was out of town. On the pattern

COLORLESS ELEGANT-LEARNED

it happened that the president was : it transpired that the
president . . .

out of town

= what happened, remains a secret : x,

we now get the formerly impossible type what transpired, remains a
secret, where transpire figures as an elegant synonym of happen, occur.

This parallelism of transference accounts for successive encroachments
in a semantic sphere. As soon as some form like terribly, which means
‘in a way that arouses fear,’ has been extended into use as a stronger
synonym of very, the road is clear for a similar transference of words
like awfully, frightfully, horribly.

Even when the birth of the marginal meaning is recent, we shall not
always be able to trace its origin. It may have arisen under some very
special practical circumstances that are unknown to us, or, what comes
to the same thing, it may be the successful coinage of some one speaker
and owe its shape to his individual circumstances. One suspects that the
queer slang use, a quarter of a century ago, of twenty-three for ‘get
out’ arose in a chance situation of sportsmanship, gambling, crime, or
some other rakish environment; within this sphere, it may have started
as some one person’s witticism. Since every practical situation is in
reality unprecedented, the apt response of a good speaker may always
border on semantic innovation. Both the wit and the poet often cross
this border, and their innovations may become popular. To a large
extent, however, these personal innovations are modeled on current
forms. Poetic metaphor is largely an outgrowth of the transferred uses
of ordinary speech. To quote a very well chosen example, when Wordsworth
wrote

The gods approve

The depth and not the tumult of the soul,

he was only continuing the metaphoric use current in such expressions as
deep, ruffled, or stormy feelings. By making a new transference on the
model of these old ones, he revived the «picture.» The picturesque
saying that «language is a book of faded metaphors» is the reverse of
the truth, for poetry is rather a blazoned book of language.

Part III. Diachrony of Semantic Conversives.

Semantic structure of lexical conversives has undergone certain changes
in course of time. The semantics of the selected conversives – “to give
: to take” and “to sell : to buy” – during each of the three major
periods of the English language development has been analyzed in this
paper.

Along with the examination of the present-day dictionary meaning of the
above-mentioned semantic conversives (see Part I), their textual
analysis was done. The latter is based on: 1) the Old English Epic
«Beowulf» in which 39 cases of the usage of the verb «aifan», 28 – of
the verb «niman», 25 – of the verb «sellan» and 3 – of the verb «bycaan»
were registered; 2) the Middle English novel «The Canterbury Tales» by
G. Chaucer where the verbs «yiven», «taken», «sellen» and «byen» were
found in 198, 281, 16 and 25 contexts accordingly; and 3) the New
English (NE) text “Don Juan” by G. Byron «to give», «to take», «to sell»
and «to buy» were registered in 117, 173, 8 and 15 contexts.

3.1. Text / Discourse Definition.

Discourse is defined as a general term for examples of language use,
i.e. language which has been produced as the result of an act of
communication.

Whereas grammar refers to the rules, a language ceases to form
grammatical units such as clause, phrase, and sentence, discourse refers
to larger units of language such as paragraphs, conversations, and
interviews.

Sometimes a study of both written and spoken discourse is known as
Discourse Analysis; some researchers however use discourse analysis to
refer to the study of spoken discourse, and text linguistics to refer to
the study of written discourse.

The discourse can be investigated with the help of Discourse Analysis
which is defined as the study of how sentences in spoken and written
language form larger meaningful units such as paragraphs, conversations,
interviews, etc.

For example, discourse analysis deals with:

how the choice of articles, pronouns and tenses affects me structure of
the discourse;

the relationship between utterances in a discourse;

the moves made by the speaker to introduce a new topic, change the
topic, or assert a higher role relationship to the other participants.

Analysis in spoken discourse is sometimes called conversational
analysis. Some linguists use the term Text Linguistics for the study of
written discourse.

Recent analyses have been carried out on discourse in the classroom.
Such analyses can be useful in finding out about the effectiveness of
teaching methods and the types of teacher-student relationships.

In the theory of language system discourse is contrasted to text. Text
can be defined (1) as a continuous piece of writing, such as the
entirely of a letter, poem, or novel, conceived originally as a product
like cloth on a loom; (2) the main written or printed part of a letter,
manuscript, typescript, book, newspaper, etc., excluding any titles,
headings, illustrations, notes, appendices, indexes, etc.; (3) the
precise wording of anything written or printed: the definite text of a
certain book (e.g. James Joyce’s «Ulysses» or Geoffrey’s Chaucer’s «The
Canterbury Tales”); (4) a book prescribed as part of a course of study;
a textbook: the prescribed texts for the exam; (5) in printing, typed as
opposed to white space, illustrations, etc. Traditionally, text is a
concept has suggested something fixed and with a quality of authority
about it not unlike scripture. Electronic and laser technology, however,
has made a concept more fluid.

3.2. Diachronic Aspects of Semantic Conversives Development.

Undoubtedly, the conversives have undergone certain semantic changes in
the course of time. The semantic development of the conversives depends
on the notions they defined in the history of early languages. E.g. the
verbs with the meaning «to buy» originated from Indo-European roots
*wes- and *kwri-. The *wes- root was registered in the Hittite, Greek,
Latin and Indo-Iranian languages, lereas the *kwri- root is found in the
Greek, Indo-Iranian, Celtic, Slavic and Baltic languages [16, p.97].

In the majority of the languages a certain of the two roots became
dominant. However, in the Greek language they are used simultaneously.
Gr. «oneomai» means “to have a wish to buy something» or «to haggle over
the price of something», but the verb «priasthai» means «to actually
purchase something by paying for it». This linguistic data enable us to
claim that *wes- was used to denote a deal, whereas *kwri- denoted a
purchase. At the same time two different moments of the same action can
be differentiated: the payment is done after the purchase and the mutual
agreement about the price.

The same thing can be told about the semantic development of the
conversive pair “to give : to take». The *do- root meant «to give» in
almost all the Indo-European languages. However, in the Hittite language
the *da- root had the meaning of «to take» and the *pai- root had the
meaning of «to give». The data suggest that the Hettite *da- «to take»
was only a variant of the meaning «to give». Similarly, the meaning of
the Gothic «niman» «to take» (German «nehmen») is correlated to the
meaning of the Greek «nemo» «to distribute».

The same notion often received a certain differentiation based on which
side of action it described. Indeed, in some languages the verb «to
sell» is a variant of «to buy” (German kaufen «to buy» vs. verkaufen «to
sell»), whereas in others the meanings of the given verbs depends on the
grammatical form they are used in or on the context.

The semantic conversives illustrate the linguistic phenomenon called
«the glide of meaning», which is a kind of semantic transition. For
example, the meaning of Modern English «give» includes the meaning «to
take to» («to take something in order to give to somebody»), i.e. there
is a certain connection between the converse meanings [16, p.70].

From the point of view of conversibility, it is also interesting to
examine the words with the meaning of «to marry» in different
Indo-European languages [20, p. 494]. The English verb «to marry» is
symmetric, i.e. the statement «NP1 married NP2” implies and is implied
by the sentence «NP2 married NP1″ (the transitive verb “to marry» should
be distinguished from the intransitive one, as in the sentence «The
priest married them», or «They were married by the priest»).

In some languages, particularly, Latin and Ukrainian, two different
conversive verbs (or the verbal combinations) are found.

E.g. Latin:

nubere — «to marry» (in respect to a female), but

in matrimonium ducere («to lead to the altar») — in respect to a male.

Greek also has some pecularities of the use of the above-mentioned
verbs: gamein in the active form of the verb) means «to marry» (in
respect to a male), the same verb in the passive or middle voice is used
in respect to a woman (the approximate English equivalents would be
«John married Jane «, but «Jane was married by John «, or «Jane got
herself married to John «).

These three variants illustrate the ways in which the same relation
between people or objects can be expressed in the language:

1) by means of a symmetric «predicator» (here – «to marry»);,

2) by means of lexically separate «predicators» («nubere» vs. «in
matrimonium ducere «);

3) by means of «grammarization» of the potential assymetry in
accordance with syntactic abilities of the language (gamein).

двоюрідний брат – двоюрідна cecmpa»).

Diachrony of the Conversive Pairs “to give : to take” and “to sell : to
buy”.

3.3.1. Semantic Structure of the Old English “ayfan” and the Middle
English “yiven”.

The OE “ayfan” (German geben, Old Norse gefa, Gothic giban) was a strong
verb of the 5th class. The total number of 379 realizations of the given
verb in the context was registered during the textual analysis of the
texts, with “Beowulf” possessing the highest percentage of the verb’s
usage:

Table 1. The D????????????????????????????

№ Verb Text Period Number Percentage (of the word stock)

1 ayfan “Beowulf” OE 39 0,217 %

2 sellan “Beowulf” OE 25 0,139 %

3 yiven “The Canterbury Tales” ME 198 0,125 %

4 give “Don Juan” NE 117 0,092 %

Semantically, the OE “ayfan” differs a little from the NE “give”
denoting the same dominant meaning of providing somebody with something.
However the semantics of this conversive can give us a hint of some
older traditions of the Germanic tribes: often it is used in regard to a
king or lord giving rings or gold to his servants and vassals. Thus, in
OE it acquires an additional connotation of a gift or a present, e.g.:

OE …ne thurh inwitsearo         aefre gemaenden

?eah hie hira beaggyfen         banan folgedon

?eodenlease,         tha him swa gethearfod waes… [2, p. 26].

NE …or with malice of mind bemoan themselves

as forced to follow their fee-giver’s slayer,

lordless men, as their lot ordained.

“Sellan” (the weak verb of 1st class irregular, cf. with NE “to sell”)
was hardly ever used in OE in the meaning of exchanging something for
money or other equivalent (the meaning characteristic of the NE period).
Narrowing of its meaning took place between OE and ME periods, thus in
“The Canterbury Tales” it is used purely in its present-day sense (cf.
the following example from “Beowulf” with ones taken from “The
Canterbury Tales” and “Don Juan”):

OE ond thaer on innan eall gedaelan

geongum ond ealdum, swylc him god sealde [2, p.2].

NE and within it, then, to old and young

he would all allot that the Lord gave him

ME But crist, that of perfeccion is welle,

Bad nat every wight he sholde go selle

Al that he hadde, and gyve it to the poore

And in swich wise folwe hym and his fore [5, p. 141].

NE Trust not for freedom to the Franks –

They have a king who buys and sells;

In native swords, and native ranks… [3, p. 85].

3.3.2. The Functioning of the Verbs with the Meaning of “to take” in
Anglo-Saxon and Middle English.

During the contextual analysis of the above-mentioned texts, the total
number of
4???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
????????????????????????????????????????????????

№ Verb Text Period Number Percentage (of the word stock)

1 niman “Beowulf” OE 28 0,156 %

3 taken “The Canterbury Tales” ME 281 0,177 %

4 take “Don Juan” NE 173 0,164 %

Old English could boast of two verbs with the meaning of “to take,” or
“to get something in your possession” that often were used
simultaneously in the text or discourse:

niman (Old Norse nema, Gothic niman) – strong verb, 4th class; e.g.:

OE For? near aetstop,

nam tha mid handa higethihtigne [2, p. 18].

NE Then farther he hied;

for t????????????????

tacan (Old Norse taka, Gothic t?kan) – strong verb, 6th class (no
examples are found in “Beowulf”, as niman was a preferred verb);

Gothic t?can is “to touch”, thus first it was used to denote the process
of touching a certain object with the aim of getting it in your
possession. The data suggested by the early Indo-European languages
(including Greek and Old English) proves that primarily “t?can” referred
to touching captured people with the aim of enslaving them.

Finally, we can see that the verb “to take” is used more often in ME and
NE than in OE (cf. the average percentage of 0,147 % in OE with 0,177 %
in ME and 0,164 % in NE). It can be explained by the fact that starting
from ME period the given semantic conversives has been actively used in
various constructions like “to take keep”, “to take regard of” or “to
take one’s leave”, whereas in Old English it was used, as a rule, in its
direct meaning of getting something in your possession, e.g.:

OE Dracan ec scufun,

wyrm ofer weallclif,         leton weg niman,

flod fae?mian         fraetwa hyrde. [2, p.74].

NE The dragon they cast,

the worm, o’er the wall for the wave to take,

and surges swallowed that shepherd of gems.

ME And thus with good hope and with herte blithe

They take hir leeve, and homeward gone they ride

To Thebes, with his olde walles wide.

3.3.3. Diachrony of the Semantics of the Verb “to sell”.

39 meanings of the verb “to sell” (including the Old English meaning of
“to give”) were realized in the three texts (see Supplement 3 for all
the examples of the given verb’s usage in “Beowulf”).

Table 3. The Diachrony of the Verb “to sell” in the English Language.

№ Verb Text Period Number Percentage (of the word stock)

1 sellan1 “Beowulf” OE 25 0,139 %

2 sellen “The Canterbury Tales” ME 16 0,0101 %

3 sell “Don Juan” NE 8 0,0063 %

The quantitative data suggest that in comparison with OE period, the
given verb is far less rarely used in ME and NE. It happened so because
of the narrowing of its meaning: in Old English “sellan” was used
simultaneously with the verb “aifan”, whereas ME “sellen” and NE “sell”
belong to the sphere of LSP and are therefore used mostly in the special
records or texts.

We suggest that the verb “to sell” (OE sellan, ON selja, OI selja)
originated from the Gothic “saljan” that meant “to bring an offering to
a god”. This assumption is further verified by the following example
from “Beowulf”:

OE Ne gefraegn ic freondlicor         feower madmas

golde gegyrede         gummanna fela

in ealobence         o?rum gesellan.

NE For I heard of few heroes, in heartier mood,

with four such gifts, so fashioned with gold,

on the ale-bench honoring others thus!

Indeed, here the verb “sellan” has a meaning of honoring somebody with
something (usually with an exuberant gift).

The original meaning was further transformed in OE. We can outline three
major meanings of the OE “sellan”:

to give;

to give up;

to sell.

It was already mentioned that the third meaning (which is dominant in
NE) was rarely used in Anglo-Saxon, whereas the first two meanings were
much more common. The textual analysis of “Beowulf” and “The Canterbury
Tales” shows that OE sellan was hardly ever used in its present-day
meaning of “to give up, deliver, or exchange (property, goods, services,
etc.) for money or its equivalent”. This meaning became dominant in the
ME period. Instead, the more general meaning of “to give” was much more
common. Cf.:

ME Well coud he in eschaunge sheeldes selle [5, p.6].

OE ?a he him of dyde isernbyrnan,

helm of hafelan, sealde his hyrsted sweord [2, p.16].

NE Cast off then his corselet of iron,

helmet from head; to his henchman gave.

OE Dyde him of healse hring gyldenne

thioden thristhydig, thegne geseald.[2, p. 67]

NE From his neck he unclasped the collar of gold,

valorous king, to his vassal gave it.

We think that this narrowing of the meaning took place, because at first
such an act of selling was used to denote a gift of a slave. E.
Benveniste describes the tradition of the old Germans that lay in
putting their freedom on stake while playing the dice or some other
gambling games. However, the person who used to win a slave in such a
way tried to get rid of him as soon as possible (most often by making a
“gift”), in order not to feel guilty or ashamed [16, p.99]. Transition
of meaning (from the gift described to a certain business transaction)
took place during the Middle English period.

3.3.4. Evolution of the Semantic Conversive “to buy”.

Another constituent of the given conversive pair “to buy” (OE bycgan,
Old Saxon buggean, Gothic bugjan) should be related with the Avestan
root baog-, that at first meant “to untie”, “to unfasten a belt or
clothes”, and later on – “to liberate, to make free” and, finally, “to
save” [16, p. 73].

In this case the semantic transition could occur due to the following
condition: the so-called “purchase” implied paying ransom for a captive,
which was the only way of rescuing him / her from slavery. There is a
meaning, still retained in Modern English, that is a clear evidence of
the above-mentioned hypothesis: “to buy” in the meaning of “to redeem”
(see section 1.3.2 of Part I) which is cited in the Webster’s New World
Dictionary of American English as “religious” та “archaic” [12, p. 191].

On the whole, the verb “to sell” was used in the texts analyzed for 43
times:

Table 4. The Diachrony of the Verb “to buy” in the English Language.

№ Verb Text Period Number Percentage (of the word stock)

1 bycaan “Beowulf” OE 3 0,0157 %

2 byen “The Canterbury Tales” ME 25 0,0158 %

3 buy “Don Juan” NE 15 0,0118 %

The origin of the word “to buy” (discussed in detail above) makes itself
felt in “Beowulf”: “bycaan“ never denotes the corresponding business
transaction of purchasing; instead, it is used only in its primary
figurative meaning (see Supplement 4):

OE theah ?e o?er his ealdre gebohte,

heardan ceape… [2, p.59].

NE though one of them bought it with blood of his heart,

a bargain hard

However, by the beginning of the ME period it has acquired the
present-day sense of making a purchase, e.g.:

ME But so bifel, this marchant on a day

Shoop hym to make redy his array

Toward the toun of brugges for to fare,

To byen there a porcioun of ware… [5, p. 79].

Thus, we can see again that the verbs “to sell : to buy” are closely
interrelated (which is a particular feature of semantic conversives): in
the primitive languages they used to denote paying ransom for or selling
of a captive or a slave. We should also mention that OE “bebycaan” “to
sell” is the form of the verb “bycaan” “to buy” (cf. the German “kaufen”
and “verkaufen”):

OE Nu ic on ma?ma hord         mine bebohte

frode feorhlege,         fremma? gena

leoda thearfe [2, p.37]

NE Now I’ve sold here for booty of treasure

the last of my life, so look ye well

to the needs of my land!

Conclusions.

In the lexical system of the language the meanings of different words
are always correlated and interacting. In this respect, the question
arises: what paradigmatic semantic correlations do the lexemes of the
words have. Undoubtedly, it is those correlations that make the units of
a certain multitude a system. Besides, the analysis of the paradigmatic
semantic correlations is closely connected with the basic aspect of the
lexical semantics, i.e. the description of lexical meanings. The opinion
that it is impossible to properly analyze the meaning of the word
without comparing it to the meanings of other words in a certain
language has become an important issue in the linguistics due to the
establishment of the structural methods of analysis, though it was even
earlier that some linguists came to realize the importance of the
correlations between meanings of the words.

Hence, the functioning of the semantic conversives is one of the focal
problems of the contemporary linguistics (especially semantic
linguistics). They help to establish what kinds of semantic paradigmatic
relations different lexical and semantic units have, thus helping to
group the words into certain clusters called lexico-semantic paradigms
or semantic fields. Each constituent of the conversive pair of words
influences and partly determines the meaning of another constituent.

The conversive correlation unites the words that define the same
situation from the points of view of the participants that are engaged
in its different aspects. The examples of this correlation are the
following pairs of words: «to •win — to lose», «over-under», «to have-to
belong (to)», «younger — older», etc.

Lexical conversion belongs to the categories that are not explored
enough. Nevertheless, generalization of the available data about
conversion makes it possible to outline a number of structural types of
this linguistic phenomenon. Usually, conversives are classified
according to 1) their morphological features and 2) their semantic
features, i.e. in accordance with the general semantic categories
inherent to them. Besides, the classification suggested by Yu.Apresyan
and I.Melchuk is based on the number of transformation performed during
the process of conversion. This division is rather arbitrary, so all
these types of classification are interrelated and often presented as a
single unity (it can be illustrated by the classification given by
Yu.Apresyan).

The componential analysis of the conversive pairs revealed their complex
structure. We designed the semantic structure of the conversives «to
sell — to buy» on the basis of 5 modem dictionaries of the contemporary
English language. Thus, the semantic structure of the verb «to sell»
contained 13 major sememes, and that of the verb «to buy» contained 11.
Also, the main components of meaning were determined. The dominant
components can be represented by the opposition «supply : demand», which
is proved by the facts of the register of economics.

Innovations which change the lexical meaning rather than the grammatical
function of a form, are classed as change of meaning or semantic change.
The conversives have undergone certain semantic changes in the course of
the time. The semantic development of the conversives depends on the
notions they defined in the history of early languages. E.g. the verbs
with the meaning «to buy» originated from Indo-European roots *wes- and
*kwri-. The *wes- root was registered in the Hittite [hi’tait], Greek,
Latin and Indo-Iranian languages, whereas the *kwri- root is found in
the Greek, Indo-Iranian, Celtic, Slavic and Baltic languages.

The semantic conversives illustrate the linguistic phenomenon called
«the glide of meaning», which is a kind of semantic transition. For
example, the meaning of Modem English «give» includes the meaning «to
take to» («to take something in order to give to somebody»), i.e. there
is a certain connection between the converse meanings.

Along with the examination of the present-day dictionary meaning of the
above-mentioned semantic conversives (see Part I), their textual
analysis was done. The latter is based on: 1) the Old English Epic
«Beowulf» in which 39 cases of the usage of the verb «Zifan», 28 – of
the verb «niman», 25 – of the verb «sellan» and 3 – of the verb «bycZan»
were registered; 2) the Middle English novel «The Canterbury Tales» by
G. Chaucer where the verbs «yiven», «taken», «sellen» and «byen» were
found in 198, 281, 16 and 25 contexts accordingly; and 3) the New
English (NE) text “Don Juan” by G. Byron «to give», «to take», «to sell»
and «to buy» were registered in 117, 173, 8 and 15 contexts.

On the basis of the above-mentioned textual analysis, we revealed
certain diachronic semantic changes that took place in the given
conversives’ semantic structure. For example, “sellan” was hardly ever
used in OE in the meaning of exchanging something for money or other
equivalent (the meaning characteristic of the NE period). Narrowing of
its meaning took place between OE and ME periods, thus in “The
Canterbury Tales” and “Don Juan” it is used purely in its present-day
sense. Narrowing of the meaning occurred in the case of the verb “to
buy” as well.

Finally, it should be observed that the words that constitute a semantic
field (including semantic conversives) receive their meaning only as a
part of corresponding field. The speaker of a certain language fully
knows the meaning of the word only if he knows the meanings of the other
words belonging to the same field, so understanding this linguistic
phenomena will definitely enhance the speaker’s language competence and
performance. On the other hand, while examining the semantic changes
that took place in the conversives’ structure, we can get some idea of
the traditions and way of life of ancient peoples, etymology of the
English word-stock and various cultural traces.

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Supplement 1.

The Semantic Structure of the Conversive “To Sell”.

1) American Heritage Dictionary (Dl)

1. To exchange or deliver for money or its equivalent.

2. To offer for sale, as for one’s business or livelihood: The partners
sell textiles.

3. To give up or surrender in exchange for a price or reward: sell one’s
soul to the devil.

4. To be responsible for the sale of; promote successfully: Publicity
sold that product.

5. To persuade (another) to recognize the worth or desirability of: They
sold me on the idea…

[intransitive]:

6. To exchange ownership for money or its equivalent; engage in selling.

7. To be sold or be on sale: Grapes are selling high this season.

8. To attract prospective buyers; to be popular on the market: …an item
that sells «well.

9. To be approved of; gain acceptance.

2) New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus (D2)

1. To dispose of the ownership of (goods, property or rights) to another
or others in exchange for money: he sold his house to them.

2. To effect such a transfer as an agent: he sold their house for them.

3. To offer for sale: he sells antiques.

4. To lead to the sale of: advertising sold a million copies.

5. To betray for a reward: he sold them to the police.

6. (pop.) To cheat, deceive: he was sold over the deal.

[intransitive]:

7. To offer something for sale: is she thinking of selling?

8. To find a buyer: these goods sell quickly.

3) Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English (D3)

1. To give up, deliver, or exchange (property, goods, services, etc.)
for money or its equivalent.

2. a) To have or offer regularly for sale; deal in: a store that sells
hardware, to sell real estate;

b) To make or try to make sales: to sell chain stores.

3. a) To give up or deliver (a person) to his or her enemies or into
slavery, bondage, etc;

b) To be a traitor to; betray.

4. To give up or dispose of (one’s honor, one’s vote, etc.) for profit
or a dishonorable purpose.

5. To bring about, help in, or promote the sale of: television sells
many products.

6. [Colloquial] a) To establish faith, confidence, or belief in: to sell
oneself to the public.

b) To persuade (someone) of the value of something; convince (with on):
sell him on the idea.

7. [Slang] To cheat, or dupe.

[intransitive]:

8. To exchange property, goods or services for money, etc.

9. To work or act as a salesman or salesclerk.

10. To be a popular item on the market; attract buyers.

11. To be sold (for or at), belts selling for $ 6.

12. [Colloquial] To be accepted, approved, etc.: a scheme that won’t
sell.

4) The Concise Oxford Dictionary (D4)

1. To make over or dispose of in exchange for money.

2. To cause to be sold: the author’s name alone will sell many copies;
keep stock of for sale or to be a dealer in: Do you sell candles?

3. To betray for money or other reward: sell one’s country.

4. To offer dishonourably for money or other consideration, to make a
matter of corrupt bargaining: sell justice, oneself, one’s honour or
chastity.

5. [Slang] To disappoint by not keeping engagement etc., by failing in
some way, or by trickery: Sold again!

6. Advertise or publish merits of; to give (person) information on value
of something: selling point.

[intransitive]:

7. (of goods) To find purchasers: will never sell; selling like
wildfire, hot cakes; to have specified price: it sells at or for $ 5.

5) Collins COBUILD Dictionary (D5)

1. If you sell something, you let someone have it in return for an
agreed sum of money: He is going to sell me his car.

2. If a shop sells a particular thing, it has it in the shop for people
to buy: Do you sell flowers?

3. If something sells for a particular price, it is offered for sale at
that price: These little books sell for 95 pence each.

4. If something sells, it is bought by the public: It’s a nice design,
but I ‘m not sure if it will sell.

5. If a person or thing sell something, they cause people to want to buy
it: Scandal and gossip is what sells newspapers.

6. If you sell an idea to someone or sell someone on an idea, you
convince them that it is a good thing; an informal use: Let’s hear your
proposal. You ‘ve got 10 minutes to sell it to me.

7. If you sell yourself, you present yourself in a way which makes
people have confidence in you and your abilities; an informal use: You
‘ve got to sell yourself at the interview.

8. If you sell your honour, principles, etc., you give these things up
in order to get some personal profit or advantage: He sold his
principles for a successful career.

9. If you sell someone down the river, you betray them for some personal
profit or advantage; an informal expression: He was only too ready to
sell his native country down the river.

Supplement 2.

The Semantic Structure of the Conversive “To Buy”

1) American Heritage Dictionary (Dl)

1. To acquire in exchange for money or its equivalent; purchase.

2. To be capable of purchasing: Certainly there are lots of things in
life that money won’t buy. (Ogden Nash).

3. To acquire by sacrifice, exchange or trade: wanted to buy love with
gifts.

4. To bribe: tried to buy a judge.

5. [Slang] To accept the truth or feasibility of: The officers didn ‘t
buy my lame excuse for speeding.

[intransitive]:

6. To purchase goods; act as a purchaser.

7. To believe in a person or movement or subscribe to an idea or theory:
couldn ‘t buy into that brand of conservatism.

2) New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus (D2)

1. To acquire by paying money, purchase.

2. To obtain at some cost or sacrifice.

3. To win over by bribary or promises.

4. To be the price of: $ 4.000 will buy the machine.

3) Webster’s New World Dictionary of American English (D3)

1. To get by paying or agreeing to pay money or some equivalent;
purchase.

2. To get as by an exchange: buy victory with human lives.

3. To be the means of purchasing: all that money can buy.

4. To bribe or hire as by bribing.

5. [Slang] To accept as true, valid, practical, agreeable, etc.: I can’t
but this excuse.

6. [Archaic] Theological To redeem.

[intransitive]:

7. To buy something.

8. To buy merchandise as a buyer.

4) The Concise Oxford Dictionary (D4)

1. To obtain in exchange for money etc.

2. To serve to procure: money cannot buy happiness.

3. To get by some sacrifice: dearly bought.

4. To win over (person) by bribery etc.

5. [Slang] To accept, believe, be deceived by, suffer, receive by
punishment, etc.: buy it, be killed.

5) Collins COBUILD Dictionary (D5)

1. If you buy something, you obtain it by paying money for it: She could
not afford to buy it… Let me buy you a drink.

2. The amount that a certain sum of money buys is its value in terms of
the quantity of goods or currency that can be obtained with it: The
value of the pension in relation to the things that it buys.

3. If you buy freedom, time, etc., you offer something in return for
your freedom, more time, etc.: They tried to buy time by saying that it
would be ready next week.

4. If someone buys someone else, they get their help or services by
bribing or corrupting them: I won’t be bought that easily.

5. If you say «I’ll buy that», you mean that you accept or believe what
somebody has told you; an informal use: OK, I’ll buy that… You’ve got
no chance. He ‘II never buy it!

Supplement 3.

Extracts from “Beowulf” with the Verb “to sell”.

1 With the meaning “to give”.

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