All lexical units semantically fall into two types:
1. monosemantic words (the words having only one lexical meaning and denoting, accordingly, one concept)
2. Polysementic words (words having several meanings, thus denoting a whole set of related concepts grouped according to the national peculiarities of a given language)
Most of the lexical units marked by high frequency value are polysemantic.
Ex. The hand (the meaning of hand is часовая стрелка) of my watch points to three.
Give me your hand (the meaning of hand is рука)
The farmer has hired an extra hand (the meaning of hand is с/х рабочий)
The different semantic variants of polysemantic word manifest (проявлять) themselves in different word combination, i.e. constructions which remain constant irrespective of the actual sentences in which they occur. (происходить)
Ex. The meaning of the verb to make are manifested in the structural pattern
“to make smth (to make a dress), to make smbd (to make friends), to make smbd do smth” (to make a child wash his hands)
The semantic variation of words may be analyzed into:
Ex. In the case of the word “fellow” the semantic variants may be revealed by changing the type of sentence: “good fellow”, “jolly good fellow”.
When used predicatively or in exclamatory sentences the word “fellow” acquires an altogether different meaning
Ex. She is a jolly good fellow – Она не жилец на этом свете.
The primary meaning is usually less dependent on the lexical environment.
The secondary meanings are inseparably bound up with specific structure and patterns.
Polysemy is also discovered through an examination of the nature of synonymic and antonymic groupings typical of a given word.
Synonymy and antonymy are of great assistance in the establishment of semantic variants because each individual semantic variant implies its own synonymic and antonymic series or grouping, not synonymous (or antonymous) between themselves.
Ex. Feel (1) touch, handle, probe; 2) sound, try, prove, put to test; 3) experience, suffer or enjoy, have sense of; 4) be affected or be moved by; 5) have the impression, have the consciousness of being, be conscious of being )
Ex. The antonyms of the adj. “awkward” are
1. deft, handy, skilful. Dexterous
2. manageable, convenient, fit
3. graceful, elegant, polite
There is also some connection between polysemy and the structure of words.
The simpler the structure is the wider the range of its meanings.
Compound words are practically monosemantic.
The development of polysemy in word is due to their neutrality of style and the absence of emotive factors.
Generally monosyllabic simple words of neutral style are more polysemantic.