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a word similar to another in sound; the partial coincidence in outward form occurs simply by chance and is not conditioned by semantic or word-formation processes. Examples are seen in the Russian vremia (“time”) and bremia (“burden”) and apellirovat’ (“to appeal”) and operirovat’ (“to operate”).
Some scholars regard as paronyms words with the same root that are similar in structure or sound and are the same part of speech or have common grammatical features. Because of the partial coincidence in sound, there may be an outward change in one of the words, usually the one less used; this is known in linguistics as false etymology. Sometimes a chance coincidence in sound leads to changes that become fixed in language. For example, svidetel’ (“witness”) was connected in Old Russian not with the root vid- (meaning “to see”) but with věd-, a root appearing in vedat’ (“to know”) and svedushchii (“knowledgeable”).
Paronyms may be misused by a speaker, as when stupen’ nogi is used instead of stupnia nogi to refer to the sole of the foot, the confusion arising from the similarity in sound between the Russian words for “stairstep” (or “level”) and “sole.” Paronyms are used in poetry (including rhymes) and also in puns.
REFERENCESGvozdev, A. N. Ocherki po stilistike russkogo iazyka, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1955.
Bel’chikov, Iu. A., and M. S. Paniusheva. Trudnye sluchai upotrebleniia odnokorennykh slov russkogo iazyka: Slovar’-spravochnik. Moscow, 1968.
D. N. SHMELEV