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the existence of more than one meaning for a given word, that is, the capability of a word to convey different information about objects and phenomena of extralinguistic reality. For example, the Russian word gorlo has four meanings: “throat” (the front part of the neck), “gullet” (the cavity behind the mouth), “neck” (the narrowed upper part of a bottle), and “estuary” (a narrow water passage). In many languages, including Russian, there are more polysemous words than words with one meaning. It is customary to differentiate polysemy from homonymy, since the meanings of a polysemous word are associated with common semantic elements (semantic attributes) and form a certain semantic unity (the semantic structure of the word).

In polysemy, a distinction is made between primary and secondary (derived) meanings; these meanings are sometimes referred to as literal and figurative, respectively. Primary meanings, as a rule, are least affected by context. With time, the relationship between the primary and secondary meanings may change. Different types of polysemy exist for different types of words; for example, there is relatively regular and irregular polysemy. Russian words designating populated areas, such as a city, village, or settlement, can also mean “the inhabitants of a populated area,” that is, they follow a definite [regular] semantic formula; secondary [figurative] meanings, for example, the application of names of animals (lion, fox) to people, are individual [irregular]. The unique combination of meanings designated by a single word is to a large extent what determines the uniqueness of the word stock of a given language. The grammatical forms of a word and syntactic constructions may also be polysemous.


Vinogradov, V. V. “Osnovnye tipy leksicheskikh znachenii slova.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1953, no. 5.
Akhmanova, O. S. Ocherki po obshchei i russkoi leksikologii. Moscow, 1957.
Kurylowycz, J. “Zametki o znachenii slova.” In Ocherki po lingvistike. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from Polish, English, French, and German.)
Ullmann, S. The Principles of Semantics, 2nd ed. Glasgow, 1959.




an important concept in logic, logical semantics, semiotics, and linguistics. Polysemy was originally a linguistic concept, but it is natural that the concept should have found application in all the above-mentioned fields. Polysemy is the existence of different senses and/or meanings for a single word, expression, or phrase; the term also denotes the existence of different interpretations for a single sign or combination of signs. The term is usually applied when the different senses, meanings, or interpretations are to some extent interrelated.

References in periodicals archive ?
This indicates that the generated visual dictionary by weakly supervised E2LSH clustering is superior to AKM in overcoming the problem of synonymy and polysemy of visual words.
Secondly, polysemy is an important factor in the formation of different antonymy and synonymy relations as in the directional and proximity meanings of do:Gen 'to: until' and do:Gen 'next to'.
H9: An increase in online review word polysemy will decrease review helpfulness
The aim of this fellowship is to address these issues in an ontology driven approach, showing that systematic polysemy results from orthogonal dependence relations between the denoted entities.
Thus Old Serbian established the polysemy [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (grblo) 1.
All in all, the diachronic evolution of JUST involves two converging trends: on the one hand, increasing polysemy, from one scalar reading in the early times (exact) to an array of senses in contemporary English which confirms the well-known universal path from concrete to abstract and from objective to subjective; and on the other, increasing grammatical restriction, that is, more contextual constraints, since JUST is no longer possible with a large number of collocations actually attested in early texts, as in the Oxford English Dictionary examples 9 to 12 below.
For Natalie Jones Loper, Julia Stiles becomes iconic of a quiet girl's intellectual power because she reads the polysemy of Stiles's performances as accruing meaning not only through each new performance, but also through each new interview and public declaration (whether creative or journalistic).
Scientific texts may narrow polysemy, but in popular contexts metaphors will be continuously open to alternative meanings" (7).
Contarini concludes that the innovative literary aspects of the time, such as the polysemy and the multiplicity of meanings, have now been canonized, while John Picchione examines the novelty of the neoavanguardia's poetry, characterized by the centrality of language.
The last four serve as a useful taxonomy of subject matter, perhaps, but the works' Surrealist polysemy inevitably drives them to escape compression into a single category, a fact Allmer acknowledges in a remark that "the artworks in these sections explode the categories from within" (15).
One of the problems is the translation disambiguation, which often rooted from homonymy and polysemy [2].
In this paper I argue that semantic similarity is not the only factor which motivates polysemy patterns cross-linguistically; I also show that these other factors (markedness, distinguishability, etc) may give rise to polysemies which are problematic for established semantic maps.