Semantic Shift?

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Tue Aug 22 22:53:24 UTC 2000

Kathleen Miller (Aug. 22, 2000) wrote:
>Mr. Safire is writing a special issue on Noo Yawkese and we're stuck with
>a lingusitic question. What is it called when a phrase, such as "get out
>of here", assumes a different meaning? Is it sematic shift, or is there
>another name for it?
------I would refer interested linguists to my article 'Change of Meaning
in Context', _Forum Linguisticum_, vol. 2, no. 3, April 1978, pp.257-266.
Based on this article I would say about Noo Yawkese "get out of here":
    We deal with an expression acquiring a secondary meaning in context.
The literal meaning remains: "Get out of here  (with your ridiculous
ideas)."  But a secondary meaning  also appears: "That's absolutely
ridiculous."  One may view the situation as if there is a pregnant woman,
with conception having occurred  (the foetus is the new meaning of "Get out
of here") but with birth not yet having occurred (the new meaning--"That's
absolutely ridiculous"-- is not yet independent of  the basic
   FWI, I have given new terminology to this sort of  development:
1) "genosemy" (stress on -o-)  literally:  conception of meaning -- the
acquring by a word (or morpheme or group of words) of a secondary meaning
in a given context.
2) "toxemy", literally:  birth of meaning.  -- the development of a
secondary meaning into a primary one.  (e.g. "as well"--primary meaning:
"as capably", e.g. "He plays the violin like a master and can play the
piano as well;" secondary meaning in context here: "also."  Then, e.g.: "He
flunked  physics and failed chemistry as well."  All connections with "as
capably" are lost for "as well" in this last example.
3) "physemy" literally: the growth of meaning -- genosemy and toxemy
combined. This pertains to the "as well" example just above.

        In the above example "Get out of here,"  we see genosemy but not
toxemy.  The woman, so to speak, is still pregnant.

-----Gerald Cohen

gcohen at

More information about the Ads-l mailing list