"Run" vs. "Set"

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Mon Apr 7 06:39:46 UTC 2003

In reply to Fred S's query, I would not recommend counting dictionary senses as an absolute way to determine relative polysemy.  Reasons:

1. Different lexos and dict houses will handle the same word differently, as regards number of senses, and other things.  Some lexos are "lumpers"; some are "splitters".

2. What is polysemy really?  I think one might get a better sense for this by looking at the studies done in linguistics.  Dictionaries do mirror linguistic reality, but they only mirror it.  And some of those mirrors have not been cleaned recently, and have scratches and cracks in them.

3. What to count?  In some houses (like Merriam), the verb and noun senses of a word will be in two different entries.  Watch for that, too.  Also, does one count the phrasal verbs that are built on words like _run_ and _set_, or not?

I WOULD say that one can get some clue by comparing entries within a single dictionary.  Look, say, at the Random House Unabridged for the American side, and at Shorter Oxford for the British.  These are both fairly recently edited and are "unabridged" -- unlike big OED, many parts of which date back to Murray's time, or the Amer Heritage, which is not unabridged.

The words _run_ and _set_ are good candidates, but I would also take a look at _take_.

Frank Abate

Frank Abate
(860) 349-5400
abatefr at earthlink.net

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