ENG6361H: Assignment #1—Semantic change

This assignment is designed to introduce you to

-the basic principles of semantic change

-historical dictionaries of the English language

1. Select one pair/group of words from the list below. Some groups consist of OE words, others of OE word(s) and a ME loanword (fiend, foe, enemy), some consist of cognates loaned from different dialects of French (cattle, chatte l) during ME. If you have picked a pair of ME words, you must also find the equivalent OE word(s): use the Thesaurus of Old English (PE 279 R62 1995 STL) You’re most welcome to select your own semantic field, if you have a personal obsession ; you must get my written permission for a topic not on this list.

2. Find and analyze entries in relevant historical dictionaries: all of you will have to use the Oxford English Dictionary (PE 1625 M7 1989, out of sequence) and the Middle English Dictionary (PE 679 M54) and Boswor th-Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (PE 279 B55); a few of you will also be able to use the Toronto Dictionary of Old English (PE 279 D53 1986 mfe). All of these can be found on the fourth floor of Robarts, the DOE in one of the fiche cabinets.

3. Do read the relevant chapter on semantic change in either Lehmann or McMahon (both on 2-hour reserve at short-term loans). You’ll be getting a booklist very soon with references to these and other readings, once enrolment h as settled.

4. In no more than 1000 words, write a persuasive account of how and why semantic change might have occurred. You will have to focus this; how you focus it depends upon the words you’ve chosen. It is often helpful to make one word your focus—i.e. how and why has OE feond (the ancestor of PDE fiend) changed in meaning? This is a highly artificial exercise: if you wish, you may find and discuss other OE words from the same semantic field (the Thesaurus of O ld English (PE 279 R62 1995 STL) might be useful here), but keep the assignment in perspective.

5. Briefly compare and contrast the dictionaries you’ve used: what are their strengths and weaknesses for doing this assignment?

OE mid "with", with

yode (OE eode), went (pt. of go)

fowl, bird

quethe, say

warp, throw, cast

witie (OE witega), prophet

riche, rike (OE rice), kingdom, realm…

sooth, true/truth

stow, place

yearn (adjective), eager

knave, servant, …?

shirt, short, skirt

hue, shade, colour

tale, story, history

fiend, foe, enemy

deer, beast, animal

chapman, merchant

sheep, lamb, mutton

wood, forest

burgh, borough, town, city

kingly & cynelic, royal, regal

ghost, spirit

sweven, dream, joy

holy, saintly

maiden, virgin

deem, judge

moody, proud

nim, take

creep, crawl

heaven, lift, loft, sky

cattle, chattel

reward, regard