Non-standard models of polysemy in German adjectives and adverbs

This paper is devoted to the analysis of non-standard semantic shifts in adjectives and adverbs. Under non-standard semantic shifts I understand meaning changes, which can't be described as metaphor or metonymy. Here are some examples of the semantic shifts in question, cf.:

  • bittere Schokolade ‘bitter chocolate' vs. bitterer Hunger ‘very strong hunger'
  • hübsches Mädchen'nice  girl' vs. hübsch kalt ‘very cold'
  • toller Hund ‘rabid dog' vs. tolle Idee ‘a very good idea'
  • köstlicher Kuchen ‘tasty pie' vs. köstliche Musik ‘very good music'

What is the relationship between the two meanings in the adjective-noun combinations above? Are they homonyms, that is, are they different lexemes with no connection between the meanings? Are they polysemous, that is, are they different meanings of the same lexeme? If they are polysemous, which steps of change should a source meaning undergo to get a goal meaning with such great cognitive distance? I argue that the examples above demonstrate a regular type of polysemy which working principle is not based on similarity or contiguity relations but has a number of typical characteristics. In this paper I will observe the data gathered in German in comparison with other languages and discuss in detail the features and the mechanism of the phenomenon.

Key words: regularities in semantic change, implicatures, semantic fields, historical linguistics, typology


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