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on Mar 11th 2002, 09:59:32, Jean-Claude Choul wrote the following about


Polysemy is, according to Webster's Collegiate, the multiplicity of meanings. It is the opposite of monosemy. The word was coined by Michel Bréal, founder of historical semantics, preoccupied, as was his contemporary Antoine Darmesteter, with the evolution of meaning in words. American linguists, often working with utterances, generally speak of lexical ambiguity. But polysemy is a reality, as witnessed by subsenses (usually numbered) in a dictionary entry. Cf. cause, rebellion, rebel (n.& adj.). The vast majority of words are polysemous and, generally speaking, only technical or scientific words are monosemic, at least immediately after being coined or derived. The most abstruse the science or field, the longer monosemy will prevail. Some linguists even suggested that polysemy was paradoxically a sign of meaning depletion, due to frequent uses. Polysemy is especially exploited in poetry and puns.

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