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be caused through the influence of other words, mostly of synonyms.1

Let us consider the following examples.

The Old English verb steorfan meant "to perish". When the verb to die was borrowed from the Scandinavian, these two synonyms, which were very close in their meaning, collided, and, as a result, to starve gradually changed into its present meaning: "to die (or suffer) from hunger".

The history of the noun deer is essentially the same. In Old English (О. Е. deor) it had a general meaning denoting any beast. In that meaning it collided with the borrowed word animal and changed its meaning to the modern one ("a certain kind of beast", R. олень).

The noun knave (О. Е. knafa) suffered an even more striking change of meaning as a result of collision with its synonym boy. Now it has a pronounced negative evaluative connotation and means "swindler, scoundrel".

The Process of Development and Change of Meaning

The second question we must answer in this chapter is how new meanings develop. To find the answer to this question we must investigate the inner mechanism of this process, or at least its essential features. Let us examine the examples given above from a new angle, from within, so to speak.

1 Most scholars distinguish between the terms development of meaning (when a new meaning and the one on the basis of which it is formed coexist in the semantic structure of the word, as in mill, carriage, etc.) and change of meaning (when the old meaning is completely replaced by the new one, as in the noun meat which in Old English had the general meaning of "food" but in Modern English is no longer used in that sense and has instead developed the meaning "flesh of animals used as a food product").


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