Polysemous Forms, Antonyms, Synonyms, Homographs, and how they affect speech performance in Tiv language. Introduction: Semantics play an important role in any given language, by assisting in the description of meaning in human language. Speech situations are laden with ambiguities, which occur either as antonyms, synonyms, homographs or polysemy. According to Varshney (1973:273) “polysemies are words with several, often quite different meaning, all derived from the basic idea or concept”.
The Dictionary of Linguistics (1954) gives an example of the word ‘head’ being used in different ways Human head’ ‘Head of department’ ‘Bridge head’ etc. George Yule (2000:121) defines polysemy as “relatedness of meaning accompanying identical forms which can be defined as one form (written or spoken), having multiple meaning which are all related by extension. For example, an English word foot could mean different things: Foot of a person Foot of bed Foot of a mountain Likewise run another English word can also be used in different ways. For instance; Persons run Water run and Colours run etc.
Edward (1994:302) consider polysemy as a term in linguistics for words or other items f language, with two or more sentences, such as Walk’ – in the child started to walk, and they live at 23 charge walk. It also refers to the fact of having several meanings; the possession of multiple meaning. Going by these definitions above, we come to realise multiple meanings, and as such polysemous words bring about ambiguity; even in Tiv language. According to McArthur (1996:36) ambiguity (from 14th century Latin) refers to acting both ways, shifting, from ambi – both ways, agree; actum – to drive, act.
Actual or potential uncertainty of meaning, especially of a word, phrase, or sentence can be nderstood in two ways. lexical: Most words are polysemous; for instance, dictionary meaning lists so many definitions. For example the word take could also mean acquire, steal, deceive, accept, regard, require and occupy. This type of situation can also be found in Tiv language. For instance a word like ‘Tor’ means king or chief in Tiv language ‘Tor’ could also mean pestle or groan. In a sentence like ‘Tor me za nenge a Tor’, meaning ‘okay I will go and see the chief. Thus there is lexical ambiguity in the sentence.
The first Tor subject position means okay, while the last Tor in object position in the sentence tructure refers to king as a result of polysemy. Lexical ambiguities in Tiv language also occur in words like: Kpe Edge of a river Death Imande- as a peg as leprosy as to nail or hammer Other examples of lexical ambiguities are listed below with their English equivalents. Ande- to appear to tear to release or let go Pase – to pass an exam to reveal or interpret to light Tsar – as a bridge as a wick as the name of a settlement in Vandeikya local government of Benue Sate.
Furthermore, multiple words also result in structural or grammatical ambiguities. In a structural or sentence level, the whole sentence is confusing. Let us take an example, from English language. Visiting doctors are a nuisance could mean: ‘The doctors being visited are problematic’ or ‘The doctors that are paying a visit are problematic’ We also have structural or sentence ambiguity in Tiv language Where by the whole sentence is confusing. For example, a sentence like ‘Terna ka zegeor’ could have two different interpretations.
One could me that ‘Terna is a rich man’, while the other could mean ‘Terna is a fat man’. A sentence like ‘Adi tsa ku’ could also be interpreted differently; it could mean ‘Adi has lived for a long time’ or that ‘Adi went for a wake- eep’. Another example is ‘Terfa za sua’ which could mean ‘Terfa has gone to vomit’ or ‘Terfa has gone fishing. A sentence like ‘Tindi ngu ken Nigeria ga’ could either mean the man Tindi is not living in Nigeria’ or there is no law in Nigeria’. The examples giving above could generate ambiguity among native speakers of the Tiv language.
Polysemous forms like homonyms also are capable of affecting speech performance. The Oxford Mini – reference Dictionary and Thesaurus (1997) defines homonyms as but different meaning, such words are known as homonyms. This is caused by the polysemous nature of such words. For instance, we have words like bow, which means to bend, and could also mean a weapon for shooting arrows. Also Blessed the past tense of the verb to bless [blest] and blessed [blesid] as an adjective meaning happy. In Tiv language words such as ‘Kaa’ means to pass, it could also mean to deliver a message.
Homonyms like ‘Bank refers to an institution where money is taken for safe keeping, it could also mean the river Bank. Similar homonyms also exist in Tiv language such as ‘kpe’ meaning to die, and could also mean the edge or by the riverside. Other Tiv homonyms could be derived from words like ‘Sule’, ‘sue’, which ould mean several things: Sule – as a coin as farm as in cooling down as in died as in a person’s name Sue – as in pomp as in support as in boast or brag Homophones refer to two or more different (written) forms have the same pronunciation – e. g. eat – meet [mi:t]; flower – flour [fl ]; pail – pale [peil]; sew – so [sau]. However this is not applicable in Tiv language. Homographs refer to words with same spelling but different meaning and different pronunciation. In Tiv language these are differentiated by the use of tones – high, middle, and low pitches. Anyanwu (2008:5) defines tone as a multiplicity of meanings ound in a word that has many tones. The meaning of a word in English can be got through the use of tones. Anyanwu goes further to state that tones refer to the distinctive pitch level of a syllable.
This constitutes a suprasegmented feature superposed on a segmental entity. Tone is a feature of that lexicon being described in terms of prescribed pitches for syllable or sequences of pitch for morphemes or words. Almost all African languages are tonal languages. A tone language according to Crultendon (1986:3) is a language having lexically significant contrastive but relative itch on a syllable. Welmers (1959:2) says tone language is a language in which both pitch phonemes and segmented phonemes enter into the composition of at least some morphemes.
Tone languages refer to those languages, which are pitch (peculiarly tone) contrastively in words or phrases. Tone refers literally to pitch. Furthermore, in tone languages like Tiv, pitch differences are used to differentiate between word meanings or to convey grammatical distinctions. That is to say that marks each syllable with a specific tone pitch, thus a change in tone can result in a change of meaning of a word. Tiv language makes use of three tones – rising, level and falling.
Level or mid tone (as in ‘kaa’ – to pass) is used when the pitch is either low or high. Falling tone is one which descends from a high toa lower level, and rising tone is a movement to a higher one [Peter Roach, 1983:192). Examples abound in Tiv language of words whose meanings differ because of tones. Furthermore, in writing, there are Tiv words with open “O” and circumflex O which are often confusing (Gundu:2004). Many Tiv words that were formerly written with circumflex (O) are no longer written with it.
The absence of dialectical [ ] differences oses a problem in the pronunciation of such words and therefore a new meaning is read into such words that have the same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings; these sort of words are known as homographs. Some of these words are listed below: Or (person) Kor (rope) Soo (want) Chor (raffia) Tor (king) Or (say) Kor (catch) Soo (sting) Chor (uvula) Tor (take) Hoo (shape n) Hoo (rotten) The above words have either [ ] or [O] or [ ]. Because of the reduction in the use of dialectics, they are written without the circumflex [O’]. This brings about homography in Tiv language.
This results in the sameness of spellings, and polysemicity exists. Ordinarily, Tiv words wouldn’t have homographs but because words in Tiv are not differentiated when they have “O” or “O” especially in the present time. Similarly, synonymy is another polysemous category. Tiv language has many varieties; a word that is synonymous with one variety will mean a different thing in another variety. This has serious implications in the study of Tiv semantics and also affects speech performance. Some examples include the following: Inyaregh- Bashi (money) Dang M fe Lu Nyam Jimba or saa she (pervasion) Mkav
Akpela Swase (Knowledge) (mortar) (meat) From the above Tiv words, it may not be the case that synonyms are exact substitutes in all circumstances. Thus, we may have words that are total, complete, or absolute synonyms and others that are broad synonyms, which may likely affect meaning depending on the context of use. Another polysemous category is the antonyms, which are words that are opposite in meaning. Some examples in English include: child Parent Brother- sister meat – meet lost found This category also exists in Tiv language in the following (but not limited to these) words: Sha Mze – Nyor –
Shin meaningup- down mhidi due going- coming going in-coming out This affects meaning especially if the context of use is wrong; for instance, the speaker may mean ‘go’ but the listener will take it to be ‘come’. Conclusion This work has attempted to examine the polysemous forms, Antonyms, synonyms among others, with a view to unveil some of the ambiguities in speech performance, drawing examples largely from the Tiv language, with some little support from the English language. as a basis of communication as it gives the derived meaning in every context of usage, which is largely dependents on the pitch.
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