The study of words is not exclusively a study of roots and stems, of prefixes or suffixes. The mysterious world of words is an object of scientific investigation [1, p. 25].Word ambiguity is one of the peculiar phenomenon of linguistics. In the science, this phenomenon is called as polysemy. The term has Greek origins, which means «many signs». Polysemy is the property of a single word having multiple, but proximate meanings or senses [3, p. 2]. It is certainly true that many words in a language have more than one meaning, a property usually called polysemy. But the ways in which words carry multiple meanings can vary [2, p. 27]. In all times word ambiguity was studied with interest. Every scientist and researcher studied word ambiguity in their own way. At first, there were confusions about classification and types of ambiguity. That is to say views of scientists’ were quite discrepant from each other. Although we come across such issues still today, there have been done great work on this topic. One of the peculiarities of polysemy is that despite having several meanings in the dictionary, words in particular discourse are turned out to be monosemantic (except jokes, puns and other playful situations), as only context reveals the correspondent meaning. However, in some cases one can face with confusion, as context can give two or more meanings of a word, and all of them can fit into the context.
There are several polysemantic words in every language. The English language has a great number of polysemantic words. Some of them are used frequently, whereas some are used less commonly. Up to learners’ degree or other factors, these criteria may vary. However, there are particular polysemantic words, which are most frequent in all levels. In order to find out most frequent and less frequent polysemantic words, we have made statistical research on this field. The most frequent used polysemantic words have been arranged into nucleus, less common used ones have been arranged into periphery and the field of polysemantic words has been more or less investigated.
As an example if we take the word house, in the meaning of ‘building which people, usually one family lives’ has been arranged into nucleus. Its synonyms like accommodation, residence have been arranged into periphery. In this way, polysemantic words relating to particular parts of speech have been arranged into nucleus and periphery. We have chosen several groups of school children (pupils of 8th grade), the students of English direction at academic lyceum (3rd year students of academic lyceum) and the students of English direction of Philological faculty (the 4th year students of university). We interviewed all of them in the topic of «My everyday life» and recorded them in order to figure out most often used polysemantic words. Why did we chose this topic? Because this topic is rather interesting and students of all levels can speak on this topic with enthusiasm. Moreover, while speaking with their friends or relatives, we usually speak about our day, our issues, our intentions, in short about ourselves. During their speech, participants use variety of polysemantic words in different parts of speech.
We faced with the words related to pre-intermediate, intermediate and academic level. Some students used words according to their degree, whereas some advanced students use everyday speech words. We think that, as the task was speaking activity, they chose such type of words. So let us overview the results: the most often used nouns by pupils were school and house. Almost all of the pupils used these words at least three or four times, in total the word school was used nearly ninety times, the word house was used eighty times. At academic lyceum students mostly used study and university. These words were used sixty and forty respectively. At university the students’ most favorite nouns were university, degree, work and job. The words used sixty, fifty one, fifty and forty seven times respectively. These polysemantic nouns were arranged in nucleus, accommodation (house), secondary school (school), course (study), an institution of higher education (university), level (degree) and profession (work, job) were arranged in periphery. These words altogether used fifty four times. The words study and house were used by students of the university forty eight and thirty times. The word dormitory was used nearly twenty times.
If we speak about adjectives, the most frequent used adjectives were good among pupils, interesting among the students of the academic lyceum and nice among the students of the university. They are used forty, thirty five and thirty three times respectively. The adjective good was used altogether just above hundred and ten times. As a result, polysemantic adjectives, which were arranged in nucleus, were good (used mostly in the meaning of very satisfactory, enjoyable, pleasant or interesting); interesting (used mostly in the meaning of amazing, cute); nice(used mostly in the meaning of cute, good). Wonderful (good), amusing (interesting), attractive (nice) were used very rarely, so they were arranged in periphery. Good was highly frequent word here, it is used more than other adjectives. Moreover, this adjective was used by all levels of students in the maximum degree.
In this topic, learners used various types of verb with their related synonyms. The verb go was used by all of the learners and with great number. The pupils used it a hundred and twenty times, students of academic lyceums used it hundred and fifty times, the students of university used it hundred and sixty times. That was very shocking result. The verb was used altogether four hundred and thirty times. None of the words were used in a such frequency. Attend was used nearly twenty times (it is in periphery). Polysemantic verbs, which were arranged in nucleus also include: begin, want, like, finish. They were used altogether one hundred and twenty, one hundred and forty, one hundred, ninety times respectively. Commence (begin), desire (want), adore (like), bring to an end (finish) were arranged in periphery. These verbs were used altogether nearly thirty times.
Also, conjunction and was frequent too. In its different meanings the word was used nearly five hundred times. This word was top frequent of our survey. They also used polysemantic words like well (adverb), at, on, in, and several others.
If to consult statistics, the conjunction and was used altogether nearly five hundred times, the verb go was used nearly four hundred and fifty times, the adjective good was used just over than hundred and ten times, the nouns house and study were used nearly one hundred and ten times, the word university was used nearly hundred times.
To sum up, while investigating semantic field of polysemantic words, we have to figure out the most frequent and less frequent used words in speech. According to the data basis analysis and statistics some polysemantic words were arranged in the nucleus and periphery as a part of the field of polysemantic words. As a result one can know about “hot” words and their less used synonyms.
- Lyons J. Linguistic Semantics. — Cambridge University Press, 1995.
- Pustejovsky J. The Generative Lexicon. — Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996.
- Wolfsdorf D. C. Good and polysemy. ̶ Good Temple University, 2015.