The Catalogue of Semantic Shifts: 20 Years Later

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The article summarizes the goals and the current state of the Catalogue of sematic shifts (CSSh), its primary notions being those of a semantic shift , which is understood as a relation of cognitive proximity between two linguistic meanings, and a realization of a semantic shift, i.e. one polysemic word or a pair of cognate words of the same language or different languages that act as “exponents” of this relation. The typology of semantic shifts occupies a position at the crossroad of semantic, lexical and grammatical typologies, overlapping each of these areas of study in terms of linguistic data and methods used; however, the domain of CSSh does not coincide with any of them. The framework of CSSh provides the theoretical foundation for identifying recurring cross-linguistic semantic shifts, and collecting them in the Database of Semantic Shifts for further analysis. The article demonstrates that the notion of semantic shift as defined in CSSh is just a formalization of an instrument of linguistic analysis that is already quite common in various areas of linguistics. Semantic shift provides a basis for the notion of semantic parallel used in the historical linguistics and etymology, for motivational models in word-formation, it is a central notion for grammati- calization theory; finally, semantic shift is one of various types of implicit meanings (along with presuppositions and connotations) that shape the “linguistic model of the world”. Linguistic data contained in the Database of Semantic Shifts can be used in all these areas, in order to provide semantic plausibility criteria for linguistic reconstruction, to act as empirical evidence for cognitive mechanisms of linguistic conceptualization, to aid in identifying specific features of the semantic system of a given language or group of languages.

About the authors

Anna A Zalizniak

Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences

1 B. Kislovskij Ln., Moscow, 125009, Russia
Doctor of Philology, a Chief Researcher at the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a Leading Researcher at the Federal Research Centre of Computer Science and Control of the Russian Academy of Sciences.


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