Slightly off topic, but with the upcoming university studies, I may start talking about the beauty and complexity of the English language. I know most people know the basics but I’m writing this out of interest and as a refresher. We all have an idea what a homonym is, but do you know the difference between a homographs, homophones, heteronyms, polysemes and capitonyms? Well, there are only slight differences but I will try to explain them all now.
To begin with I just want to remind people what a Homonym is; a word that is spelt and pronounced the same but has different meanings. The word comes from the Greek word homonumos which means ‘having the same name’.
But that is the literal meaning; Homonym seems to also be an umbrella definition that includes other linguistic concepts that are related. Below are examples of them;
Homographs: these are normally words that are spelt the same regardless of their pronunciation.
Homophones: refer to words that share the same pronunciation regardless of their spelling.
Heteronyms: are subsets of homonyms; they are spelt the same but have a different pronunciation and often meaning (normally referred to as Heteronyms and Heterographs).
Polysemes: have different but related meaning; for example man (male) or man (the human species) or man (an adult male).
Capitonyms: are words have a different meaning when it capitalised; for example march (the rhythmical walk) and March (the third month of the year).
To make things easier here is a chart to help see the differences;
|Homograph||Different||Same||Same or different|
|Homophone||Different||Same or different||Same|
|Polyseme||Different but related||Same||Same or different|
|Same except for
|Same or different|
While I knew the concepts of homonyms, I never realised there was so many different concepts that are related to it. Linguistics is normally divided into three different aspects of study; form, context and meaning. Even though homonyms are a very tiny fraction of the study of linguistics, I find it interesting that it seems to hit on all three parts of the science. I hope people have learned something new or at least found something interesting to think about.