|Saturday, September 21, 2002||
is quite difficult to describe and explain semantic change, i.e.,
change in the meanings of words. However, by looking at a wide range
of instances of semantic changes that have taken place, one can
develop a certain idea about what can bring about such changes and
what kind of semantic changes can occur. A good example would be the
ways in which new technology changes word meaning. When technology
changes the way everyday affairs are conducted, words acquire new
meaning in order to cope with the demand for words to fit new
concepts. For instance, the word compute came from the seventeenth
century French word, computer, which is made up of com,
together, and putare, to settle an account, giving the meaning
reckon or calculate. This French word has descended from the Latin computare
that means ‘to count’. Computer, a derivative from compute, has
spawned a whole new range of words in which the original meaning of
‘to count’ has been supplanted completely by the new meanings
associated with computing. Computerise, computer science, computer
ethics, computer virus and even compusex; the list can be endless!
Until the computer came along, a mouse was a little rodent. The mouse has now become the big boss of the computer. The small hand-held device that controls the computer can give you mouse-elbow if you use it extensively. An icon, up to the nineteenth century was a painting of Christ or any other holy figure, typically in a traditional style on wood, venerated and used as an aid to prayer. It came from the Greek eikon, meaning likeness or image. Today icon refers to the little symbol or picture on the computer screen that represents a larger application. Perhaps some computer lovers worship icons! Anyhow, this meaning of icon led to the creation of the verb iconify, creating an icon.
In the area of semantics, Hindi shows an interesting feature. Pronouns constantly take on different meanings according to the context and the other words used with them. This gives a whole new range of meaning. For example, consider the meanings of the word kya in ghora kya daura, hava ho gaya! or, hinsak jeev mujhe kya maarega or, tum jaa rahe ho kya? or, kya maloom.