Words identical in sound and spelling, or, at least, in one of these aspects, but quite different in their meaning and distribution are called homonyms.

E. g. a bank, n. a shore

bank, n. an institution for receiving, lending, exchanging, and safeguarding money

ball, n. a sphere; any spherical body ball, n. a large dancing party.

Homonyms are accidental creations, and therefore purposeless. In the process of communication they are leading sometimes to confusion and misunderstanding. Yet it is this very characteristic which makes them one of the most important sources of popular humor.

The pun is a joke based upon the play of words of similar form but different meaning (i. e. on homonyms) as in the following: "A tailor guarantees to give each of his customers a perfect fit." (The joke is based on the homonyms: I. fit, n. perfectly fitting clothes; II. fit, n. a nervous spasm.)

The traditional formal classification of homonymsis as follows:

I. Absolute homonyms or homonyms proper which are identical both in sound and spelling, e.g. ball (')::ball (); bore ( ):: bore( ); hail (rpa)::hail () .

II. Partial homonymssubdivided into:

1) Homographs,which are identical in spelling but different in sound, e.g. bow/bou/ ():: bow /bau/ ( ); lead/led/ () :: lead/li:d/ (); polish/polif/ ():: Polish/'poulif/ (), to tear [tea], v. () tear [tia], n. (), etc.

2) Homophones,which are identical in sound but different in spelling, e.g. key ():: quay(); fir ():: fur (xypo); sow (ci):: sew(), etc. The following joke is based on a pun, which makes use of another type of homophones:

"Waiter!"- "Yes, sir." - "What's this?" - "It's bean soup, sir." - "Never mind what it has been. I want to know what it is now." Bean, n. and been, Past Part, of to be are homophones. As the example shows they are the same in sound but different in spelling. Here are some more examples of homophones: night, n. knight, n.; piece, n. peace, n.; scent, n. cent, n. sent, v. (Past Indef., Past Part, of to send); rite, n. to write, v. right, adj.; sea, n. to see, v. C [si:] (the name of a letter).

Homonyms may be classified by the type of their meaning into:

1) Lexical homonyms,whichbelong to the same part of speech and have the same paradigm, e.g. club n. ():: clubn. (); bear v. () :: bear v.(); planen. ():: plainn. (); lighta. () :: light a. (),match, n. ():: match, n. ()

2) Grammatical homonyms,whichbelong to different parts of speech, e.g. horse n. ():: hoarsea. (xp); row v. (rpe):: rown. (p); weathern. () :: whetherconj.(), etc.

3) Homoforms,which are identical only in some of their paradigm constituents, e.g. boren.:: bore (Past Ind. of bear); scent n.:: sent (Past Ind. and p.p. of send); seizev.:: /he/sees (Pr. Ind., 3d p. sing, of see), etc.

From the viewpoint of their origin, homonyms are divided into etymologicaland historical. Etymological homonymsare words of different origin. Their formal coincidence is the result of various factors: phonetical changes in native and borrowed words, changes in spelling, etc.

E.g. O.F. bas > M.E.baseI (); L.basis >OE.base >ME.baseII (, ); O.E. mal > M.E. mole1 () >O.E. mol > Mid.E. molle > M.E.moleII ()

Historical homonymsare those, which result from disintegration (split) of polysemy. At present there is not any connection between their meanings, though they can be traced back to the same etymological source, e.g. nail ():: nail () < O.E. naeg(c)l; beam (npo):: beam(, ) < O.E. beam.

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