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Synonymy


Few truly synonymous verbs, such as shut and close, can be found in the lexicon –the number depends on how loose of definition of synonymy one adopts. The best examples are probably verb concepts that are represented by both an Anglo-Saxon and a Greco-Latinate word: begin-commence, end-terminate, rise-ascend, blink-nictate, behead-decapitate, spit-expectorate. In general, the Greco-Latinate verbs are used in more formal or technical speech registers: buy vs. purchase, sweat vs. perspire, or shave vs. epilate. And subtle meaning differences can show up in different selectional restrictions. For example, rise and fall can select as an argument such abstract entities as the temperature, but their close synonyms ascend or descend cannot.

These periphrases break down a synonymous verb into an entire verb phrase and thereby often reflect the way in which the verb has become lexicalized by showing constituents that have been conflated in the verb. For example, a denominal verb such as hammer is listed with the parenthetical gloss hit with a hammer; the conflated verb denotes the function of the noun. The synonymous expressions of deadjectival verbs often have the form make or become + some adjective: (whiten, become white), (enrich, make rich), etc. The synonymous expressions of many verbs show that they are manner elaborations of a more basic verb: (swim, travel through water), (mumble, talk indistinctly), (saute, fry briefly), etc.

Source:
Christiane Fellbaum-International Journal of Lexicography-Oxford University Press

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