Thornton, Freda J.
A classification of the semantic field good and evil in the vocabulary of English.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The central part of this thesis (chapter 3) consists of a classification of 9071 lexical items comprising the semantic field Good and Evil. This classified semantic field, with minor alterations, will form part of the Historical Thesaurus of English currently being compiled in the English Language Department of Glasgow University. Some significant features of the Good and Evil classification system, devised and explained in this thesis, have also been adopted by the Historical Thesaurus.
Chapter 1 places the thesis in a wider academic context. It explains briefly the Historical Thesaurus project, and describes how the classification of Good and Evil contributes to this. It also relates the thesis to linguistics, semantics, and especially to semantic theory, lexicography, and semantic classification.
Chapter 2 defines the semantic field Good and Evil and discusses how the field was assembled. It provides details of those areas which were either rejected or extended in order to form the semantic field. It then describes in some detail the classification system devised for Good and Evil. The structure of the classification is explained, the use of the parts of speech as a valuable classificatory device is justified, and the contribution of other classificatory work is acknowledged. The chapter also discusses some particular problems and features of the Old English corpus. It ends with lists of stylistic and other conventions.
Chapter 3 contains the Good and Evil classification, and chapter 4 consists of detailed notes on the classification. These notes discuss points relating to dating. Old English material, classificatory devices, closely connected categories, and some problems of dictionary definitions, among other things. Chapter 5 conducts a number of studies based on historical and etymological information drawn from the classification. The relative numbers of accessions and losses in different centuries in the categories are presented and discussed. The range of sources of origin of a limited number of categories arc detailed. The patterns of change, and the extent and rate of influence of different languages in different centuries, are then commented on and compared.
Chapter 6 selects one area of vocabulary from Good and Evil - animal names used as names for people - and subjects this area to a detailed examination. The variety of animal names, and the range of people to whom
they arc applied, arc discussed, and various statistics and comparisons arc drawn up. Also considered is the time gap between the first literal use of an animal name and the first figurative or metaphorical application of the same term to a person. In the process some interesting and, on occasion, unproven points about animal metaphor are brought to light. The thesis ends with three appendices. The first contains extra Good and Evil material not in the main classification, the second details 19th century obsolescences, and the third gives a numerical distribution of items in each category by part of speech
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