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Broadening

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Broadening

Broadening is the process by which the meaning of a word changes to become more generalised over time. Broadening is a type of semantic change. It is important that we first understand what semantics and semantic change are.

  • Semantics refers to the study of the meaning of words or phrases. There are two types of semantics: logical and lexical. Logical semantics has to do with reference (the symbolic relationship between language and real-world objects) and implication (the relationship between two sentences). Lexical semantics has to do with word meaning.
  • Semantic change refers to how the meanings of words change over time.

Broadening is a key example of semantic change and is a common process that tends to occur slowly over many years. A synonym of broadening is a semantic generalisation .

The opposite of broadening is semantic narrowing. This is when a word's meaning becomes less generalised over time.

What causes broadening?

Semantic broadening is caused by extra-linguistic factors. These are factors that occur outside the language itself. This type of semantic change occurs naturally and gradually over time.

Broadening typically occurs when a word is used more frequently. This will lead to its meaning becoming more encompassing of related definitions. This can be caused by factors such as socio-cultural and psychological reasons. Let's take a look at some examples.

  1. Socio-cultural factors

Sociocultural factors can cause broadening. This happens when there is a major shift in a country's politics or social landscape. Revolutions, wars, and civil rights movements can all lead to broadening. A good example of this is how some words change their meaning following political coups.

Guy

The word 'guy' gained popularity in England following the failed Gunpowder Plot led by Guido 'Guy' Fawkes. Because of Fawkes' role in the plot, the word 'guy' came to mean a grotesque person. This developed over time until the word meant a man or boy.

  1. Psychological Factors

Broadening can also happen when an item gains popularity. This is especially common in the twentieth century. When a brand becomes the leader in its field, sometimes its meaning will broaden to include the entire field itself. This will lead to the word meaning becoming broader in the minds of its consumers.

Broadening Tissue Box StudySmarter'Kleenex' is an example of broadening (Pixabay)

Kleenex

The tissue brand, 'Kleenex' is often used interchangeably with the word 'tissue'. This is because, as the product became more popular, people began to link the two in their minds, leading to the broadening of the meaning of the word.

Examples of broadening

  1. Business

Broadening Business Group StudySmarter'Business' is an example of broadening (Pixabay))((

The word 'business' was originally only used to mean someone was busy. However, over the years, the meaning of this word has changed. Now, the word's meaning has been broadened to refer to any type of work or job.

  1. Cool

The modern use of the term 'cool' was originally used in jazz to refer to a specific style ('cool jazz')! As jazz grew in popularity, the word started to be applied more widely.

  1. Demagogue

'Demagogue' derives from the Greek word 'demos', meaning 'people'. Historically it was used to describe a popular leader. However, this meaning broadened through the years to indicate a political leader who panders to the prejudices of the masses.

Broadening - key takeaways

  • Semantics refers to the study of meaning.
  • Semantic change refers to how the meaning of a word can change over time.
  • Broadening is when the meaning of a word becomes broader and more generalised over time.

  • Broadening is typically caused by extralinguistic factors.

Frequently Asked Questions about Broadening

Broadening is a type of semantic change where a word's meaning changes to become more generalised over time. 

The term, 'cool', was originally used in jazz to refer to a specific style (cool jazz)! As jazz grew in popularity, 'cool' started to be used more widely!

Final Broadening Quiz

Question

What is semantics?

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Semantics is/refers to the study of the meaning of words

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What is semantic change?

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Semantic change is the term given to how the meanings of words can change over time

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What are the two types of semantics?

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Two examples are logical and lexical semantics.

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Which is not an example of semantic change?


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Narrowing

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What is semantic broadening?

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Semantic broadening is the name given to the process where a word's meaning becomes more general over time.

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What is a synonym for broadening?


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A synonym for broadening is semantic generalisation.

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True or false?


Broadening is a slow process.

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True

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What is the opposite of broadening?

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The opposite of broadening is a process called narrowing.

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What is narrowing?

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Narrowing is a process where over time, a word's meaning becomes more specific.

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What is the difference between narrowing and broadening?

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Narrowing is when the meaning of a word becomes more specialized whereas broadening happens when a word's meaning changes to be more generalized.

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What factor causes semantic broadening?


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It is caused by extralinguistic factors typically.

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What are extralinguistic factors?

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These are defined as factors that occur outside the system of the language.

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Which two are not extralinguistic factors?


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Sociocultural factors

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How do socio-cultural factors influence semantic broadening?

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Sociocultural factors can influence broadening as a major shift in a country's politics or social landscape will lead to semantic changes.

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Which is a factor that can cause socio-cultural change?


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Ellipses

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The word, 'guy' is currently used to indicate a boy or man - what did it originally mean?


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Following the failed Bonfire Plot, it was used to mean a grotesque man'.

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How can psychological factors influence semantic broadening?

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Psychological factors can influence broadening as they can occur when something becomes more popular. This will cause a psychological change in how people view a word and its meaning.

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Which is an example of a potential psychological factor?


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Languages overlapping

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The word 'Kleenex' was originally used to indicate a specific product. What has it broadened to mean now?


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Now, the word 'Kleenex', is used to reference any type of tissue.

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True or false?


The opposite of broadening is called slimming.

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False

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Fill in the blank:


The modern use of the term 'cool' was originally used in ____.

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jazz

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'Demagogue' derives from the Greek word 'demos', meaning what?

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people

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Fill in the blank:


'Demagogue' derives from the Greek word _____.

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demos

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Fill in the blank:


_______ semantics has to do with word meaning.

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Lexical 

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Fill in the blank:


Logical semantics has to do with ________.

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reference

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