#1756. 意味変化の法則,らしきもの?[semantic_change][semantics]


 音韻変化には法則の名に値するものがある.異論もあるが,少なくとも,あると議論することはできる.しかし,意味変化には法則に相当するようなものはない.確かに,「#473. 意味変化の典型的なパターン」 ([2010-08-13-1]) や「#1109. 意味変化の原因の分類」 ([2012-05-10-1]) などで見たように,意味変化の傾向や原因についての論考はあるが,法則という水準に迫るほどの一般化はいまだなされていないし,今後もなされることはないかもしれない.しかし,傾向以上,法則未満というべき性質を示す事例がある.
 Stern は,"The Regularity of Sense-change. Semantic Laws." と題する節 (185--91) にて,「速く」→「すぐに」という意味変化に関する「法則」を指摘している.「速く」は動作の速度が速い様子,「すぐに」は時間間隔が空いていない様子を示す副詞であり,両者の意味上の接点は,quickly を用いた次の3文を見比べることによって理解することができる (Stern 185) .

I. He wrote quickly.
II. When the king saw him, he quickly rode up to him.
III. Quickly afterwards he carried it off.

 I の quickly は書く速度が速いことを表わすが,III の quickly は「〜の後すぐに」のように時間間隔の短いことを含意する.I と III の語義をつなぐのが,II の例文における quickly である.馬で駆けつける速度が速いとも読めるし,文頭の when 節との関係で「王が彼を見るとすぐに」とも読める.日本語の「はやい」も,速度の「速」と時間の「早」の両方を表わすので,意味の接点,連続性,そして前者から後者への語義変化の可能性については,呑み込めるだろう.
 しかし,英語史からの事例として興味深いのは,この意味変化が,「速く」を表わす一連の類義語において,限定された時間枠内で例外なく生じたらしいということである.関与するあらゆる語において特定の時代に働くという点では,音韻法則と呼ばれる音韻変化と同じ性質をもっていることになり,これは "semantic law" と呼ぶにふさわしいかのように思われる.
 具体的には,Stern (188) は,23の類義語における3つの語義の初出年を調べ,以下のようにまとめた.

 Sense ISense IISense III
Hraþe (Raþe)OEOEOE
SwiftOE13601300? 1400?
Wight1300136014th cent.

 Stern の主張は,1300年以前に "rapidly" の語義をもっていた語は,必ず "immediately" の語義を発達させている,というものである.一方で,それより後に "rapidly" の語義を得た語は,"immediately" の語義を発達させていないという.後者の例として,いずれも初出が近代英語期である15語を列挙している.rashly (1547), roundly (1548), post (1549), amain (1563), post-haste (1593), fleetly (1598), expeditiously (1603), postingly (1636), speedingly (1647), velociously (1680), rapidly (1727), postwise (1734), hurryingly (1748), hurriedly (1816), fleetingly (1883). Stern (190) に直接論じてもらおう.

   We have found that English adverbs with the sense 'rapidly' are divided into two chronological groups, one in which the sense is earlier than 1300 (or 1400) and in which the sense 'immediately' nearly always arises out of it; another in which the sense 'rapidly' is later than the date mentioned, where no such development occurs. It is further demonstrable that the development always takes place in definite contexts: when the adverb is employed to qualify verbs which may be apprehended as imperfective or as perfective (punctual). We may therefore formulate the following semantic law:
   English adverbs which have acquired the sense 'rapidly' before 1300, always develop the sense 'immediately'. This happens when the adverb is used to qualify a verb, the action of which may be apprehended as either imperfective or perfective, and when the meaning of the adverb consequently is equivocal: 'rapidly/immediately'. Exceptions are due to the influence of special factors.
   But when the sense 'rapidly' is acquired later than 1300, no such development takes place. There is no exception to this rule.
   This "law" has the form of a sound-law: it gives the circumstances of the change and a chronological limit.
   We ask, next, what may be the reasons for the cessation of the development. It cannot have been that the conditions favouring it ceased to exist, for we may still say, he went rapidly out of the room; but this has not caused a change of meaning for rapidly.
   It seems that the tendency itself disappeared. The reason is obscure. The changes began at a period when OE, without any considerable influence from other languages, was following its own line of development; they continued during the periods of Scandinavian and French influence, and ceased as the importation of French and Latin linguistic material was at its height. We cannot demonstrate any connection between the general linguistic and cultural development, and the sense-change in question. (190)

 これらの一連の語群に同じ意味変化が生じたのは,意味法則によるものではなく,単に類推作用によるものだと反論し得るかもしれない.しかし,Stern (191) は,類推作用とは考えられないと主張している.

Analogical influence ought to work with equal strength in both directions, so that words meaning 'immediately' receive the sense 'rapidly', but there is no trace of such a development And why has not the analogical influence continued during the Modern English period, with regard to the adverbs in my second list?

 なお,「意味法則」を巡る議論については,Williams (461--63) が価値ある考察を与えている.

 ・ Stern, Gustaf. Meaning and Change of Meaning. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1931.
 ・ Williams, Joseph M. "Synaethetic Adjectives: A Possible Law of Semantic Change." Language 52 (1976): 461--78.

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