The Synonyms of «Fallen Woman» in the History of the English Language

by Bozena Duda (Author)
©2014 Monographs 225 Pages


This data-oriented study aims at providing an onomasiological account of the historical synonyms of the term fallen woman from Old English up to Early Modern English. It focuses on linguistic mechanisms which are at work in the formation of euphemisms and dysphemisms semantically linked to the conceptual category Fallen Woman. Additionally, the book highlights the historical and cultural variations in the approach to sex relations in different parts of the world and in different epochs. The cognitive methodological apparatus is the core of the analytical part of the work. The results of the axiologically oriented analysis point to the prevailing tendency of female-specific lexical items to undergo the process of pejoration with the passage of time.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Typographic Conventions
  • CHAPTER ONE: On the Nature of Euphemism
  • 1.1 Euphemism: In search of definition
  • 1.1.1 Language restrictions
  • 1.1.2 Building euphemistic blocks over taboo
  • 1.1.3 The category of X-phemism: Pizza or the melting pot?
  • 1.1.4 Concluding remarks
  • 1.2 Mechanisms behind X-phemisms
  • 1.2.1 Structural tools
  • 1.2.2 Semantic tools
  • 1.2.3 Rhetorical tools
  • 1.2.4 Syntactic/Grammatical tools
  • 1.2.5 Concluding remarks
  • 1.3 Context as a disambiguating factor in the interpretation of X-phemism
  • 1.3.1 X-phemism and context
  • 1.3.2 Extralinguistic context in the act of X-phemism disambiguation.
  • CHAPTER TWO: On the Specifics of Sexual Relations in the History of Mankind with Due Reference to Sex for Sale
  • 2.1 Conceptualisation of sex, gender and sexuality
  • 2.2 Historical variations in conceptualisation of sex relations
  • 2.2.1 From antique all-going permissiveness to Victorian restrictiveness
  • 2.2.2 The sexual revolution of the 20th century
  • 2.3 Cultural variations in conceptualisation of sex relations
  • 2.3.1 Anglo-Saxon
  • 2.3.2 Romance
  • 2.3.3 Germanic
  • 2.3.4 Slavonic
  • 2.3.5 Non-Indo-European
  • 2.4 Concluding remarks
  • Chapter Three: Panchronic Developments of the Lexical Items Linked to the Conceptual Category FALLEN WOMAN
  • 3.1 On the internal organisation of the conceptual category Fallen Woman
  • 3.1.1 Historical foundations of the intricacies in the structure of the conceptual category FALLEN WOMAN
  • 3.2 Historical growth of the lexical items linked to the conceptual category Fallen Woman
  • 3.2.1 Formative historical mechanisms employed in the coinage of lexical items linked to the conceptual category FALLEN WOMAN
  • 3.3 Methodology contour
  • 3.4 Old English X-phemisms linked to the conceptual category Fallen Woman
  • 3.5 Middle English X-phemisms linked to the conceptual category Fallen Woman
  • 3.5.1 Middle English synonyms and structural tools
  • 3.5.2 Middle English synonyms and semantic tools
  • 3.5.3 Middle English rhetorical tools at work
  • 3.6 Early Modern English X-phemisms linked to the conceptual category Fallen Woman
  • 3.6.1 Early Modern English metaphorically based X-phemisms
  • 3.6.2 Early Modern English metonymy conditioned synonyms
  • 3.6.3 Early Modern English and the mechanism of understatement at work
  • 3.6.4 Early Modern English borrowing
  • 3.6.5 The role of eponymy in Early Modern English
  • 3.6.6 Early Modern English working of circumlocution
  • 3.6.7 Early Modern English employment of morphological derivation.
  • Conclusions
  • Index
  • References
  • Series index

← 10 | 11 → Introduction

The issue of sex for sale is beyond any conceivable doubt culturally and socially topical, in terms of both human everyday verbal intercourse and the written literature on the subject published worldwide for a variety of reasons and with diverse intentions. Outside the world of language studies, suffice it to mention here Brundage (1987), Karras (1996), Trumbach (1998), Self (2003), Binnie (2004), Cook (2004), Outshoorn (2004) and McAnulty and Burnette (2006) as some of the most recent studies of the subject. From a linguistic point of view the roots of the analysis of pejoration of female-specific lexical items – which frequently accompanies the rise of negatively loaded women words – herald back to Bechstein (1863), and the study was continued in the first half of the 20th century by, among others, Jaberg (1901-1905) and Schreuder (1929) in his most extensive study Pejorative Sense Development in English. In the second part of the 20th century Schulz (1975), in the short, yet comprehensive study related to the morally negatively tinted nouns within the conceptual category FEMALE HUMAN BEING, opened a new phase in the linguistic enquiry into the semantic development of female-specific vocabulary. Other more recent contributions to the research in this field include Kramarae and Treichler (1985), Mills (1989) and Kövecses (2006), while in Polish tradition such works as Kleparski (1990, 1997), Kochman-Haładyj (2007a, 2007b), Kochman-Haładyj and Kleparski (2011) and Duda (2013) formulate many answers to the questions posed by the pejorative development of female-specific vocabulary at various stages of the history of English.

Likewise, this monographic study is meant to be a contribution to the body of analytic ventures aiming at analysing female-specific vocabulary in current linguistic research. By and large, this work continues the RSDS mainstream tradition, but it narrows down the perspective in targeting euphemisation forces operative in the rise of lexical items onomasiologically linked to the conceptual microcategory FALLEN WOMAN. In this sense the analysis proposed here continues the tradition of data-oriented studies, at the same time making a step forward in restricting its interest to euphemisms and dysphemisms with little regard for other types of change, such as narrowing, broadening or amelioration of meaning content.

The long-lasting pursuit of relevant semantic literature, data collection, attempts at partial data analysis and sharing their results with the like minded linguists both in Poland and abroad ultimately led to the completion of doctoral ← 11 | 12 → work at the University of Rzeszów, Poland, upon which this text has been based. Substantial sections of this monograph acquired their initial shape in several publications issued both locally, at the University of Rzeszów, State School of Higher Vocational Education in Jarosław, and also internationally at the Historical English Word-Formation and Semantics conference in Warsaw and the International Conference on Middle English 8 in Murcia, but also online in Studia Anglica Resoviensia and Círculo de Lingüística Aplicada a la Comunicacíon (clac). The final shape of this monograph owes much to frequent exchange of views with a number of academics I had a chance to contact at various stages of writing this work, such as Professor Rafał Molencki of the University of Silesia, Professor Michał Bylinsky of the University of Lviv and Professor Ursula Lenker of the University of Munich. My special thanks go to the reviewers of my PhD thesis, Professor Pavol Štekauer of the P.J. Safarik University in Kosice, and Professor Ewa Komorowska of the University of Szczecin, who formulated a number of critical remarks, suggestions and improvements, which were taken into account during the preparation of the final version of this study.

Last but not least, let me take the opportunity to express my gratitude to the people without whom accomplishing the tasks set to this work would have been impossible. First and foremost, the greatest debt I owe to Professor Grzegorz A. Kleparski whose guidance, unprecedented support, encouragement and patience I felt at every single step of my work. I am especially grateful for the invaluable lexicographic, reference and analytical resources Professor Kleparski made available to me. He was also the one who made every attempt to bring the results of my work closer to a wider internatonal readership. In this context I also wish to acknowledge the strong academic backing of Professor Jacek Fisiak, who has supported this academic project from the very conception. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Donald Trinder and Mr. Ian Upchurch who contributed to whatever stylistic grace this work may offer. This work would not have been started at all if it had not been for the support and the fervent non-academic enthiusiasm of Jacek, Julia and Filip, my family members. Both my fellow academics and those dear to me helped me through the most critical periods by showing how to fight with subjective downs and not to bow to objective trials.

It remains for me to hope that this monograph – another fruit of the Rzeszów-based historical semanticists – will stimulate readers’ interest and provoke further academic discussion, both in Poland and beyond. Obviously, I reserve for myself alone the blame for any remaining errors of facts or interpretation, editorial blunders and misfires.

← 12 | 13 → List of Abbreviations

← 14 | 15 → Typographic Conventions

Bold capitals are employed for:

names of conceptual categories/domains (e.g. FALLEN WOMAN, DOMAIN OF MORALITY […]).

Angled bracketed capitals are employed for:

names of conceptual values/elements (e.g. <FEMALE[NEU]>, <LOW[NEG]>).

Capitals are employed for:

a)names of concepts/notions/conceptual spheres (e.g. PROSTITUTION, DEATH),

b)names of conceptual metaphorical extensions (e.g. SEX IS CONSUMPTION, A WOMAN IS AN ANIMAL).

Capitals in double backslashes are employed for:

names of conceptual metonymic contiguity patterns (e.g. \\LOCATION FOR PROFESSION\\, \\TIME OF ACTIVITY FOR PROFESSION\\).← 15 | 16 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (July)
dysphemisms euphemisms sex relations
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 225 pp., 21 graphs

Biographical notes

Bozena Duda (Author)

Bożena Duda is a lecturer in the Institute of English Studies at the University of Rzeszów (Poland). Her main research interests include diachronic semantics, historical sociolinguistics, euphemisation processes and onomasiological studies.


Title: The Synonyms of «Fallen Woman» in the History of the English Language
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