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From Sound to Meaning in Context

Studies in Honour of Piotr Ruszkiewicz

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Alicja Witalisz

This volume is a collection of papers approaching the phenomenon of language from a variety of perspectives. Scholars in phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicology, historical linguistics and translation studies share the results of their research. They invite the reader on a journey into the multifaceted and complex world of human language, moving from the study of sound through the description of structure to the analysis of meaning. The volume has been brought together to honour Professor Piotr Ruszkiewicz from the Institute of Modern Languages of the Pedagogical University of Cracow, a linguist and academic lecturer.
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On the Origin of Evil and Its Competition with Bad in Middle English: Jerzy Wełna

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On the Origin of Evil and Its Competition with Bad in Middle English

Jerzy Wełna

University of Warsaw

0. Aims and scope

The development of pairs of words with opposite meaning is characteristic of all Indo-European languages. English possesses graded antonyms referring, for instance, to length (short vs. long), size (small vs. big), weight (light vs. heavy), depth (shallow vs. deep), or width (thin vs. thick or narrow vs. wide), etc. To such primary opposites belong the pair good vs. bad, which expresses perhaps the most basic difference of quality. With regard to historical lexis and semantics, the second item of this pair deserves a closer examination, as its emergence in the late-thirteenth to early-fourteenth centuries contributed to the elimination of the earlier contrast, OE gōd ‘good’ vs. yfel ‘bad, evil’. An analogous rearrangement within pairs of words affected, for instance, the verb go (OE gān) which took the new preterite wente ‘went’, the only difference being that evil survived its separation from good, undergoing the process of further semantic deterioration, while the earlier preterite ēode disappeared from the language (cf. Wełna 2001).

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