Term of Art: Homonymic Clash

“homonymic clash: A clash between two homonyms, either of which could be used in similar contexts. A classic example is a posited clash in parts of southwest France between a word gat ‘cat’ derived from Latin cattus, and an identical form gat ‘cock,’ predicted by regular processes of sound change from Latin gallus. In fact, the second was replaced by other forms that changed or extended their meaning: faisan, historically ‘pheasant,’ vicaire ‘curate,’ and others. The explanation, proposed by Gillieron, is that these replacements avoided the misunderstandings that the clash would often have caused.”

Excerpted from: Matthews, P.H., ed. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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