Direct and Figurative Word Meaning

Every word in any language has значение /meaning/ ( we also say лексическое значение /lexical meaning/), which is an object, characteristic or action named by a word. For example, meaning of the word "язык" /tongue/ - "орган, при помощи которого мы говорим" /part of the body, with the help of which we speak/. 
According to the number of meanings, words are divided into monosemantic and polysemous. Monosemantic words have one meaning, polysemous have two or more. A lot of terms, for instance, кислород /oxygen/ (О2) or делитель /divider/ (in the question 4:2 2 is a divider) are monosemantic words. Not only terms can be monosemantic. Trousers is also a monosemantic word. However, many words in language have several meanings. Why? This way language, saving its means, widers its possibilities.
Язык is a polysemous word. Let's take a look at what it means in Russian.
1. Язык is  part of the body, with the help of which we speak. Чтобы произнести звук [л`], надо кончиком языка коснуться верхних зубов /To pronounce the sound  [л`] we need to touch upper teeth with a tip of our tongue/.2. Язык is something a person tells. Придержи язык /curb the tongue/ means be quiet, think before speaking.3. Язык is a system of sounds, words and rules of their forming and usage.  Русский язык /Russian language/. Английский язык /English language/.4. Язык is a sign system. Язык программирования /Language of programming/. Java - это язык программирования /Java is the language of programming/.5. Язык is a way of expressing thoughts or feelings. Язык цифр /Language of numbers/. Язык любви /Language of love/.6. Язык is a style of conversation. Язык науки /Language of sciense/. Язык газет /Language of newspapers/.7. Язык is a captive, who can tell information about opposing side. Военные обычно говорят: "мы взяли языка"  /The military usually say, ''We've taken a hostage''/.8. Язык is a metalic core in a bell, with the help of which it tolls. 9. Язык is somehing having oblong form. Язык пламени (пламя = огонь) /Tongues of flame (flame = fire)/.
As you can see, the word "язык" in Russian has as many as nine meanings! The first of them we call direct, for it denotes an object. The others are figurative. They have appeared later. Why do metalic core in a bell is also called "язык"? Because it resemles human's tongue and has similar function: with the help of tongue a bell "speaks", produces sounds.


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