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BISOCIATION

BISOCIATION. The occurrence in a language of pairs of words with similar meanings, one member of each pair being native to that language (such as everyday English sight), the other being a loanword from an influential foreign source (such as vision, a loanword from Latin). In English, the vernacular members of such pairs are mainly Germanic (usually from Old English or Old Norse), while the loanwords are mainly classical (usually from Latin, often mediated by FRENCH), as in: freedom/liberty, hearty/cordial, go up/ascend, go down/descend. Bisociation in English has often been remarked on. Simeon Potter, for example, observes: ‘We feel more at ease after getting a hearty welcome than after being granted a cordial reception’ (Our Language, 1950/66). Similarly, Thomas Finkenstaedt has noted: ‘Apparently the Elizabethans discovered the possibilities of etymological dissociation in language: amatory and love, audition and hearing, hearty welcome and cordial reception’ (in Ordered Profusion, 1973). This kind of semantic parallelism has also occurred in Latin, which has absorbed many words from Greek, creating such pairs as Latin compassio and Greek sympathia. In many instances, such pairs have passed into English, leading to trisociation, as with Germanic fellow feeling, Latinate compassion, and Greek-derived sympathy. There are scores of such correspondences in English, the Germanic material tending to be part of everyday usage (as with newness), the Latinate tending to be more formal and ‘educated’ (as with innovate), and the Greek tending to be highly technical and even arcane (as with neophyte). Compare CALQUE, DOUBLET. See BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, ELYOT, INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES, MIDDLE ENGLISH.

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