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  1. #1
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    Default semantic change of 'pretty'

    Hiya everyone.

    Im doing a project on semantic change and one of the examples im using is the amelioration of the adj 'pretty'. Ive used the OED online but I don't quite understand what its saying. What I need to know is when and why the change occured.
    From what I can gather, it was from the borrowings from Middle Dutch that gave it its original meaning of sly and cunning. But I dont understand WHY it changed from that meaning to its present day meaning and when this occured.

    Can anyone help please?

    Thanks in advance :)

    Suzie
    Last edited by suzie07; 12-Apr-2010 at 19:57.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: semantic change of 'pretty'

    Ah, but it can't have been borrowed from Middle Dutch because it was originally found in Old English.

    Now I am clueless :s

    Heres part of what I found...

    Compare Dutch prettig pleasant, nice, agreeable, comfortable (also Belgian Dutch pruttig), German regional (Low German: East Friesland) prettig sportive, funny, humorous, Old Norwegian prettugr tricky, deceitful (compare Old Icelandic prettóttr), also (with metathesis) Middle Dutch pertich cunning, quick, lively (Dutch regional (southern) pertig, Belgian Dutch pertig, also in sense ‘whimsical, capricious’).
    Last edited by suzie07; 12-Apr-2010 at 19:58.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: semantic change of 'pretty'

    The Old English forms pætig, pæti show loss of -r- in consonant groups evidenced in other words in later Old English (see A. Campbell Old Eng. Gram. (1959) §475). Between the end of the Old English period and the 15th cent. the word is only attested in surnames (e.g. Simone Praty (1301), Henry Praty (1304), Johannes Pratyman (1343), Willelmus Pritty (1428)); in the course of the 15th cent. it becomes frequent in various senses.
    The form history and pronunciation history are complex, and present a number of difficulties which have not been adequately explained. Forms showing the reflex of the original short stem vowel (Old English æ, (West Mercian, Kentish) e) continue to the present day in some varieties of regional English, e.g. pratty, pretty (the latter pronounced with //); Surv. Eng. Dial. records pronunciations indicative of the former from Yorkshire and Cheshire, and of the latter from Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and Monmouthshire; similar pronunciations are found in Scots and in U.S. regional English. Alongside these in early modern English are found lengthened forms (e.g. praty, preaty; now apparently obsolete) and forms showing subsequent shortening (e.g. pritty); the modern standard form has the pronunciation of the latter, but the spelling of a(a long tailed B) form




    So is this basically saying it was used in surnames until the end of the OE period when its usage underwent a change and began to be used as an adjective rather than a proper noun? Could this possibly be due to the Middle Dutch influence? I got that from its meaning in Middle Dutch in the post above.
    Did any Dutch invasions occur at the end on OE? I thought that was when the French influence occured, 1066 and all that? Now I'm confused!! Haha! I know we had some scandanavian influence at that time, is Dutch part of that? I haven't studied history so I'm unsure. I will do some research, but in the meantime, if anyone help it will be muchly appreciated :)

    Suzie
    Last edited by suzie07; 12-Apr-2010 at 19:53.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: semantic change of 'pretty'

    "But I don't understand WHY it changed from that meaning to its present day meaning and when this occurred."

    What do you consider the present day meaning of 'pretty' is?
    She's a pretty girl. (Nice-looking)
    I'm pretty sure I'm right. (rather, quite)
    This is a pretty mess we're in. (difficult, ?tricky)
    He's sitting pretty. (well, safely)
    That must have cost a pretty penny. (expensive)

    Has there really been a lot of change?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: semantic change of 'pretty'

    Yes, its meaning in Old English was sly and cunning. Very different from its present day meaning of a beautiful person and the others you mentioned above. The example pretty is used in many text books, it just doesn't explain why and when this semantic change occured.
    I thought it would be interesting to research this and include it in my project as something a little extra. Im only in my 1st year on my degree so I'm not hugely knowledgeable on these sort of things. But I thought I'd give it a go anyway :)

  6. #6
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: semantic change of 'pretty'

    Quote Originally Posted by suzie07 View Post
    [SIZE=2]...
    Did any Dutch invasions occur at the end on OE? I thought that was when the French influence occured, 1066 and all that? Now I'm confused!! Haha! I know we had some scandanavian influence at that time, is Dutch part of that? I haven't studied history so I'm unsure. I will do some research, but in the meantime, if anyone help it will be muchly appreciated :)

    Suzie
    Many, from North-west Europe, during the first millennium (that is, before 1066); and some of those featured people who could have been described as 'Dutch'.

    b

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: semantic change of 'pretty'

    Quote Originally Posted by suzie07 View Post
    So is this basically saying it was used in surnames until the end of the OE period when its usage underwent a change and began to be used as an adjective rather than a proper noun?
    It says that it was used as a surname between the end of the OE period and the 15th century. Surnames weren't used much in the OE period, I believe, and came into widespread use from the 13th century.

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