Language is a means to express cultural values of its speaker. The comprehension of cultural substances is the most essential things in the study of a language. Therefore studying English also means fully comprehending the attitude and socio-cultural values of England. It is considered as the reasons of why words rather frequently changing depend on its contexts. To comprehend this, the researcher should go deeper and deeper until the root of the word itself.

To construct a sentence or phrase used to convey a message, no matter in what language, words are the smallest unit of language to form. The choosing of words is very meaningful in term of elaborating the message the user means to deliver about. Occasionally, one word even can stand alone and means a lot i.e. words in imperative form.  Many ways, gesture as well, are used to represent word then sentences. Words are significant.

Profound, words are. Have you ever counted how many words you daily articulate? How many worlds you recognize well? After all, how many English words that actually exist without neglecting original or absorbance language? Enormous is the only answer for these questions mentioned. Then by confronting this condition, in what way you account those words? Since you know that words are various which not an easy stuff is to get it properly used. Many words mean huge meanings; deep quandary; strong speech or weak statement indeed. More words used more consideration taken.

Having huge amount of words in the worlds somehow lead its users to the big hole of the quandary. At junior or senior high school, in Bahasa, the pupils must be ever taught about homonym, homograph, or homophone. Homonyms are the words that sound alike but have different meanings. Whereas homophones are a type of homonym that also sound alike and have different meanings, but have different spellings. In contrast, homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Heteronyms are a type of homograph that are also spelled the same and have different meanings, but sound different. Distinguishing those words then position them into the correct construction so that it can be precisely meaningful is a bit complicated. It is caused by the variety of words and its meaning contextually. One should note words are phenomenal.

Doing an observation since childhood, the researcher is still curious in investigating this phenomenon.  Taking translation and interpretation course in the fifth semester, then just more intrigue the researcher to find out the underlying reasons of those. As bell (1993:5) states that translation is the expression in another language (target language) of what has been expressed in another (source language), preserving semantic and stylistic equivalence, the researcher meets another conspicuous phenomenon on it. To obtain the equivalent meaning from the original language, translators frequently change the words into proper context on the target language; even when that’s definitely not the literal meaning of the original e.g. “Do you copy?” is translated “apa kau mendengar?” in Bahasa- taken from the movie G-force. In fact, copy in Bahasa is salinan; tiruan; menyalin;meniru, but  since the context is required different translation word in other to gain that equivalent meaning of the original so that the word “mendengar” is then regarded more representative to be. Words are contextual.

Those phenomena above are simplified into three patterns conducted by the researcher:

1. Same word — > CONTEXT  –> Different meaning

E.g. see            I see you in the market   –    see: look at; view something

see             I see what you’re saying  –  see: understand; recognize something

This pattern is also considered homograph since it produces alike sound and orthographic string.

2.  Different words – context – same meaning

E.g. bring        It brings people to the saddest traumatic moment – bring (cause)

lead            It leads people to the saddest traumatic moment – lead (cause)

In translation, it’s known as free translation whereas literal technique is certainly out of context.

3. Different words – same meaning (in Indonesia) – different context

E.g. begin –  MULAI :  commonly found in the process; technical stuff

Start – MULAI : commonly found in the game; sport

After the contextualizing process, the different words results in same meaning, it is well known as synonym, or linguistically as syncretism.

In the first pattern that has orthographic string, the researcher figures out that many students learning or interested in English repeatedly confront the same problems in determining the meaning of its words contextually. This problem is called contextual constraint. Disambiguation then occurs after they translate it into Bahasa.

Most of my senior high schools students even some of my friends at college, still do the fault in translating English homographs after those are positioned after the sentence; after those are contextualized. For example, when I asked my students in the class after explaining about “noun phrase” material,

Teacher (me)   : “is it clear enough?”

Student 1        : “Apa miss? Bersih?”

Student 2        : “iya miss udah clear ko kelasnya, tadi pagi kita udah sapu-sapu  kelas”

Teacher            : ——–

What the teacher pointed by saying the word “clear” is whether the students already understood what has been explained or not; whether their material darkness has been brighten or not. In contrast, the students recognized it as “clean”. The students performed contextual constraint by the given homograph. Disambiguation is a common obstacles evoked in every context where homograph is in. However, the researcher assumes that British will not experience the same since they are native who know how those homograph works in context.

Similar case also shown by a friend in English department, what an ironic! The researcher only does a little experiment by asking her a very simple question using homograph.  If her friend complains the question, means that she considers it well, otherwise, the contextual constraint is on her. Below is that memorable dialogue:

Siska    : are you like candy? (Giving her a candy)

Widi (not her real name) : Ga ah, ga suka (answering in Bahasa means No, I don’t

like candy)

Siska    : Oh, padahal enak (Oh, it’s delicious actually)

Widi    : iya ga suka aja (Yeah, I just don’n like it)

The researcher understands that this condition not only comes up among her friends and students but others acquiring or learning English. After a long observation done, the researcher concludes that it is triggered by the uncommon context where the words are not usually put. For instance, the word “like” is popularly known as “love” or “menyukai” in Bahasa, but in different context, it can be interpreted as “similar” or “seperti”. For most of same conditions met, the researcher is invited to conduct the research of the homograph etymology. Therefore, after completing this research, there will be a brief insight added on how words are formed and its meanings and senses are changed over the context.

It is intriguing for the researcher to find out the historical background of each word that makes them result in different context or different association even different sense; that make them cannot position freely in every context. However, there still should be a limitation on this research to keep it in context. Thus the study will be bounded on the etymology of homograph phenomenon only. In studying this phenomenon, the researcher ought to be more patient. It is further explained by Crystal: 1995 that:

Knowing the etymology of a word can provoke a speaker to use the old meaning of that word, which will result in so called etymological fallacy, a view based on the idea that the etymology of a word or phrase is its actual meaning

That’s what this research is conducted for. To investigate the words occurrence historically and its etymology related to this contextualizing process; in this case, homographs. Much etymology has been researched, like the given result examined by Crystal: 1995:

Particularly interesting are the pairs of words that at the first glance do not show any relationship, but historically happen to have common antecedents, which is the case with, for instance, glamour and grammar, salary and sausage

The question about how and when they are invented is indeed an attractive question for the researcher.

1.2 Research Question

One of the fascinating aspects is that all words have a past. Therefore, the researcher addresses only one question in this research:

What is the etymology of daily homographs that implies new association and sense of those after contextualizing process?

1.3 Research Method

1.3.1 Research design

This research employs descriptive research design. Specifically, the researcher will focus on documentary analysis of the words phenomenon denoted above. It will be more satisfying for the researcher having two advantages from conducting this research by using this qualitative design. First advantage is to figure out the historical-background of each word which has different meaning and even sense after it has been contextualizing, as the result of the “documentary analysis”. Another reason that goes together supporting this decided design is to obtain the philosophy of underlying reasons that imply those words having different meaning. Secondly as the result of the “research”, this will provide many new understandings on what has been hidden about what word, meaning, and context are. This design will also cover the necessary of discovering the ways to differentiate the words due to its context. Thereby what the user means to convey is delivered successively through the equivalent meaning produced after contextualizing.  Regarding as qualitative research, this method can be adjusted during the actions of this research.

1.3.2 Sample

The sample will be taken randomly from the words regarded as homograph and particularly become ambiguous in Bahasa if the user doesn’t have any idea about it. The researcher’s starting point is a list of 15 ambiguous words (homographs) where each comes together with two associated words that are typical of one sense and a third associated word that is typical of another sense. It has been derived from the most homograph that somewhat ambiguous if the Indonesian does not consider the topical context influencing the meaning.


Sense 1

Sense 2

First association

Second association

First association

Address Location Place Point
Arm Leg Hand War
Ball Game Base Dance
Book Note Group of paper Reserve
Clear Clean Bright Understandable
Close End up Block Intimate
Image Picture Sketch Impression
Lead To guide To bring The metal
Lie Untruth Fib Lie down
Like Love Put an interest on As
Means Valuable Wealth Tool
Party Celebration Festivity Political group
Present Gift At the moment Attend
Patient Calm Doctor’s client
See Look at View Understand; Know

The 15 homographs above will be then analyzed to figure out the historical background, no matter in what field that lead them to have different association and classified into different sense.

1.3.3 Data Collection

The researcher firstly gathered the data by doing observation in the pilot study toward the phenomenon occurring beyond the words, contexts, and its equivalent meaning. The result of the pilot study denotes three phenomena mentioned-above   which are regarded as homonym, homograph, which has orthographic string and different meaning after contextualizing process, and the synonym, affected by its topical context to be then produces the same meaning. The researcher also called it syncretism. As the research design indicated, she will do a brief analysis of the historical documentary of each homograph to figure out the data relevant to this. Regarding to Bogdan and Biklen (1982 as cited in Bandu,2002:63) clarify that:

Qualitative approach is descriptive. The gathered data encompases: transcript, interview, photograph, field notes, video tapes, documents and other notes.

In line with this technique, Cresswell (1994) in Insani (2003: 30) states that qualitative data can be collected by document analysis or visual materials. Furthermore bibliographical aids and library resources are also needed in gathering the data.

            1.3.4 Data Analysis

No matter what kind of research established, data analysis is absolutely an important action on how the gathered data are analyzed so the aims of the study can be achieved. Glense and Peshkin (1992 in Alwasilah, 2003: 166) argue that:

Data analysis is the process of organizing and storing the data in light of your increasingly sophisticated judgments, that is, of the meaning finding interpretations that you are learning to make about the shape of your study.

In this documentary research, the data collected will be analyzed by firstly categorizing the same symptom occurred. From the documents studied, and the facts reckoned, the researcher is aimed to classifying the historical background of each word so that they can have different meaning in contexts. Summing up the data gathered will be the last to do in order to convince the reader about the result obtained.

1.4 Significance of the Study

This study is addressed in the concerning on misunderstanding toward the ambiguous meanings of English homographs when they are translated into Bahasa. The researcher believes that by conducting this study, she is able to obtain new knowledge upon etymology of words in homograph that since she was in senior high school becomes an intriguing topic. This knowledge then hopefully can brighten the darkness of the historically background of each word that lead them to have two or more associations and senses.

Sharing the results of this research is expected to fulfill the curiosity of, beside me, others who has the same anxious to find the underlying reasons of why the words meaning are varied even it occurs from the same word.