Date of Award

Summer 1995

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Applied Linguistics

Committee Director

Charles Ruhl

Committee Member

Carole P. Hines


The verb hold is normally presumed to be highly polysemous; dictionaries ascribe to it several senses and sub-senses. This treatment is supported by the polysemous bias in current semantic research. In this thesis, I claim that hold is monosemic, with ascribed meanings resulting from pragmatic modulation. My treatment of hold is based on Charles Ruhl's work with monosemy in his book On Monosemy: A Study in Linguistic Semantics.

This study isolates hold's constant semantic contribution throughout 250 diverse example sentences. I claim that hold: (1) presupposes a sequence, and then (2) suspends the sequence.

After an introduction and a chapter on current treatments of hold, I present simple transitives (chapter 3) and then a look at objects modified by adjectives and the possibility of small clauses (chapter 4). Also covered are example sentences containing phrasal verbs (chapter 5) and idioms (chapter 6). A sampling of prepositional phrases and their impact on hold is presented in chapters 7 and 8.


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