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Is he beautiful, handsome or good-looking?: a study of putative synonymy in three adjectives
2009 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

In this essay, the adjectives beautiful, handsome and good-looking are investigated in order to find out if, and to what extent, the three adjectives are synonymous, as well as when, and how, they differ. The adjectives are also evaluated in relation to gender, which means that any similarities or differences regarding sex that the adjectives display are studied. The analysis is made on the basis of information found in five contemporary dictionaries, one etymological dictionary and one computerized corpus. It is shown that the three adjectives have very few synonymous uses, both as defined in the dictionaries and as suggested in the corpus. However, there are more similarities between the adjectives in the corpus samples than in the dictionary definitions where only the reference to people's appearances are defined as partly synonymous for all three adjectives. In the corpus, the adjectives might be considered synonymous (once again, only partly so), when in relation to people's looks, but more so when used about buildings, objects and animals. Both the dictionaries and the corpus data suggest that the adjectives have an unevenly distributed frequency with respect to gender: beautiful is used much more often to describe a woman than a man, and the opposite is true for handsome. The adjective good- looking, on the other hand, is considered gender-neutral in the dictionary definitions, but turns out to be more often applied to men in the corpus samples. However, it is not only in relation to frequency that the three adjectives show differences when describing the different sexes. The connotative meanings of the adjectives also display differences, so that (according to some of the dictionary definitions) for example a handsome woman is seen as having masculine features, whereas a handsome man could be seen simply as attractive, even though there are references to strong features for men as well.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Humanities Theology, synonymy, corpus linguistics, dictionaries, adjectives
Keyword [sv]
Humaniora, Teologi
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-43922ISRN: LTU-DUPP--09/128--SELocal ID: 1bbe3333-954f-4463-b82d-2486da8f9ca0OAI: diva2:1017196
Subject / course
Student thesis, at least 15 credits
Educational program
English, master's level
Validerat; 20101217 (root)Available from: 2016-10-04 Created: 2016-10-04Bibliographically approved

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