Repayment and revenge

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Links between the semantic fields of repayment and of revenge occur in many languages. As the usual pattern of metaphorical sense development is from concrete to abstract, repayment has been taken as the source domain, with revenge as the target. However, the relationship does not conform to that usual in metaphor. Revenge is not understood in terms of repayment; and both in Old English and later stages of the language, the semantic field of revenge includes not only polysemous but monosemous terms. The explanation may lie in the early legal system, which constructed links between the domains of revenge and restitution to provide an alternative to the blood feud. From a diachronic perspective, the domains were so closely related that the semantic link may represent metonymy rather than metaphor. A diachronic perspective also suggests that revenge was the more concrete concept, acting as source domain, with repayment as the target.


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