I know that these terms are used in different subfields of linguistics:

  • Metonymy and metonyms are used in rhetorics and metaphor theory.
  • Meronymy and meronyms are used in lexical semantics.
  • Meronomy, mereology and merons have to do with logic, ontologies and natural language processing.

They are related in names and meaning, so I hope somebody can explicitly contrast them with each other and describe their relations. Is mereology a study of meronomies, which are hierarchies of merons connected by the relation of meronymy? Are meronyms used as metonyms?

  • Can you explain more what you don't understand? There isn't really any commonality between metonym and meronym/meronomy. And meronomy is also used in regular semantics. – curiousdannii Nov 15 '16 at 0:28

The key to understanding is the difference between objects and names of objects: A meronom is a part. A meronym is the name of a part. A meronomy is a relationship between parts and sub-parts. Meronymy is a relationship between words.

Mereology is the mathematical study of parts and wholes. It cares about mathematical objects, not about words. The kind of mathematical structure mereology studies is a relation called a meronomy.

Why not 'mereonomy'? You do see that sometimes. But 'meronomy' is more common, and more correct, albeit also more obnoxious. You see, someone was being clever: 'Meronomy' is a back-formation from 'taxonomy'. Taxonomy is based on subsumption, rather than composition. Taxonomy is in turn the basis for set theory. Set theory and mereology are alternative ways to formulate a universal foundation for mathematics. If you're a programmer, you can think of them as the difference between relational data structures and object-oriented data structures. (If you're not a programmer, you're on your own.)

Finally, a metonym is a figure of speech that substitutes one word or phrase for another. This is superficially unrelated to meronymy and meronomy. But if a metonym happens to involve substituting a meronym for a holonym, then you have a kind of metonymy called synecdoche. Actually, though, I think the Wikipedia entries on these other terms include "Not to be confused with metonymy" based on the similar spellings, rather than this somewhat tortured connection. ;-)

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