I'm a newbie on this site. I just learned the Smirnitsky's classification of homonyms and to be honest, I haven't quite grasped it yet. Here's the summary of the classification:

  1. Full lexical homonyms are words which represent the same category of parts of speech and have the same paradigm. For example, match, n.-a game, a contest and match, n. – a short piece of wood used for producing fire.
  2. Partial homonyms are subdivided into three subgroups:

a) Simple lexico-grammatical partial homonyms are words which belong to the same category of parts of speech. Their paradigms have one identical form, but it is never the same form, as will be seen in the examples. (to) found, v. and found, v. (Past Indef., Past Part. of to find)

b) Complex lexico-grammatical partial homonyms are words of different categories of parts of speech which have one identical form in their paradigms. For example, rose, n. and rose, v. (Past. Indef. of to rise)

c) Partial lexical homonyms are words of the same category of parts of speech which are identical only in their corresponding forms. For example, to hang (hung, hung v.) and to hang (hanged, hanged) v.

Since there's no mention of spelling/ sound, how will words like "pole"(n) and "poll"(n) and "bass" (n) - a type of fish and "bass" (n) - a musical instrument be classified? I've tried to do some research about this classification but unfortunately the information online is so so limited (and repetitive).

Thank you so much!

  • Your examples, pole/poll and base/bass, are obviously homophones.
    – Alex B.
    Dec 15, 2020 at 1:59

1 Answer 1


I just re-read the original source, Smirnitsky 1956 (published posthumously, based on his lectures and notebooks) and it seems to me that his views have been misrepresented.

This classification you mention - and which is commonly found in lexicology textbooks, is how Professor A.I. Smirnitsky analyzed a list of homonyms proposed by Walter Skeat in his famous dictionary (Skeat 1909) - which he himself called The List of Homonyms.

But here is something very important that is missing in summaries of Smirnitsky's work. Several times he clearly writes that the list of homonyms proposed by Skeat is inadequate because it includes homographs only (even though Skeat defines homonyms as "words are spelt alike, but differing in use," p. 737). Smirnitsky thought it was incomplete because homographs are only one type of homonymy.

Here are some original passages from Smirnitsky 1956 where he criticizes Skeat's homographic list:

from pages 164-165 (I will add a summary in English later):

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from page 171:

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  • 1
    Thank you very much for this clarification. I always think something is not right in this version of Smirnitsky's classification & I've seen plenty of dissertations or papers citing exactly the same text as I have pasted up there, without any further explanation. I really look forward to your English summary of the excerpts above. Dec 15, 2020 at 7:59

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