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Conventional wisdom says that when a word has two meanings -- one concrete/tangible and one abstract -- the concrete meanings is the older one, and the more abstract one is the newer meaning that evolved from the first one. My question is what is the source for this conventional assumption? Which scholars came up with this rule in linguistics? Are there any proofs to this sort of assumption? Are there any clear exceptions to this rule?

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    What seems to contradict this when studying ancient languages is modern languages tend to simplify grammar over time. Thus, this would be stated that words prehistorically evolved... Because the grammars of the first written languages are more complex than modern,
    – Perry Webb
    Apr 15, 2022 at 9:16
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    There certainly are exceptions, e.g. English "bead", which used to mean "prayer'.
    – TKR
    Apr 15, 2022 at 12:14
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    I am not aware of such a rule, even though such logic does seem to apply in some cases. Even so, there are many cases of deverbal nouns referring to actions or abstractions that were then applied to concrete nouns involved in, resulting from, or associated with those actions: e.g., "(to present) identification," "a congregation," "a building," "(marble) steps," "a salute", "an intersection," "an elevation," "a height," etc. Apr 15, 2022 at 14:43
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    Very early human speech (which we have no way of knowing) developed from naming things, one logically has to assume. I doubt abstraction would have loomed large in those times.
    – Lambie
    Apr 15, 2022 at 20:38
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    In any culture, common things and actions are always around and always need to be talked about. This provides plenty of exercise for the terms, which grow strong in everyone's memory; this means they're always available, everywhere, in every situation. Whereas specialized words for abstract concepts like sainthood and multiplication and taxation and kingship and personality tend to be metaphors, to be known only by a few, to not last long, and to be re-invented as needed, repeatedly, forever after.
    – jlawler
    Apr 15, 2022 at 21:25

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