OK, i think this is in common usage (at least in anthropology texts i have read) to mean having more than one (simultaneous or layered) meaning or intention. From what i can tell, the latin root is valere, having to do with strength: this would be the same root as ambivalent, or the valences in physics, which is what the dictionaries DO talk about. These are all related to connections, so think of it as a cognitive or symbolic bond.

Frequently ritual symbols or myths are described as poly-(or multi-) valent, because they can have different meanings on different levels of abstraction and intention. Also, speech may be polyvalent when it says one thing at a concrete level and another thing at an abstract level - and possibly yet another at a social-interaction level.

Contextualizing speech or symbolic acts within larger dialogues (about custom/kastom, identity or leadership struggles..) can add valences which might not at first be obvious.

So, if i've seen this so much and accepted it for years, how come this sense isn't in any dictionary i've checked? Weird.

Po*lyv"a*lent (?), a. [Poly- + L. valens, p. pr. See Valent.] Chem.



© Webster 1913.

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