LINGUIST List 14.988

Thu Apr 3 2003

Diss: Semantics: Anne "Mind, metaphor, and..."

Editor for this issue: Anita Yahui Huang <>


  1. jab63, Semantics: Anne "Mind, metaphor, and prefix..."

Message 1: Semantics: Anne "Mind, metaphor, and prefix..."

Date: Wed, 02 Apr 2003 21:48:38 +0000
From: jab63 <>
Subject: Semantics: Anne "Mind, metaphor, and prefix..."

Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Program: Department of German
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1997

Author: Julie Belz Anne 

Dissertation Title: 

Mind, metaphor, and prefix: Evidence for prototype category structure
in NHG ver-

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field: Semantics 

Subject Language: German, Standard (code: GER )

Dissertation Director 1: Thomas F. Shannon 
Dissertation Director 2: Irmengard Rauch 
Dissertation Director 3: Eve E. Sweetser 
Dissertation Director 4: George Lakoff

Dissertation Abstract: 

This dissertation investigates the semantic categorial structure of
the inseparable verbal prefix NHG ver-. Prefix semantics has been a
murky area of investigation in several regards. First, the extreme
semantic ambiguity of prefixes in general complicates the enterprise
of detailed sense description. Second, researchers disagree on the
number and types of criteria employed in establishing senses. Third,
the nature of the similarities and differences between the relation of
the prefix to the base and the prefixed derivative to the unprefixed
base is poorly understood. Most importantly, sense-relatedness is
frequently side-stepped in the pursuit of the former three issues. A
semantic analysis of a prefix typically consists of a 'list' of the
various senses with appropriate examples, but no attempt is made to
relate or motivate the given senses to one another.

Recent advances in cognitive linguistics, prototype theory, and
contemporary metaphor theory have enabled analysts in the field of
lexical semantics to shift the emphasis of their investigations from a
feature-based exploration of semantic set contrasts across lexemes,
where category membership is defined in terms of necessary and
sufficient features, to morpheme-internal analyses of multiple
meaning-to-form mappings. If we assume classical categories, then we
must adopt a homonymy approach to the semantic ambiguity of NHG ver-,
where seemingly disparate senses such as 'displacement' (e.g. NHG
versetzen 'to move') and 'contact' (e.g. NHG verbinden 'to bind')
represent semantically separate but phonologically identical prefixes,
since there would be no single matrix of features which could uniquely
define these divergent NHG ver-senses. This approach serves to
increase arbitrariness in the lexicon: 'diverse' meanings are
symbolized by the same form without any apparent semantic relations
among them.

In this dissertation, I assume prototype categories in order to
motivate the various senses of NHG ver-, where category membership is
defined in terms of family resemblance to a prototypical member. This
approach reduces the arbitrariness of the lexicon; the initial
sound-meaning pairing between NHG ver- and its core sense may be
arbitrary, but the category of extensions is cognitively motivated by
the same types of mechanisms which have been shown to structure
non-linguistic categories.

Conceptual metaphor is one of the embodied, cognitively-grounded
mechanisms which provides motivation and explanation for
sense-relatedness. The variety of 'literal' senses associated with NHG
ver- is broad; the pervasiveness of 'metaphorical' NHG ver-senses is
even greater. Yet, the issue of relatedness between 'literal' and
'metaphorical' NHG ver-senses has not been systematically explored. On
the basis of a self-collected and transcribed corpus of 1,031 spoken
NHG ver-utterances (cf. appendix 1) as well as reference and literary
sources, I propose an image schematic semantics for NHG ver- in the
form of a polysemy network of related meanings. Both semantically
divergent 'literal' senses and the vast array of metaphorical senses
are shown to be motivated by the same unified image schema. The image
schema of the prefix represents the primary semantic contribution to
the prefixed derivative, while the semantic contribution of the
(putative) base stands in metonymic relation to the contribution of
the prefix. Furthermore, there are regular and systematic correlations
between the derivational morphology of the derivative base and
components of the image schema. Certain changes between the argument
structure of the verbal base and the argument structure of the
prefixed derivative are shown to be consistent with the image
schematic semantics of the prefix. A preliminary look at empirical
fieldwork results which may speak to the psychological underpinnings
of images schemas in general is presented.
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