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Book Information

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Title: Cognitive reference points
Subtitle: Semantics beyond the prototypes in adjectives of space and colour
Written By: Elena Tribushinina
Series Title: LOT Dissertation Series 192

Psychologists have shown that reference-point reasoning is a ubiquitous
cognitive phenomenon intrinsic to perception, categorisation, spatial
orientation, social, organisational and marketing behaviour of human
beings. Various cognitive tasks involve evoking a salient entity – called
cognitive reference point – for establishing mental contact with less
salient items. It is then reasonable to assume that language use also
involves a lot of reference point reasoning. However, linguistic aspects of
this phenomenon have hardly been investigated. A welcome exception is
Langacker’s reference-point model dealing with grammatical constructions
and metonymy.

This thesis elaborates the reference-point model by applying it to lexical
semantics. The only reference point that has been quite intensely studied
in lexical semantics is a prototype. By focusing on two adjectival groups
(colour and size), the author demonstrates that a whole panoply of
cognitive reference points are used to anchor conceptual specifications of
lexical items, prototypes being only a special case of the reference-point
mechanism. An important finding is that a word may trigger more than one
reference point at a time. For example, dimensional adjectives may be
interpreted vis-à-vis an average value, endpoints of the scale, prototypes
and dimensions of the human body. Contextual variability is claimed to be
related to various combinations of reference points, their relative
salience and patterns of interaction.

The book is of interest to scholars studying the semantics of adjectives and
degree adverbs, as well as to anyone concerned with cognitive linguistics and
cognitive psychology.

Publication Year: 2008
Publisher: Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics / Landelijke (LOT)
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Cognitive Science
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Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9789078328667
Pages: 479
Prices: Europe EURO 34.49