Given that we lack sensory-motor experience for abstract concepts, how do
we find out what they mean? How far can we get by tracking frequency
distributions in input? The volume tackles the question of what language
has to offer the language learner in his/her quest for meaning, and
explicitly addresses how semantic knowledge may be distributed along the
continuum from "grammar" to "lexicon". Focus is on the synonymy of
constructions and lexemes, a meaning relation that has been largely ignored
in Western linguistics.
Frequency in all its guises plays a major part in this book. Approaching
meaning from a usage-based perspective, a radically distributional approach
to quantifying meaning is proposed that encompasses both the constructional
and lexical level. Statistical data analysis, relatively new in the field
of linguistics, yields a cognitively realistic, clustered model that
encourages re-evaluating existing accounts of near-synonymy. Theoretical
concepts spanning a range of cognitive linguistic frameworks, i.e.
Cognitive Grammar, Radical Construction Grammar and Prototype Theory,
account for the complexity of the data and lead to a re-appraisal of
traditional semantic theory.
Built on a solid empirical foundation, this network account of synonymy at
the constructional and lexical level enriches our understanding of
established aspects of the cognitive model of language, serving as catalyst
for their further development and refinement. The theoretically informed
combination of descriptive accuracy and methodological innovation makes the
book a worthwhile read for cognitive linguists and psycholinguists alike.