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Academic Paper


Title: The meaning of time: polysemy, the lexicon and conceptual structure
Author: Vyvyan Evans
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www.vyvevans.net
Institution: Bangor University
Linguistic Field: Semantics
Abstract: In this paper I argue that the lexeme time constitutes a lexical category of distinct senses instantiated in semantic memory. The array of distinct senses constitutes a motivated semantic network organised with respect to a central sense termed the SANCTIONING SENSE. The senses associated with time are derived by virtue of the interaction between the Sanctioning Sense, conceptual processing and structuring, and context. Hence, semantic representations, cognitive mechanisms, and situated language use are appealed to in accounting for the polysemy associated with time. The model adduced is termed PRINCIPLED POLYSEMY. The conclusion which emerges, in keeping with recent studies in lexical semantics, most notably Lakoff (1987), Pustejovsky (1995), Tyler & Evans (2003) and Evans (2004), is that the lexicon is not an arbitrary repository of unrelated lexemes; rather, the lexicon exhibits a significant degree of systematicity, and productivity. In order to adduce what constitutes a distinct sense, I introduce three criteria: (1) a meaning criterion, (2) a concept elaboration criterion and (3) a grammatical criterion. A further claim is that the lexicon exhibits significant redundancy. This position is at odds with SINGLE-MEANING APPROACHES to polysemy, which posit highly underspecified lexical META-ENTRIES, such as the generative approach of Pustejovsky (1995) or the monosemy position of Ruhl (1989). That is, I propose that lexical items constitute highly granular categories of senses, which are encoded in semantic memory (=the lexicon). This necessitates a set of criteria for determining what counts as a distinct sense without deriving a proliferation of unwarranted senses, a criticism which has been levelled at some studies of word-meaning in cognitive linguistics (e.g. Lakoff 1987).

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in Journal of Linguistics Vol. 41, Issue 1, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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