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LINGUIST List 18.3447

Mon Nov 19 2007

Diss: Semantics: Koskela: 'Vertical Polysemy: a study in the dynami...'

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        1.    Anu Koskela, Vertical Polysemy: a study in the dynamicity of meaning

Message 1: Vertical Polysemy: a study in the dynamicity of meaning
Date: 18-Nov-2007
From: Anu Koskela <amk21sussex.ac.uk>
Subject: Vertical Polysemy: a study in the dynamicity of meaning
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Institution: University of Sussex
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007

Author: Anu Maarit Koskela

Dissertation Title: Vertical Polysemy: a study in the dynamicity of meaning

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics

Dissertation Director:
Vyvyan Evans
M. Lynne Murphy

Dissertation Abstract:

The multiplicity of word meaning has been studied extensively, but the
phenomenon of vertical polysemy has received relatively little attention.
In vertical polysemy a lexical form is associated with multiple distinct
senses that are in a relationship of categorial inclusion. Dog, for
example, has a general 'canine' sense and a hyponymous 'male canine'
meaning; similarly, the meaning of cup can either contrast with or include
that of mug.

This study examines the nature of this phenomenon and its motivations.
Building on recent research in Cognitive Linguistics, this study takes as
its basic assumptions that 1) word meanings are encyclopaedic in nature; 2)
distinct word senses emerge dynamically in discourse situations, and 3) the
distinctness of sense is a matter of degree. Given this Dynamic Meaning
Construal view, this study argues that variation in category boundaries can
amount to vertical polysemy if the broader and narrower construals
constitute distinct communicatively useful sense categories. This means
that vertical polysemy is fundamentally motivated by shared culturally or
communicatively significant distinctions between more and less inclusive

Vertical polysemy is shown to differ in various respects from horizontal
polysemy, where word senses are related in other ways than by inclusion,
often by metaphor or metonymy. In particular, a characterisation of the
encyclopaedic knowledge structures that underlie vertically-related senses
illustrates that vertical polysemy is not a type of metonymy, as has often
been argued. The study also shows that it is possible to distinguish
different types of vertical polysemes both in terms of the specific kind of
inclusion relationship involved between the vertically-related senses and
on the basis of the factors that motivate the emergence of broader or
narrower senses.

Through this, the study contributes towards research into the multiplicity
and flexibility of word meaning and the role of categorial inclusion in
lexical structure.

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