How Words Mean: Lexical Concepts, Cognitive Models, and Meaning Construction

How Words Mean: Lexical Concepts, Cognitive Models, and Meaning Construction
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The use of France in 30 constitutes an instance of what might be thought of as metonymy see Evans and Zinken to appear for detailed discussion of how LCCM theory accounts for gurative language such as metonymy. Highlighting As previously noted, in addition to the general activation process which involves the establishment of an access route across cognitive models, there is a further activation process.

This I refer to as highlighting. This process involves activation within a single cognitive model. There are two variants of highlighting which I term perspectivisation and adjustment.

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The distinction between the two relates to a fundamental distinction between the kinds of lexical concepts encoded in language: those that are relational as encoded by, for instance, verbs, adjectives and adverbs , and those that are non-relational as encoded by noun forms. The basic insight is that while non-relational lexical concepts determine what is activatedthe highlighting process of perspectivisationrelational lexical concepts can inuence how the conceptual structure is activatedthe highlighting process of adjustment.

Perspectivisation This is an interpretation process involving activation by virtue of lexical concepts which are non-relational in nature, and thus as encoded by noun forms.

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Volume 5 Issue 4 Sep , pp. As any given lexical concept potentially provides access to other lexical representations it is associated with, I refer to the lexical concepts B, C, D. If so, we should expect to be able to adduce a distinct lexical prole associated with each. Croft, William The role of domains in the interpretation of metaphors and metonymies. Journal of Linguistics 41 1 , The shell noun, the noun phrase in which it occurs, and the proposition it relates to, which here is mediated by the copula, are collectively termed the shell-content-complex.

To illustrate, consider the following examples. Thats a heavy book to carry around in your school bag all day. That antiquarian book is so old that it is illegible in places. Reconsider the partial cognitive model prole accessed via the lexical concept [book] presented as Figure 4. The examples in 31 give rise to a conception which establishes an access route in the book cognitive model.

The dierence between the informational characterisation associated with book in each of the examples in 31 relates to the two distinct facets tome versus text. That is, the process of interpretation that gives rise to the two distinct conceptions or readings associated with each utterance comes from utterance context informing which facet is highlighted.

In 31a the utterance context, particularly the lexical concept associated with heavy, serves to highlight the tome facet, and especially those aspects of our. In contrast, the informational characterisation associated with book in 31b relates to the text facet. This is highlighted due to our understanding that because of the ageing process, and wear, old books may have text which is illegible. Thus, the informational characterisation associated with [book] is slightly distinct in each of these examples by virtue of the process of perspectivisation, which serves to perspectivise a distinct facet in each example.

The examples in 32 illustrate perspectivisation of distinct facets in the cognitive model of reading.

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The example in 32a perspectivises the duration facet. This follows as the conception involves understanding [book] as activating structure relating to the reading process, and in particular, an assessment that the book in question takes a relatively great period of time in order to be read. In contrast, the informational characterisation associated with [book] in 32b results from perspectivising the level of interest facet.

That is, the semantic value of [book] is slightly dierent in this example. As with the examples in 31 , the examples in 32 reveal that the meaning associated with book is a function of dierent paths of activation, involving distinct access routes, and distinct sorts of activation within a single cognitive model.

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Adjustment We now turn to the second of the two activation processes known as highlighting. This relates to relational lexical concepts, as encoded by adjectives, prepositions and verbs. This process of interpretation I refer to as adjustment. I do so in order to distinguish the process from that of perspectivisation.

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The reason for selecting a distinct term is that the process involved appears to be slightly dierent, a consequence of the relational nature of these lexical concepts. The main dierence appears to be that while perspectivisation aects the nature of the knowledge structure s being highlighted i. Consider some examples by way of illustration. With the examples of small, and red in 33 and 34 the sensory qualities interpreted will depend on the lexical concept with respect to which it is fused.

That is, the informational characterisation associated with small varies not in terms of the notion of relative size what , but rather how we interpret this. Thus, we interpret the absolute dimensions that apply to small in 33a to be quite distinct from those in 33b. Yet, there is no confusion that small can apply equally to an elephant or a mouse, each of which a small mouse versus a small elephant are radically dierent in terms of their absolute dimensions.

Similarly, the interpretation of good is adjusted depending on the composite lexical-conceptual structure it is involved in. For instance, a good man might possess attributes such as physical beauty, honour, providing for his family, and so on, depending upon context. The sorts of qualities associated with a good meal, however, are more likely to include the size of the portions, how tasty the food is, that it consists of wholesome ingredients, and so on. Thus, we adjust how the knowledge associated with good is being activated rather than what is being activated, a consequence of the relational here attributive nature of the lexical concept associated with good.

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In these examples the informational characterisation associated with bake is adjusted in the light of the informational characterisation accessed by virtue of the other lexical concepts integrated in the composite lexicalconceptual structure. Previous researchers have referred to this process of adjustment by terms such as accommodation e. Pustejovsky ; Goldberg However, such scholars have emphasised the role of other aspects of language in coercing the meaning of the verb.

For instance, Goldberg argues that sentencelevel verbal argument constructions coerce verbal meanings. The reason for selecting the term adjustment here is that the process I am describing relates not primarily to one-sided coercion by the grammatical construction.

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Rather, the adjustment is a consequence of a mutually interdependent process of interpretation in which bake provides access to an informational characterisation associated with rich conceptual knowledge, part of which is highlighted in conjunction with and in response to the informational characterisation provided by other lexical concepts in the composite lexical conceptual structure. Thus, in addition to a process of lexical concept integration, there are, additionally, activation processes:.

These necessitate accessing cognitive models which lexical concepts provide access sites to, but the nature of the information accessed must be calibrated with respect to the contribution of the other lexical concepts in the composite lexical conceptual structure. Moreover, adjustment is also guided by other contextualisation cues such as speaker communicative intention, extra-linguistic context, accompanying gestures see Kendon for an overview and so forth.

In the light of the discussion in this section, Figure 6 presents an overview of the lexical concept integration process. Finally, having provided a programmatic sketch of how the constructs of lexical concepts and cognitive models might relate to a cognitively realistic approach to compositional semantics, I now address the semantic well-formedness of conceptions.

Indeed, conceptions are, by denition, semantically coherent. We will see that this is the case by considering situations in which conceptions fail. The term semanticality, introduced into linguistics by Pustejovsky , relates to the semantic well-formedness of an utterance.

Semantically well-formed utterances give rise to conceptions. Utterances that fail in this regard are semantically anomalous. The principle reason for semantic failure appears to be a failure in matching semantic selectional dependencies, discussed earlier. Of course, semantic selection tendencies, or collocational patterns, are a consequence of semantic compatibility. Even lexical concepts that are potentially dissonant and can be said to clash, need not result in failure to form a conception.

This follows as the semantic potential which lexical concepts provide access sites to is vast and extremely richly detailed, allowing the possibility of novel access routes, perspectivisations and adjustments resulting in a semantically well-formed conceptions, particularly with appropriate extra-linguistic context to assist in the co-selection process. Indeed, this is the strategy that prevails in so-called gurative language use see Evans and Zinken to appear.

To consider this phenomenon consider some examples involving the verb began. While the rst example evidences a semantically well-formed utterance, the second example is semantically odd. This follows as dictionaries are not something we begin, as their function relates to reference and lookup. Thus, there is a mismatch between the informational characterisations provided by the cognitive model proles as accessed by the lexical concepts in this utterance.

However, in certain situations extra-linguistic context can help, as pointed out by Pustejovsky For instance, Malcolm X, the African American civil rights activist who promoted violent struggle, is famously known to have read a dictionary while in prison like a book. As the only book available to him was a dictionary he began at the letter A and read through to Z.

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In such a situation, the example in 38b becomes semantically acceptable. The example in 38c is semantically anomalous as a rock is not an entity that has internal structure that is subject to a sequential process that can be construed as having a starting point. Thus, while a dictionary is a book, that can, under certain novel contexts, be construed as an entity that can be read sequentially, 38b is less semantically anomalous that 38c.

The point then, is that both the lexical prole associated with lexical concepts and the semantic value of lexical concepts, as dened, are necessary for understanding the phenomenon of semanticality and semantically anomalous composition.

How Words Mean: Lexical Concepts, Cognitive Models, and Meaning Construction

Conclusion In this paper I have made a number of proposals in order to develop a cognitively-realistic account of lexical semantics and meaningconstruction: the Theory of Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models, and thus to develop an account which is consonant with the facts of language use. I argued that meaning is not a property of words, but rather of the utterance: that is, a function of situated use. Words, as such, dont have meanings. The representational aspects of language that contribute to meaning involve two dimensions: lexical representations, including access to non-linguistic, conceptual knowledge, and a cognitively-realistic account of compositionality.

I modelled lexical representation by developing the construct of the lexical concept, and the conceptual structures that lexical concepts provide access to. Lexical concepts are relatively. Conceptual knowledge is organised into cognitive models which form an encyclopaedic knowledge network.

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Lexical concepts are integrated,. The signicance of LCCM theory developed here is that we are provided with a distinction between meaning and representation.