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Visualizing onomasiological change: Diachronic variation in metonymic patterns for woman in Chinese

Weiwei Zhang, Dirk Geeraerts and Dirk Speelman
From the journal Cognitive Linguistics

Abstract

This paper introduces an innovative method to aid the study of conceptual onomasiological research, with a specific emphasis on diachronic variation in the metonymic patterns with which a target concept is expressed. We illustrate how the method is applied to explore and visualize such diachronic changes by means of a case study on the metonymic patterns for woman in the history of Chinese. Visualization is done with the help of a Multidimensional Scaling solution based on the profile-based distance calculation (Geeraerts et al. 1999; Speelman et al. 2003) and by drawing diachronic trajectories in a set of MDS maps, corresponding to different metonymic targets. This method proves to be effective and feasible in detecting changes in the distribution of metonymic patterns in authentic historical corpus data. On the basis of this method, we can show that different targets exhibit different degrees of diachronic variation in their metonymic patterns. We find diachronically more stable targets (e.g. imperial woman), targets with a dominant trend in diachronic variation (e.g. a woman), and targets with highly fluctuating historical variation (e.g. beautiful woman). Importantly, we can identify the cultural and social changes that may lie behind some of these changes. Examining the results uncovered by the method offers us a better understanding of the dynamicity of metonymic conceptualizations.

Funding statement: Funding: This research was partially sponsored by grants from Shanghai Pujiang Program (14PJC095) and “Chen Guang” Project supported by Shanghai Municipal Education Commission and Shanghai Education Development Foundation (13CG32) that were awarded to the first author.

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank the associate editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. We would also like to thank Dr. Kris Heylen and Dr. Tom Ruette for their constructive feedback on an earlier version of the article. All remaining errors are the authors’.

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Appendix: MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportions of the pattern

Figure 8: MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of action for agent.

Figure 8:

MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of action for agent.

Figure 9: MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of action for patient.

Figure 9:

MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of action for patient.

Figure 10: MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of bodypart for whole.

Figure 10:

MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of bodypart for whole.

Figure 11: MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of characteristic for person.

Figure 11:

MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of characteristic for person.

Figure 12: MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of instrument for agent.

Figure 12:

MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of instrument for agent.

Figure 13: MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of instrument for patient.

Figure 13:

MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of instrument for patient.

Figure 14: MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of possessed for possessor.

Figure 14:

MDS maps with symbol sizes representing the proportion of possessed for possessor.

Received: 2013-4-24
Revised: 2013-8-22
Accepted: 2014-11-27
Published Online: 2015-3-19
Published in Print: 2015-5-1

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