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Cognitive Linguistics

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Volume 24, Issue 1


Salience and construal in the use of synonymy: A study of two sets of near-synonymous nouns

Dilin Liu
Published Online: 2013-01-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2013-0003


Via a corpus-based collocation analysis and a forced-choice questionnaire examination, this study investigates the use of two sets of near-synonymous nouns: authority/power/right and duty/obligation/responsibility. The corpus analysis reveals the prototypical meanings of the nouns in each set and the semantic and usage pattern differences among the synonymous nouns. Also, the corpus analysis and the results of the forced-choice study jointly show that the level of lexical salience and the language users' construal are two key factors in the use of synonymous nouns. Due to entrenchment effects, speakers/writers typically use a synonymous noun with the highest salience in a given semantic context unless the speaker/writer's construal operations result in a decision to use a different noun whose prototypical meaning fits the context better. It is also found that the selection of a non-salient noun in a given context typically signifies a difference in meaning. Furthermore, the meanings of synonymous nouns and the internal semantic structure of a synonymous-noun set seem to show a certain degree of fluidity, influenced by the competition of lexical salience and language users' construal. The study has also demonstrated the effectiveness of combining corpus-based analysis and elicited data examination in the study of synonyms.

Keywords: Construal; collocation; corpus-based behavioral-profile analysis; elicited data; forced-choice; onomasiological/semasiological salience; synonyms

About the article

University of Alabama

Published Online: 2013-01-25

Published in Print: 2013-01-28

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 24, Issue 1, Pages 67–113, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2013-0003.

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