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Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Newman, John

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When down is not bad, and up not good enough: A usage-based assessment of the plus–minus parameter in image-schema theory

Beate Hampe1


Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics. Volume 16, Issue 1, Pages 81–112, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: 10.1515/cogl.2005.16.1.81, July 2005

Publication History

10 May 2002
20 November 2003
Published Online:


Preceding research in cognitive linguistics has advanced the claim that evaluative components form an integral part of image schemas (cf. Krzeszowski 1993, 1997; Cienki 1997: 3–6). This so-called “plus–minus” (or “axiological”) parameter has primarily been discussed with regard to opposing dimensions within a range of image-schematic contexts. In the paired particles in–out, up–down, and on–off, for instance, the meaning of which is based on the image-schematic notions of CONTAINMENT, VERTICALITY, and CONTACT, respectively, the second elements are assumed to carry negative default evaluations. Additionally, the Axiological Invariance Principle (Krzeszowski 1997) claims that these evaluative components are generally retained in metaphorical extensions. This study applies the plus–minus hypothesis in image-schema theory to the analysis of semantically highly redundant verb-particle constructions in English. The hypotheses derived from this application are tested against the real usage of such constructions as documented in the British National Corpus and the Collins Online. Though the presentation of a full-blown alternative to the plus–minus assumption is beyond the scope of this empirical investigation, an important implication of this study is that the isolated, “primitive” (noncompound) image schemas traditionally dealt with in cognitive linguistic research should not be considered as the locus of evaluative defaults. It is suggested instead that axiological components are dimensions of richer, contextualized cognitive models, in which image schemas appear as complex superimpositions, i.e., image-schema groupings or compounds.

Keywords: image schema; plus–minus parameter; axiology; semantic prosody

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