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Intercultural Pragmatics

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Volume 13, Issue 4


Polysemy and the Semantic-pragmatic Interface: The Case of Up in a Context-based Model

Wei-Lun Lu
Published Online: 2016-11-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ip-2016-0024


The present study adopts a context-based approach to the meaning of up. The analysis draws on the notion of “context” defined as a composite of surrounding linguistic cues, world knowledge and physical environment of the utterance, and on a parsimonious criterion of sense establishment. I demonstrate that the proposed model is capable of distinguishing context-sensitive implicatures and senses, with only two separate senses listed: “vertically higher” and “completive”. I propose a developmental hierarchy in the meaning network that refines Hampe’s (2005. When down is not bad, and up not good enough: A usage-based assessment of the plus-minus parameter in image-schema theory. Cognitive Linguistics 16(1). 81–112) challenge to the axiological parameter by unhooking “completive” from “good”. The proposed model finally addresses cases of seeming oxymora to explicate the context-sensitivity of interpretations. The paper concludes with a two-fold implication: first, the context-oriented methodology is capable of distinguishing context-induced implicatures and context-insensitive senses. Second, it captures the details of lexical meaning as contextualization patterns by explicating how the prototypical sense of a spatial particle, undergoing the fine-tuning of linguistic, encyclopedic and physical context, derives diverse contextual implicatures in real use.

Keywords: spatial particle; polysemy; contextualization; co-text; metaphor


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About the article

Wei-Lun Lu

Wei-Lun Lu is currently a Research Fellow in the Department of English and American at Masaryk University, with a Ph.D. in Linguistics from National Taiwan University. His research interest is cultural and cognitive linguistics and rhetoric, with a strictly corpus-based methodology.

Published Online: 2016-11-04

Published in Print: 2016-11-01

The completion of this paper was supported by “Employment of Best Young Scientists for International Cooperation Empowerment” (CZ.1.07/2.3.00/30.0037) co-financed from European Social Fund and the state budget of the Czech Republic Prof. I-wen Su. I thank two reviewers for suggestions, with the typical disclaimer that applies.

Citation Information: Intercultural Pragmatics, Volume 13, Issue 4, Pages 563–589, ISSN (Online) 1613-365X, ISSN (Print) 1612-295X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ip-2016-0024.

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