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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2013, Issue 193


The linguistic sign at the lexicon-syntax interface: Assumptions and implications of the Generative Lexicon Theory

Klaas Willems
Published Online: 2013-02-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0014


This article explores the basic assumptions of Generative Lexicon Theory (GL) and the implications for the general theory of the linguistic sign that arise from the generative mechanisms “selective binding,” “co-composition,” and “type coercion.” The article focuses on the assumption underlying GL that interpretation and polysemy are part of lexical structure. It is shown that encoded lexical meaning and inferred non-lexical knowledge cannot be clearly distinguished in GL. In order to be consistent, GL must also be supplemented by a theory of “normal language use” and be able to account for semantic underspecification in a semiotically coherent way.

Keywords: Generative Lexicon Theory; language interpretation; semantic underspecification; normal language use; coercion; lexical qualia structure

About the article

Klaas Willems

Klaas Willems (b. 1965) is a professor at Ghent University 〈Klaas.Willems@UGent.be〉. His research interests include the syntax-semantics interface, epistemology and historiography of the language sciences, and philosophy and phenomenology of language. His publications include Kasus, grammatische Bedeutung und kognitive Linguistik (1997); “Logical polysemy and variable verb valency” (2006); Naturalness and iconicity in language (ed. with L. de Cuypere, 2008); and “Intuition, introspection, and observation in linguistic inquiry” (2012).

Ghent University

Published Online: 2013-02-22

Published in Print: 2013-02-22

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2013, Issue 193, Pages 233–287, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0014.

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©[2013] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston.Get Permission

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