Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||According to recent work in the new field of lexical pragmatics, the meanings of words are frequently pragmatically adjusted and fine-tuned in context, so that their contribution to the proposition expressed is different from their lexically encoded sense. Well-known examples include lexical narrowing (e.g. ‘drink’ used to mean ALCOHOLIC DRINK), approximation (or loosening) (e.g. ‘flat’ used to mean RELATIVELY FLAT) and metaphorical extension (e.g. ‘bulldozer’ used to mean FORCEFUL PERSON). These three phenomena are often studied in isolation from each other and given quite distinct kinds of explanation. In this chapter, we will propose a more unified account. We will try to show that narrowing, loosening and metaphorical extension are simply different outcomes of a single interpretive process which creates an ad hoc concept, or occasion-specific sense, based on interaction among encoded concepts, contextual information and pragmatic expectations or principles. We will outline an inferential account of the lexical adjustment process using the framework of relevance theory, and compare it with some alternative accounts.|
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