Journal of Semantics 28 (4):485-512 (2011)

Liina Pylkkanen
New York University
Although regular polysemy [e.g. producer for product (John read Dickens) or container for contents (John drank the bottle)] has been extensively studied, there has been little work on why certain polysemy patterns are more acceptable than others. We take an empirical approach to the question, in particular evaluating an account based on rules against a gradient account of polysemy that is based on various radical pragmatic theories (Fauconnier 1985; Nunberg 1995). Under the gradient approach, possible senses become more acceptable as they become more closely related to a word’s default meaning, and the apparent regularity of polysemy is an artefact of having many similarly structured concepts. Using methods for measuring conceptual structure drawn from cognitive psychology, Study 1 demonstrates that a variety of metrics along which possible senses can be related to a default meaning, including conceptual centrality, cue validity and similarity, are surprisingly poor predictors of whether shifts to those senses are acceptable. Instead, sense acceptability was better explained by rule-based approaches to polysemy (e.g. Copestake & Briscoe 1995). Study 2 replicated this finding using novel word meanings in which the relatedness of possible senses was varied. However, while individual word senses were better predicted by polysemy rules than conceptual metrics, our data suggested that rules (like producer for product) had themselves arisen to mark senses that, aggregated over many similar words, were particularly closely related
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/jos/ffr005
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 62,513
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Transfers of Meaning.Geoffrey Nunberg - 1995 - Journal of Semantics 12 (2):109-132.
The Non-Uniqueness of Semantic Solutions: Polysemy. [REVIEW]Geoffrey Nunberg - 1979 - Linguistics and Philosophy 3 (2):143 - 184.

View all 15 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

In Search of Radical Similarity.Oscar Vilarroya - 2005 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (1):35-35.
War and Massacre.Thomas Nagel - 1972 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (2):123-144.
Regular Rules of Induction.Wesley C. Salmon - 1956 - Philosophical Review 65 (3):385-388.


Added to PP index

Total views
94 ( #113,501 of 2,446,485 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #310,206 of 2,446,485 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes