Cross-linguistic Evidence for Cognitive Foundations of Polysemy

Huichun ZhuLehigh University
Barbara MaltLehigh University

Abstract

Existing discussions of polysemy describe the relations that extended senses may have to the most central sense of a word, but they do not explain in more detail how particular senses are generated for a given word. We propose that extended senses are initially built on the salient features of referents of core senses (and further senses may be generated from those). We provide evidence for the role of salient features of core senses in generating extended senses through three studies. These studies use speakers of English and Chinese, historically unrelated languages.

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