Publication details [#9239]

Riemer, Nick. 2005. The Semantics of Polysemy: Reading Meaning in English and Warlpiri. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter . xvi, 487 pp. URL


This book is a comparative study of the polysemy patterns displayed by percussion/impact ('hitting') verbs in English and Warlpiri (Pama-Nyungan, Central Australia). The opening chapters develop a novel theoretical orientation for the study of polysemy via a close examination of two theoretical traditions under the broader cognitivist umbrella: Langackerian and Lakovian Cognitive Semantics and Wierzbickian Natural Semantic Meta-language. Arguments are offered which problematize attempts in these traditions to ground the analysis of meaning either in cognitive or neurological reality, or in the existence of universal synonymy relations within the lexicon. Instead, an interpretative rather than a scientific construal of linguistic theorizing is sketched, in the context of a close examination of certain key issues in the contemporary study of polysemy such as sense individuation, the role of reference in linguistic categorization, and the demarcation between metaphor and metonymy. The later chapters present a detailed typology of the polysemous senses of English and Warlpiri percussion/impact (or P/I) verbs based on a diachronically deep corpus of dictionary citations from Middle to contemporary English, and on a large corpus of Warlpiri citations. Limited to the operations of metaphor and of three categories of metonymy, this typology posits just four types of basic relation between extended and core meanings. As a result, the phenomenon of polysemy and semantic extension emerges as amenable to strikingly concise description. (Publisher Book Description)