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English Linguistics 1. 3 What's in a word: lexicology 3.1 Conceptual and lexical categories 3.1.1 Conceptual categories 3.1.2 Lexical categories 3.2 Words and meanings 3.2.1 Routes to meaning 3.2.2 What is meaning?. 3.3 Lexical fields 3.4 Lexical relations/meaning relations

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3 What's in a word: lexicology

3.1 Conceptual and lexical categories

3.1.1 Conceptual categories

3.1.2 Lexical categories

3.2 Words and meanings3.2.1 Routes to meaning3.2.2 What is meaning?

Session 3

3.3 Lexical fields

3.4 Lexical relations/meaning relations

3.4.1. Synonymy

3.4.2. Relationships of contrast

3.4.3. Hierarchical relationships

Session 3

3.5 Lexical ambiguity

3.5.1 Polysemy

3.5.2 Homonymy

3.6 Metaphor and metonymy

3.6.1 Metaphor

3.6.2 Metonymy

Session 3

3.1 Conceptual and lexical categories

aspects focused on so far:signs - the link between their (material) form and meaning / function

in order to get a better understanding of the nature of language:a 'look' into the minds of the speakers /

the conceptual world –

the pre-linguistic world

Session 3

3.1.1 Conceptual categories


a person's 'idea' of what something in the world is likee.g. 'mother', 'dog' – single entities

Session 3

humans tend to 'slice' reality into discernible units 

→ conceptual categories

whenever we perceive sth.

we attempt to categorize it,

e.g. piece of music

classification as

jazz, rock, pop, classical, techno, ethno, world music etc. 

Session 3

conceptual categories laid down / expressed in language

= linguistic categories (signs)

we all have made experience

that there are more concepts

than linguistic expressions,

e.g. when we try to describe a phenomenon knowing that there is no exact term;

different from just not knowing a term!

Session 3

conceptual categories/stage

linguistic categories/level

other modes of expression






realization as sound

Fig. 3-1: Fromconcepttosound (simplified)

Session 3

What makes the step from concept to linguisticcategory so interesting?

problems / questions:

- Are concepts universal/ the same for all humans?

- Are concepts socio-culturally determined?

- What happens when concepts are 'translated' into languages?

no attempt at definite answers!

just a glimpse at some phenomena

Session 3

compare expressions for same concept in different languages:



G Hufeisen


→ different languages may 'translate' the same phenomenon differently – the construal / construction of the 'world' in linguistic items

Session 3

Signs differently motivated:

E , F, I – relationship between the animal as a whole and the protecting device

G –

F, I, G –

E –

Session 3

E grand piano -

F piano à queue -

G Flügel -

F and G

Session 3

concept: 'part of the street for pedestrians'

BE pavement -

AE sidewalk -

F trottoir - from trotter:

G Gehsteig -

Bürgersteig -

AuGTrottoir - see French, but?

Session 3

so far: conceptual categories 'translated'

 words or lexical categories

similar relationships applies also to 'translation'

grammatical categories

Session 3

different ways of saying more or less the same thing

Look at that rain.

same lexical category: rain

different word classes: (1) noun, (2) verb

Session 3

E kiss


Session 3


when transforming a concept into a linguistic category languages may focus on different characteristics / features of the concept and make this characteristic the most prominent by expressing it linguistically,

at the same time – disregard other features;

the same applies to more complex conceptual phenomena

Session 3

3.1.2 Lexical categories

examples from 3.1.1 relatively 'clear' (horse-shoe, piano, pavement)

definition/ description of their

'lexical meaning'

can be agreed upon by different people

other cases add another dimension,

e.g. vase?

Session 3

ex. vase

many different shapes and types -

common denominator:

'container for flowers'

question: whatisourconceptof a typical 'vase'?

Fig. 3-2

Session 3

ex. chair:

task: draw a picture of a 'chair', that comes to your mind, do not think too long about it, there is no 'right' or 'wrong'

Session 3

the most typical or best member

– the subtype that first comes to mind

= prototype / prototypical member

≠ peripheral members

Session 3

Fig. 3-3: Chairs

category of stools different from chairs –

lack of a back

Session 3

Fig. 3-4: A selectionofthedrawingsofcup-likeobjectsusedbyLabov

Session 3

Session 3

3.2 Words and meanings

3.2.1 Routes to meaning

Two starting points:

1. word which senses?

2. concept which words?

Session 3

ad 1.

dictionary fruit a, b, c, d…..

word form  list of various senses

= semasiology (Greek sema 'sign')

Look up the senses/meanings of 'fruit' in the DCE or another monolingual dictionary (at least 5 to 6 meanings):

Session 3

fruit /fru:t/ n plural fruit or fruits

Session 3

ad 2.

onomasiology (Greek ónoma 'name')

concept list of words which denote the same or similar concepts

use a dictionary of synonyms to find synonyms for the concept of 'fruit':

(thesaurus, synonym finder)

Session 3

fruit, n.



Session 3

3.2.2 What is meaning?

  no generally accepted definition of 'meaning'

suggestion (1):

words name or label things in the world,

two aspects are taken care of:

 distinction between denotation and reference

Session 3

  • denotation – class of things indicated by a word

  • reference – a particular thing when the word is used

    e.g. A cat.

    A cat.

    Three men .

    Three men.

Session 3

suggestion (2):

two aspects -

all 'things' in the world the expression can be used to refer to

and the inherent / internal characteristics or features

 distinction between extension and intension

Session 3

  • extension

    all things, facts, abstract ideas …

    which can be referred to by the same linguistic expression

    (= ~ denotation, see above)

  • intension –

    the features which define the expression

Session 3



morningstar –

different intension,

same extension


Tony Blair(extension)

different intensions (up to 2007):

the prime minister of GB, the Labour leader, Cherie's husband

Session 3

suggestion (3):

the semantic triangle –

room for the idea, the concept










Session 3

Other types of meaning

(so far: 'denotation and reference')


That girl is a real cat. ('unpleasant woman')

cat – different from cat1 (denotation)

they differ in denotation - they also differ in the associations that come to our mind

Session 3

+ types of meaning which refer to associations that words have for us

connotation / connotational meanings

Session 3

Try to complete the types:



stylistic or social:

give other choices with a stylistic difference

domicile -

Session 3


editorial –

petrol –

chips –

reflected meaning:

the Holy Ghost,

the Comforter

Session 3

collocational meaning

'goodlooking, attractive'

pretty - handsome

pretty + [ ]

handsome + [ ]

different in their collocations

Session 3

languages differ in the collocational range of words

G Nase, Zähne, Schuheputzen


Session 3