Semantic extension of English adjectives: focusing on “form” and “use”

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Semantic extension of English adjectives: focusing on “form” and “use”

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  Semantic extension of English adjectives: focusing on “form” and “use” Yoshikata Shibuya  National Institute of Information and Communications Technology Abstract : This article discusses the semantic extension of English adjectives. I will argue that semantic extension of an adjective is motivated by semantic, cognitive/behavioral, discourse-functional, and constructional constraints. Keywords : semantic extension, adjectives, attribution, predication, synaesthesia 1. Introduction This article discusses the semantic extension of English adjectives. Referring to Shibuya (2005), Shibuya and Nozawa (2003) (see also Shibuya et al  . in press) and Shibuya (2006), I will argue that semantic extension of an adjective is motivated by semantic, cognitive/behavioral, discourse-functional, and constructional constraints. 1   2. Motivation for semantic extension of an adjective In Shibuya (2005), I argued that the construction plays an important role in determining the meaning of an adjective, suggesting that the attributive construction (e.g. a yellow jacket  ) activates a broader part of a relevant frame than the predicative construction (e.g.  His jacket is yellow. ) does. The empirical generalizations that I made in Shibuya (2005) are as follows: •   In the attributive construction, direct (non-metonymical) and indirect (metonymical) senses (both literal and metaphorical) are available, while in the predicative construction, only direct senses (both literal and metaphorical) are sanctioned. •   The attributive construction tends to have a larger number of metaphorical senses than the predicative construction, but metaphorical senses of the direct sense type can be srcinal (i.e. only found) in the  predicative construction.   I argue that the discourse function of attribution is to characterize the referent not only by the direct sense (literal and metaphorical) but also by the indirect sense (literal and metaphorical) so that the speaker can describe the referent in the way s/he wishes to (directly, metaphorically, and metonymically). It is this highly flexible conceptualization allowed by the attributive construction that often causes the emergence of a new indirect sense in this construction. As for predication, I suggest that the discourse function of predication is that it refers to the state of the referent that is immediately salient. Predication works well for aboutness. The poorness in the semantic diversity as confirmed in Shibuya’s (2005) survey  reflects the function of predication in that it refers to the state of the referent that is immediately salient. With the diachronic data, Shibuya (2005) shows that the indirect sense found in the predicative construction srcinates in the attributive construction (e.g. the evidential use of  serious , meaning “suggestive of the person’s seriousness”). The question to be addressed is: How does an indirect sense which srcinates in the attributive construction become available in the predicative construction? The scenario I provided in Shibuya (2005) is as follows: Step 1: An indirect sense occurs in the attributive construction, motivated by the “constructional”  property of the attributive construction. Step 2: Shift of meaning from the constructional property to the “lexical” property, resulting in the occurrence of the indirect sense in the predicative construction. The first step is where an indirect sense occurs. In the scenario hypothesized here, this takes  place in the attributive construction (notice that this is actually suggested by the diachronic data). It is worth emphasizing that the occurrence of the indirect sense is motivated by the constructional property of the attributive construction. Note that the indirectness of the meaning is part of the constructional property. The fact that an indirect sense srcinates in the attributive construction is due to the fact that the attributive construction encourages an indirect sense to be evoked (i.e. the attributive construction activates the indirect element of the relevant frame). The second step is where the shift of meaning from the constructional property to the lexical  property takes place. This shift involves the process of the indirect sense becoming one of the polysemous senses of the adjective (form-function reanalysis). The indirect sense found predicatively is different from the one found attributively in that the former is motivated by the lexical property of the word, while the latter by the constructional property. The former (adjectival sense shift) is not adjectival metonymy. Adjectival metonymy is the case where the metonymy is on the adjective. The indirect senses found in the  predicative construction are not adjectival metonymies. Their occurrence is not motivated by the construction. It is the lexical properties of the adjectives that motivate their occurrence in the predicative construction. By definition, the indirect sense found predicatively is not “really” indirect. The sense whose occurrence is motivated by the construction can be called a non-conventional metonymy, while the one whose occurrence is caused by the lexical property can be called a conventionalized metonymy which is well-entrenched in the lexicon of the language. In the sample of Shibuya (2005), a number of indirect senses were found predicatively. In my analysis, they are all conventionalized metonymies whose occurrence is motivated by the lexical properties of the adjectives. I maintain that there are two factors working behind the mechanism hypothesized here. The first factor is to do with increase of frequency. The indirect sense with the highest frequency of use occurs  predicatively (e.g. healthy ’s causal type). The suggestion that can be made is that if the utilization of the indirect use happens frequently enough, the sense is taken into the meaning of the modifier (adjective), and then becomes available in the predicative construction. The increase of frequency of use leads to the  entrenchment of the indirect sense so that it is recognized as one of the polysemous senses of the adjective (i.e. recognized as part of the lexical property of the adjective), resulting in it being available in the  predicative construction. I call this the “frequency” hypothesis. The second factor that appears to be working behind the mechanism of semantic extension of an adjective as hypothesized above is to do with semantic constraints. Of the adjectives studied in Shibuya (2005) (i.e. the 50 adjectives), those with (an) indirect sense(s) available in the predicative construction are mostly adjectives of disposition  (brave, cheerful, clever, confident, sensible, serious, wise) and emotions  (comfortable, sad) . The fact that certain types of adjectives are more likely to permit an indirect sense in the predicative construction than others suggests that it is not only the increase of frequency but also the “semantic type of an adjective” that also motivate an indirect sense to occur predicatively.   It also appears that the sense type of an adjective also concerns the process for an indirect sense to enter the lexical property. The sample revealed that, in contrast with the indirect sense types such as “manner” (e.g. his safe return from Philadelphia ), “causal” and “evidential” are very likely to be found  predicatively. Note that  serious  is a “dispositional” adjective and the sense type in the examples below is “evidential”, which is likely to occur in the predicative construction: (1) a. “Champagne and popcorn pie,” she said, struggling to keep a  serious  face. [FROWN_P.TXT: P18 218]  b. He nodded. “Please. If you're right, and the neuro test is OK, we'll have to get him straight back to Theatre. Or ...” The eyes which met hers were  serious . [FLOB_P.TXT: P24 202] My discussion so far has been concerned with the semantic, discourse-functional, and constructional constraints of the semantic extension of an adjective. I have emphasized that the attributive construction causes the emergence of a new indirect sense in this construction. In what follows, we will consider the fact that semantic extension often found in attribution does not occur randomly, by discussing other types of constraints. Shibuya and Nozawa (2003) proposed a constraint called the Constraint of Sensory Co-occurrence, which reads: In a synaesthetic expression consisting of a modifier and a modified element, the modifier should cause a sensory reaction which is in a strong associative relation with the sense caused by the modified element. Discussing the cases such as warm color   vs. ?? red temperature  and  sweet smell   vs. ??  smelly taste , Shibuya and Nozawa argued that our adaptive behavior fundamentally forms the “structure of sensory experiences”. That is, at the fundamental level, functional differences in sense modalities affect the frequency of sensory co-occurrence, and frequency of sensory co-occurrence is responsible for the formation of the structure of sensory experiences (i.e. it affects the acceptability of an expression). Shibuya and Nozawa also proposed another type of constraint called the Constraint of Emotional Similarity, which reads: In a synaesthetic expression consisting of a modifier and a modified element, the modifier should evoke an emotion which matches with the emotion evoked by the modified element. It was explained, for example, that in  sweet voice  and  fragrant music  it is not the sensory  co-occurrence but the emotional similarity that enables their understanding. The constraints proposed in Shibuya and Nozawa (2003) are meant to apply to synaesthesia in attributive use only. In Shibuya (2006), I studied six synaesthetic adjectives (out of the 50 adjectives studied in Shibuya 2005) both in attribution and predication. The adjectives studied there were bright  , dark  , loud  ,  soft  ,  sweet  , and warm . In Shibuya (2005), the maximum number of tokens collected from corpora was set to 300, but in Shibuya (2006) I studied all the instances found on the Dependency Index (the average total number of instances of the adjectives studied is 3,153). 2  Details of the study are beyond the scope of this paper, but I would just like to mention that the results provide a positive support for the frequency hypothesis, the cognitive and behavioral constraints proposed in Shibuya and Nozawa (2003), and also the other constraints as suggested above. 3. Conclusion In this paper, I discussed semantic extension of English adjectives. The main points I have argued here are that semantic extension of an English adjective is motivated by semantic, cognitive/behavioral, discourse-functional, and constructional constraints. The new meaning that occurred, motivated by these constraints, becomes taken into the lexical property of the adjective, after having become entrenched through the increase in frequency. The metonymic senses that are found in predication are those that have  become entrenched as part of the lexical property. Semantic extension does not occur independently of the language user’s subjective interpretive efforts, and it seems to be the case that some sort of “pragmatic inference” (e.g. reanalysis) is involved in the process of semantic extension of an adjective. 1  A lot of important discussions had to be omitted from the present article due to page number restrictions. Those interested in more details should refer to the works given in the references. 2 http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~lindek/demos/depindex.htm    References Shibuya, Y. 2005. Concepts and Constructions: An Ecological Approach to Adjectives . Doctoral dissertation, University of Manchester. Shibuya, Y. 2006. “A Constructional Approach to Synaesthesia.” Paper presented at the 4th International Conference on Construction Grammar. Shibuya, Y. and H. Nozawa. 2003. “Constraints on Synaesthesia.”  Proceedings of the 29th annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society  (  BLS   29), 403-414. Shibuya, Y., H. Nozawa and T. Kanamaru. In press. “Understanding Synaesthetic Expressions.” In P. Holz and M. Plümacher eds. Speaking of Colors and Odors , Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
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