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Title: Spatial prepositions and functional relations : the case for minimally specified lexical entries
Author: Coventry, K. R.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1993
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In this thesis we present a minimally specified approach to the lexical entries for spatial prepositions based on the recognition of the importance of functional relations. We begin by introducing the problem of separating our senses of a lexeme from occurrences of a lexeme, and with a consideration of methods of sense delineation, including ambiguity tests. We then consider classical approaches to the lexical entries of prepositions which favour minimal specification of lexical entries, and compare them to cognitive linguistic accounts which favour full specification of lexical entries. It is argued that classical accounts have problems with case accountability, while cognitive linguistic accounts are based on a misinterpretation of prototype theory. We demonstrate that the accounts are very similar in that they delineate senses in terms of different geometric relations in the world. Functional relations are introduced as an alternative way of understanding spatial relations. It is argued that what is important about objects is how they interact with each other, that is, the functional relations between objects. The work of Garrod and Sanford (1989) and Talmy (1988) is considered in this context, and is developed to deal more adequately with case accountability. A number of experimental studies are reported which demonstrate the existence of functional relations, and cast doubt on ambiguity tests as valid methods of sense delineation. It is proposed that a spatial preposition can be said to have two senses if a language user has a motivated reason for distinguishing between two types of relation. Evidence is provided for a distinction between spatial prepositions which involve functional components, and those that involve purely geometric components. First language acquisition evidence is reviewed which suggests that prepositions involving functional relations are learned first.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available