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Title: Disambiguating meaning : an examination of polysemous words within the framework of lexical priming
Author: Tsiamita, Fanie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 3688
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2011
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Hoey's theory of Lexical Priming (LP) attempts to provide a theoretical framework to explain the long-established phenomena of collocation (cf. Firth 1957; Sinclair 1991; Stubbs 1996), colligation (cf. Firth 1957; Sinclair 2004, Hunston 2001), and several kinds of semantic relationships (cf. Sinclair 1991, 2004; Hunston 2001; Louw 1993; Partington 2004). The framework generates a number of hypotheses which call for closer examination. One of them concerns the phenomenon of polysemy. According to LP, the collocations, semantic associations and colligations that a polysemous word is characteristically primed for will systematically differentiate its various senses (Hoey 2005: 81). The claim is further that the different senses avoid use of each other's collocations, colligations and semantic associations. The formulation of the claims of LP regarding polysemy was based on polysemous nouns with two or more abstract senses each (i.e. consequence, reason, immunity) on the one hand, and on the word dry looked at mainly in its use as an adjective, on the other. The present study aims to explore whether the claims of LP with respect to polysemy are equally applicable when other types of polysemous words are investigated. Research consisted in two case studies based on data drawn from a subcorpus of the British National Corpus (BNC) comprising fiction texts. The corpus consists of 432 texts amounting to some 15,000,000 words. The first case study concerned the two most frequent senses -both concrete- of the noun drive (viz. "journey" and "private road"). Findings from this case study confirm the claims of LP. The second case study focused on the senses of the polysemous verb face. Face was chosen for having senses that can be classified along the cline concrete - abstract. There were two main reasons behind this choice: the first was that it was deemed necessary to examine whether the formulation of the claims of LP with respect to polysemy may have somehow been affected by the grammatical category of the polysernous words examined so far; verb meaning relies considerably on a verb's participants and this might generate new insights -and possible challenges- regarding the claims of LP with respect to polysemy. The second reason related to the classifiability of a word's senses along the concrete-abstract cline, and to the question of in how far the claims of LP -as currently formulated- fully account for such cases of polysemy as well. The verb face has a concrete use and an abstract use, illustrated by I do not like coasts that face north and I had to face al/ my problems alone, respectively, and it has uses that appear to merge the two to varying degrees, as seen in the examples below: (1) of little consequence." He turned her to face him. "If I gave that impression then I ea (2) This was yet another of his children to face him in defiance in this very kitchen. Jon (3) not realise then that Rioja had stayed to face the killers. From the hut behind them the Given the claims of LP regarding polysemy, we would expect (i) that face will have primings that clearly distinguish not only between its concrete and abstract uses, but also (ii) that there will be primings that make a distinction among the sub-senses of the concrete, or "directional" use. While the analysis in part yielded results in support of LP claims, it also showed that collocation, colligation and semantic association are not always sufficient for the disambiguation of meaning. Indeed, the nature of the data, very often involving dialogue, called for an application of Burton's (1980) framework for the analysis of casual conversation. Evidence suggests that, beyond the phenomena of collocation, colligation and semantic association, categories from the analysis of casual conversation -specifically, Challenging Moves- can be instrumental in a systematic differentiation between the senses of polysemous words.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available