Polysemic senses of weight in Chilean Spanish

This paper presents an analysis of the polysemic senses of lexical items related to the conceptual domain of weight. This study is set within the framework of cognitive lexical semantics, where lexical items are assumed to constitute natural categories of related senses, which are organized in polysemic networks by cognitive principles such as metaphor, which motivate relations among the different senses (Taylor, Cuyckens and Dirven 2003). In this work, we assume that the inferential principles, properties and elements of the concrete experience domain (source domain), are projected upon other more abstract domains (target domains). Such projection makes metaphorical senses possible (Lakoff and Johnson 1980). Thus, in Spanish, apart from the senses in the physical dimension, the lexical items within the domain of weight have senses in other domains, for example, importance, unpleasantness and responsibilities. Polysemic lexical items are analysed taking into account their systematic relations with other elements which co-occur in certain syntactic patterns.

Following an approach based on use, we used the reference Corpus of current Spanish for Chile as presented by the Real Academia Española (CREA). The analysis undergoes the following stages: 1) description of the experiential motivation, e.g, image schemas that idealize experiences related to weight; 2) creation of an exhaustive list of corresponding lexical items; 3) search for data in the corpus of CREA; 4) organisation of polysemic senses in syntactic patterns; 5) description of conceptual metaphors.

This study shows that experiential motivation allows explaining the relationship between groups of senses. In this paper we refer to two of them: carrying an object and having weight. The schema has participants that are realised with certain syntactic functions within a construction. This enables to explain, on the one hand, the systematic relationships between senses corresponding to different lexical items. On the other hand, it allows explaining the polysemy of each item.

Keywords: weight, polysemy, conceptual metaphor, syntactic patterns, Chilean Spanish.


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