Colexification describes the relation between two meanings that are expressed with the same form in a given language. A colexification is established based on a linguistic analysis of word meanings in the same language. While the term is a cover term for different semantic relations (i.e., vagueness, polysemy, homophony), the discussion of particular types of colexifications often is connected to linguistic terminologies such as metaphor or metonymy. This is not only the case because there are prominent linguistic theories that argue for the pervasiveness of metaphor (and metonymy) in everyday life, but also because semantic relations are assumed to mirror conceptual relations. The linguistic analysis of metaphor and metonymy thus provides insights into the human mind. However, one needs to be careful to make claims about cognitive mechanisms solely based on linguistic evidence. Therefore, it is important to also consider frameworks from psychology such as analogical reasoning in order to explain the processes behind a linguistic phenomenon. In the following, I discuss ideas on metaphor and metonymy from linguistics that highlight the cognitive underpinnings of both notions, as well as a proposal for how analogical reasoning can explain their processing.
In recent years, studies exploring the phenomenon of colexification across languages have steadily increased in number. Colexification occurs if a word has multiple meanings, regardless of whether the meanings are related (dish ‘plate; meal’) or unrelated (bank ‘financial institution; part of a river’). The investigation of cross-linguistic colexifications yields many interesting findings that are important for different research fields. Psychologists and cognitive scientists are interested in the overarching principles that establish a connection between meanings and how speakers categorize the environment around them. Historical linguists are concerned with diachronic processes that lead to semantic shifts and what these can tell us about language evolution. Typologists engage in the study of language contact scenarios and how linguistic areas are formed. All these processes are entwined with one another and disentangling them is a challenge. This blog post is the first step into a deeper exploration of the origins of cross-linguistic colexifications and discusses the four processes underlying this phenomenon.
The blog post introduces ideas discussed in our project about taking a closer look at word formation from a semantic (or semasiological) point of view. Since this so far underinvestigated approach to word formation processes lacks proper terminology, a new term to denote the central research question of concept-based type-frequency is introduced and contrasted with related established terminology.