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.
As we have seen in previous instances of this blog post series, there are many parallels but also many differences between the evolutionary branches of biology and of linguistics. In the following, I will present a comparison of the causes due to which two related inheritable entities (e.g. two words or two genes of different languages or species) may differ from each other, or two unrelated ones resemble each other. The linguistic categories presented here can also be found in List (2016) whereas the biological categories are largely based on Koonin (2005).
As was mentioned in the introduction to this series of blogposts, both species and languages are often presented in a tree model. In biology, trees of each individual gene are created in order to account for horizontal transmission and other processes in which the history of a gene differs from the general history of its genome. From the sum of these trees, the species trees are then derived, a method called gene tree reconciliation (Nakhleh 2013). In linguistics on the other hand, phylogenetic trees normally are built on cognate sets of related words, from which the most likely tree of the languages is calculated. A closer equivalent however would be to describe the history of each individual word or word form, including regular sound change, irregular changes to its form, semantic changes, borrowings, and processes of word formation, and to derive the language tree based on the sum of the word histories (Gray, Greenhill, and Ross 2007, 15). Unlike its biological equivalent, this is normally done manually.