Volume 20, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1877-9751
  • E-ISSN: 1877-976X
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Despite the fact that semantic change studies have intensively argued that intensional readings develop from the literal reading as a whole, diachronic prototype semantics proposes that intensional readings arise from the extensional subsets of the literal reading. This study empirically explored this proposal by carrying out a corpus-based diachronic study. It is proved from the semantic change of Chinese that: (1) There exists a corresponding relationship between extensional usages and intensional readings of a lexical item. (2) Extension and intension both converge and diverge on semantic change. Their convergence lies in the fact that extensional usages give rise to intensional readings. Extensional usages, though nuanced, motivate the emergence and development of intensional readings. Their divergence is reflected in the independent development of extensional usages and intensional readings. The subsistence or dying out of extensional usages does not constrain the appearance or disappearance of intensional readings. (3) Semantic change involves three stages, namely the extensional stage, the intensional stage, and the grammaticalization stage. These three stages constitute an interweaving continuum in the process of semantic change.


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