Volume 12, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1877-9751
  • E-ISSN: 1877-976X
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This paper considers lexical items such as shoe, whose meaning can be construed more broadly or narrowly (i.e., as either including or excluding boots), and examines how this type of “vertical” meaning variation relates to the distinction between ambiguity and vagueness. I argue that the broader and narrower readings of a single lexical form can be treated as polysemous senses to the extent that they exhibit some symptoms of autonomy as contextually construed sense units. However, as some vertical polysemes’ senses also exhibit symptoms of unity, they fall in between ambiguity and vagueness. As word senses are here defined as contextually construed units of meaning, their autonomy is considered independently from their conventionality. However, a corpus study of pairs of words with a dual inclusion/contrast relationship (including shoe/boot, cup/mug, dog/bitch, meat/chicken and dog/puppy) suggests that even senses that exhibit a low degree of autonomy may nevertheless be conventionalised.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): autohyponymy; conventionality; polysemy
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