• The representation of foot/leg polysemy in the mind — Insights from Vietnamese body part extensions with chân

    Annika Tjuka (see profile)
    Linguistics, Semantics, Typology (Linguistics), Perception
    Item Type:
    Book section
    Linguistic typology, Representation
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    A single word often incorporates multiple meanings. If the meanings are related, this phenomenon is called polysemy. In Vietnamese, the word chân has the meanings ‘foot’ and ‘leg.’ The polysemy of foot/leg appears in a variety of languages. Thus, the question arises of how a polysemous word like chân is represented in the mind. Theoretical models assume either a single entry or multiple entries in the mental lexicon. The aim of the present study is to shed light on the question by examining the extensions of the body part terms ‘leg’ and ‘foot’ across languages and the word chân ‘foot/leg’ to object parts in Vietnamese. The results show that the underlying features for the extensions correspond to similarities between a certain body part and an object. Vietnamese speakers use the similarity dimensions function and spatial alignment to extend the word chân to objects. Therefore, the meanings of chân seem to be connected to the perceptual and sensorimotor features of two body parts: foot and leg. The study indicates that the representation of meanings in the mental lexicon needs to be considered as a network with varying strength/closeness between meanings and connections on the basis of perceptual and sensorimotor features.
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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