A Cognitive Linguistics Approach to Explaining the Polysemy of ‘alā and fī in Modern Standard Arabic
‘Alā ‘on’ and fī ‘in’ are two of the most polysemous Arabic prepositions. Previous accounts have varied in the range of meanings attributed to ‘alā and fī. In addition, many have viewed prepositions, including ‘alā and fī, as having minimal meaning beyond their linking function. Others explained their polysemy as being completely context-dependent. Moreover, the many meanings of ‘alā and fī have often been represented as seemingly unrelated. Hence, their polysemy has been presented as externally-given and arbitrary. With the aim of addressing these gaps, this dissertation followed a Cognitive Linguistics (CL) approach to discover the semantics of ‘alā and fī through the analysis of a large corpus.Under CL, the Principled Polysemy Model (PPM) was used to analyze many English prepositions, explaining their polysemy as the product of cognitive conceptualizations that are rooted in embodied experience. According to the PPM, prepositions signify spatial relations between two entities, a focus element (Trajector) and a backgrounding element (Landmark). Also, each spatial configuration involves a functional element, i.e., the salient consequence of that configuration. Polysemy arises as a result of the consequences that become associated with a primary scene and its functional element.Taking a CL approach, the current study analyzed the semantics of ‘alā and fī as a cognitively motivated phenomenon. The analysis pursued two primary goals. The first goal was to precisely describe the two prepositions, distinguishing them from prepositions with similar spatial designations. The second goal was to offer a systematic, constrained account of the polysemy of the two prepositions. The analyses revealed that the functional elements of ‘alā and fī, support and containment respectively, played a ubiquitous role in both (1) defining the preposition in relation to other spatial descriptors and (2) explaining the semantic range of meanings that the prepositions expressed. Moreover, the analyses revealed that ‘alā and fī exhibited a case of inter-lexical polysemy, by which the two prepositions are each associated with a state sense; however, the two types of states differed in significant ways that are traceable to salient conceptualizations of support and containment scenes.
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Kang, Yunkyoung (Georgetown University, 2012)All languages have some ways to talk about the spatial relationship between two entities: a trajector (TR) and a landmark (LM) (Langacker 1987). Every language uses some combination of linguistic mechanisms (prepositions, ...