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Abstract Aubois

A corpus-based cognitive study of a polysemous verb: make

In many dictionaries the first entry for make is close to the meaning of produce. Sentences such as "She makes her own clothes" refer to the conceptual framework of direct manipulation. The linguist's intuition might thus lead him/her to the conclusion that the prototypical meaning of make might be close to a "workshop model" where something new is being brought to existence by the transformation of components, but closer examination of the occurrences of make in corpus data may lead to different conclusions.

The conceptual framework of the make-scenario – and thus the meaning of make – seems to be very different in make a bed, make tea, make money, make a suggestion, make someone angry or make someone do something. Change of state is also a recurrent feature in the make-scenario.

Corpus linguistics quantitative methods highlight the fact that make is much more often used in sentences in which the event structure encodes a scenario of mental manipulation rather than one of direct manipulation, even in corpora of texts dating from the fifteenth century. So the workshop model might not be the prototypical meaning of make. And yet why do dictionaries and commonsense regard the scenario of direct manipulation as central to construction of the meaning of make?

The result of the making, when it is an abstract entity (make a request) or an abstract situation (make it clear that or make oneself understood) might be the result of a mental process of reification: the result is conceptualized as a new entity (more or less concrete). The cognitive model at work is a model of mental manipulation that is metaphorically but closely related to the cognitive model of direct manipulation through a process of blending.



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