Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Kognitive Sprachforschung

Links und Funktionen



Abstract Koch

The first step we will have to take is the one from ‘metonymy’ to ‘contiguity’ as its underlying, more general principle. Contiguity relations connect elements of a conceptual frame with each other as well as any one of these elements to the frame as a whole. In order to avoid any terminological “inflation” concerning the term ‘frame’, we have to set ‘contiguity’ against ‘similarity’ on the one hand and against taxonomic relations (like inclusion) on the other.

From this perspective metonymy is a frame-based (i.e. contiguity-based) figure-ground effect with respect to an invariant linguistic form. This can be regarded as the common core behind the undeniably great variety of formal, cognitive, referential and pragmatic realizations of metonymy. It is worthwhile to study the internal diversity of metonymies in order to apprehend the mechanisms of conceptual creativity involved (and to raise the question of creativity in general). We will first of all distinguish speaker-induced from hearer-induced metonymies. The latter are due to reanalysis and cannot be regarded as ‘creative’ in the same sense as the former (cf. E. Let’s hear the next witness! ‘testimony’ --> ‘person giving testimony’). Within the class of speaker-induced metonymies there is a fundamental difference between referent-oriented metonymies (e.g. the famous E. ham sandwich, without any relevance for the lexicon) and concept-oriented metonymies, which may be subdivided according to different criteria: lexical vs. grammatical (including very important types of grammaticalization, e.g. E. I am going to leave) vs. pragmatic (‘pragmaticalization’ like in E. well); different degrees of intensity (from mere imprecise conceptualization, e.g. Lat. coxa ‘hip’ --> Fr. cuisse ‘thigh’, up to expressivity and even dysphemism, e.g. Fr. bordel ‘brothel’ --> ‘mess’). Very important subtypes of metonymy should be discussed here, especially subjectification (in Langacker’s sense vs. in Traugott’s sense) and delocutive change.

As for the lexicon, metonymy not only concerns the lexeme part of words, but possibly also the elements and processes of word-formation (e.g. Lat. cavallinus ‘descending from the horse’ ‘little horse’).

The – rather simple – frame-based figure-ground effect that underlies metonymy seems to lend itself to a particularly wide range of pragmatic and referential uses. It is probably this extraordinary flexibility that can account for the well-known ubiquity and high frequency of metonymy in grammar, in the lexicon and in pragmatics.

But contiguity-based effects are not restricted to metonymy (according to the above definition). They run across the whole realm of the lexicon, encompassing even processes involving some morphological device: conversion (e.g. E. fish --> to fish); suffixation (e.g. Lat. testis ‘person giving testimony’ --> testimonium ‘testimony’ [--> E. testimony]), prefixation, composition, idioms, etc. The interesting phenomenon of popular etymology, at the cross-roads between semantic change and word-formation, is very often contiguity-based (e.g. E. umble pie --> humble pie).

The problem of entrenchment is relevant for all these kinds of contiguity-based effects. We have to distinguish: spontaneous innovation in discourse, adoption and diffusion within a given language variety or a given discourse tradition, lexicalization in the whole language (still synchronically motivated with respect to other elements of the system), and, possibly, fossilization (without any motivational relation to other elements).



Anscombre, J.-C. (1979): “Délocutivité benvenistienne, délocutivité généralisée et performativité”, in: Langue française 42, 69-84.

Barsalou, L.W. (1992): “Frames, concepts, and conceptual fields”, in: Lehrer, A./Kittay, E.F. (eds.), Frames, Fields, and Contrasts. New Essays in Semantic and Lexical Organization, Hillsdale (N.J.)/London, 21-74.

Blank, A. (1997): Prinzipien des lexikalischen Bedeutungswandels am Beispiel der romanischen Sprachen, Tübingen.

Blank, A. (2003): “Words and concepts in time: towards diachronic cognitive onomasiology”, in: Eckardt, R. et al. (édd.), Words in Time. Diachronic Semantics from Different Points of View. Berlin/New York, 37-65.

Brinton, L.J./Traugott, E.C. (2005): Lexicalization and Language Change, Cambridge etc..

Coseriu, E. (1958): Sincronía, diacronía e historia. El problema del cambio lingüístico, Montevideo.

Detges, U./Waltereit, R. (2002): “Grammaticalization vs. reanalysis: a semantic-pragmatic account of functional change in grammar”, in: Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 21, 151-195.

Dostie, G. (2004): Pragmaticalisation et marqueurs discursifs. Analyse sémantique et traitement lexicographique, Bruxelles.

Fillmore, Ch.J. (1985): “Frames and the semantics of understanding”, in: Quaderni di Semantica 6, 222-254.

Gévaudan, P. (2007): Typologie des lexikalischen Wandels. Bedeutungswandel, Wortbildung und Entlehnung am Beispiel der romanischen Sprachen, Tübingen.

Grzega, J. (2004): Bezeichnungswandel: Wie, Warum, Wozu? Ein Beitrag zur englischen und allgemeinen Onomasiologie, Heidelberg.

Koch, P. (1997): “Diskurstraditionen: zu ihrem sprachtheoretischen Status und ihrer Dynamik”, in: Frank, B. et al. (eds.), Gattungen mittelalterlicher Schriftlichkeit, Tübingen, 43-79.

Koch, P. (2001): “Metonymy: unity in diversity”, in: Journal of Historical Pragmatics 2, 201-244.

Koch, P. (2004): “Metonymy between pragmatics, reference and diachrony”. In: 07, 6-54. []

Lipka, L. (2002): English Lexicology. Lexical Structure, Word Semantics and Word-Formation, Tübingen.

Mosegaard Hansen, M.-B. (2008): Particles at the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface: Synchronic and Diachronic Issues. A Study with Special Reference to the French Phasal Adverbs, Amsterdam etc.

Panther, K.-U./Radden, G. (eds.)(1999): Metonymy in Language and Thought, Amster­dam/Philadelphia.

Panther, K.-U./Thornburg, L.L. (eds.)(2003): Metonymy and Pragmatic Inferencing, Amsterdam/Philadelphia.

Rainer, F. (2005): “Semantic Change in Word Formation”, in: Linguistics 43, 415-441.

Taylor, J.R. (21995): Linguistic Categorization. Prototypes in Linguistic Theory, Oxford.

Traugott, E.C./Dasher, R.B. (2002): Regularity in Semantic Change, Cambridge.

Ungerer, F./Schmid, H.-J. (22006): An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics, Lon­don/New York.

Waltereit, R. (2006): “The rise of discourse particles in Italian: A specific type of language change”, in: Fischer, K. (ed.), Approaches to Discourse Particles, Oxford, 61-76.

Winter-Froemel, E. (2008): “Towards a comprehensive view of language change: Three recent evolutionary approaches”“, in Detges, U./Waltereit, R. (eds.), The Paradox of Grammatical Change. Perspectives from Romance, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 215–250.