Ex uno plures: A case for monosemy

Michael Wherrity


In this article I address the issue of word meaning: Do lexical items have many meanings or do they have one basic meaning which speakers exploit in various contexts to achieve their communicative goals? While most cognitivists assume the former, there are some others who opt for basic meanings. In what follows I propose that both analyses can be used to advantage if the semantic variation that exists among linguistic items is considered. In effect, I suggest that while semantically rich words do exhibit polysemy, more schematic, semantically sparse items are best explained in terms of basic meanings.


Monosemy; polysemy; lexical sign; grammatical sign; trajectory; landmark; basic meaning; message

Full Text: PDF