ELTE BTK Magyar Nyelvtudományi és Finnugor Intézet

Jürine, Anni (Tartu)

nyomtatható változat

Vagueness and polysemy of some Estonian adpositional phrases

For the past few decades there has been a growing interest in semantics of function words, such as adpositions. The semantical issues of those half-lexical and half-grammatical items have also been investigated in Estonian (e.g. Veismann 2009). However, the research has tended to focus on the semantics of adpositions alone, not taking into account their phrasal meaning. This study takes as a starting point the adpositional phrase as a holistic unit and sets to investigate it as a potentially polysemous item.
According to Construction Grammar every form-meaning pairing is a construction (Goldberg 1995). Estonian adpositional phrases are often figurative in meaning (Example 1b) and could therefore be described as such. A further reason for considering adpositional phrases as separate units of the mental lexicon is the suggestion that some of those phrases are lexicalizing, i.e. processed as holistic items (Lehmann 2002). Proof of the matter is provided by several studies (e.g. Habicht, Penjam 2007, Jürine 2009) which have reported a far-spread tendency to incorrectly write Estonian adpositional phrases as one word, especially those with metaphorical meaning (Jürine, submitted). There is evidence that the context is of importance when describing the meaning of an adpositional phrase. In many cases the different sense is induced by the construction in which the adpositional phrase occurs (Example 1).
1.    (a)    Meie-ᴓ        jalg-e         alla    jää-v        sild    õõtsu-s       
        pl1-gen        foot-pl.gen    under     stay-ptcp    bridge    shake-pst.sg3   
’The bridge underneath our feet was shaking’

(b)    Võt-si-me    reede-l        rännutee- ᴓ    jalg-e        alla
    take-pst-pl1    Friday-ade    journey-gen    foot-pl.gen    under       
 ‘We started our trip on Friday’
Nevertheless, neither the notion of polysemy nor figurativeness could be regarded as discrete categories (Tuggy 2006). In this paper meaning is rather seen as a continuum, with monosemy on one end, vague meaning in the middle, and polysemy on the other end. The results of an acceptability test with the aim to investigate meanings of adpositional phrases in different contexts in terms of vagueness and polysemy are presented. The language of the presentation is English.

Habicht, Külli, Penjam, Pille 2007. Kaassõna keeleuurija ja -kasutaja käsituses. [Adpositions as viewed by a linguist and by a language user] – Emakeele Seltsi aastaraamat 52 (2006). Tallinn: Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia Emakeele Selts, 51–68.
Jürine, Anni 2009. Kas *metsavahel tähendab muud kui metsa vahel? [Does *metsavahel mean something else than metsa vahel?] – Oma Keel, vol 1, pp. 38–43.
Goldberg, Adele E. 1995. Constructions: a Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Lehmann, Christian 2002. New Reflections on Grammaticalization and Lexicalization. New Reflections on Grammaticalization. Typological Studies in Language 49. Eds. Ilse Wischer, Gabriele Diewald. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 1–18.
Tuggy, David 2006. Ambiguity, polysemy, and vagueness. – Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings. Ed. Dirk Geeraerts. Berlin; New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Veismann, Ann 2009. Eesti keele kaas- ja määrsõnade semantika võimalusi. [Semantics of Estonian Adpositions and Adverbs] Dissertationes linguisticae universitatis Tartuensis 11. Tartu: Tartu ülikooli kirjastus.