Metaphor, Metonymy and the Extension of the Meanings of Polysemous Words

Jingkun ZHAO


As an important and pervasive semantic phenomenon across languages, polysemy has attracted much attention of linguists. In the structuralist approach, the research of the relationship of different senses of a polysemous word is confined to the internal structure of language without considering its underlying cognitive mechanism. Thus it fails to reveal the essence of the phenomenon, and cannot give a satisfactory explanation. Cognitive linguistics provides a more convincing and systematic analysis of polysemy. This paper studied meaning extension by means of cognitive linguistic theories and presented the patterns of lexical meaning evolution. It is found that in the process of category enlargement, new members are derived or split from already existing members mainly through metonymy and metaphor, which are two powerful cognitive tools for extension of word meanings. Cognition is a driving force of polysemy, which is the result of the collaboration of metaphor and metonymy. That is, the derivative meanings of a polysemous word are extended from the source meaning through metonymy and metaphor within a category.



Polysemy; Cognitive mechanism; Metaphor; Metonymy

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