Polysemy In The Semantic Field Of Movement In The English Language Essay


One of the long-established misconceptions about the vocabulary is that it is neatly and stiffly divided into semantically related sets of words. In contrast, we claim that word significances do non hold clear boundaries.1 In this paper we will give cogent evidence of the indistinctness of intending through an analysis of the semantic field of MOVEMENT in the English linguistic communication. We will demo that many MOVEMENT verbs belong non merely to several subdomains within the field of MOVEMENT, but besides to assorted semantic spheres through metaphorical extension.

Before covering with the two-base hit or even ternary rank of MOVEMENT verbs, allow us first present the theoretical account on which our description of the vocabulary is based, the Functional-Lexematic Model ( Mart & # 237 ; n Mingorance, 1984, 1985a, B ; 1987a, B, degree Celsius ; 1990a, B ) .

1. The Functional-Lexematic Model

The FLM integrates Coseriu & # 8217 ; s Lexematics ( 1977 ) , Dik & # 8217 ; s Functional Grammar ( 1997a ) and some cardinal rules of cognitive linguistics. Following Faber and Mairal ( 1998: 4-5 ) , the two chief aims of this theoretical account are, on the one manus, the building of the lingual architecture of the vocabulary of a linguistic communication, and on the other manus, the representation of cognition based on the lingual cryptography of dictionary entries.

The FLM establishes three axes of analysis: the paradigmatic, syntagmatic and cognitive axes. The amplification of the paradigmatic axis entails the structuring of the vocabulary in semantic spheres & # 8212 ; each matching to a basic country of meaning,2 and the organisation of lexical spheres into hierarchically constructed subdomains elaborated on the footing of shared significance constituents A subdomain is & # 8220 ; a subdivision of semantic infinite derived from the factorization of the intending definition of its members & # 8221 ; 3 ( Faber and Mairal 1998: 6 ) . Word definitions are built harmonizing to Dik & # 8217 ; s method of Stepwise Lexical Decomposition. This means that the definition construction of each lexeme consists of the atomic word & # 8212 ; the archilexeme & # 8212 ; and a series of semantic characteristics which mark its distance from the predating members of the subdomain.

Following Faber and Mairal ( 1999 ) , the sphere of MOVEMENT is organised into four subdomains. The first subdomain describes generic motion, while the other subdomains subsume lexemes which denote motion in a figure of contexts: liquid, atmosphere and land. Cuting across this major constellation of the sphere, the parametric quantities of mode and way introduce farther divisions within each subdomain.4 For case, these parametric quantities traverse the undermentioned subdomains within the subdomain lexicalising generic motion:

1. Direction:

To travel towards a place/person/thing

To travel back

To travel up

To travel down

2. Manner:

To travel rapidly

To travel easy

To travel swimmingly

To travel in a round mode

As an illustration of a subdomain structured paradigmatically, we have selected the subdomain To travel down:

autumn: to travel down from a high position/the sky/a tree.

dip: to fall all of a sudden a long manner from a high place.

plumb bob: to fall really rapidly from a high place.

come down: to fall ( rain/snow ) to a great extent.

descend: to travel down a slope/stairs ( fml ) .

The verbs indented to the right ( dip, plumb bob, come down ) are defined in footings of the verb immediate above them ( autumn ) , which therefore becomes their definiens. They are fundamentally differentiated from one another in footings of mode. The other archilexeme of this subdomain is descend.

The building of the syntagmatic axis implies the analysis of the complementation forms of each lexeme utilizing predicate frames as incorporate expression.

The undermentioned types of information are captured in predicate frames:

( I ) the signifier of the predicate

( two ) the syntactic class to which it belongs

( three ) its quantitative valency, i.e. the figure of statements that the predicate requires

( four ) its qualitative valency, i.e. the semantic maps of the statements and the pertinent choice limitations

( V ) the significance definition

Predicate frames describe a province of personal businesss and stipulate the relationship between the predicate statements ( represented by the variable ten ) . Each statement is characterized by a choice limitation & # 8212 ; described in footings of binary semantic characteristics & # 8212 ; and fulfills a semantic map ( Agent, Experiencer, Goal, Recipient, etc. ) .

See the predicate frame of the verb bow:

[ ( x1: prototyp. homo ) Ag ( x2: prototyp. portion of the organic structure ) Go ] Action

DEF = to flex your caput and upper organic structure as a salutation or as a mark of regard.

This frame describes an Action and specifies the relationship between a human statement, executing the map of Agent, and an statement carry throughing the map of Goal and semantically marked as portion of the organic structure ( caput ) .

The amplification of the cognitive axis entails the preparation of the predicate conceptual scheme, which are cognitive concepts encoding semantic, syntactic and matter-of-fact information and stand foring our cognition about the lexical unit in inquiry. Conceptual scheme are codified at three degrees: lexeme, subdomain and sphere.

2. Polysemy of MOVEMENT verbs

Many MOVEMENT verbs autumn within several subdomains. This double/multiple rank may be accounted for on the undermentioned evidences:

a ) The significance constituent focalised

B ) The genus of the lexeme

degree Celsius ) The metaphorical extension of the verb

Let us analyze each of these factors.

2.1. Focalization of a significance constituent

We have used Dik & # 8217 ; s ( 1997a ) matter-of-fact maps of Focus and Topic to account for some cases of lexical ambiguity in the semantic field of MOVEMENT. These maps specify the information position of the components of the predicate within the communicative scene in which they occur, and they are assigned to the components after the assignment of semantic and syntactic maps. The Topic is the entity about which the postulation predicates something in the scene in inquiry, whereas the Focus refers to the most relevant information in the scene:

( 1 ) As for Mary ( Focus ) , I don & # 8217 ; t attention for her ( Topic ) .

The application of such maps to the paradigmatic description of the vocabulary is based on the organisation of the vocabulary at three degrees: sphere, subdomain and lexeme. In consonant rhyme with this thought, we may explicate assorted degrees of focalisation:

Degree of focalisation 1: Sphere

Degree of focalisation 2: Subdomain

Degrees of focalisation 3, 4, … : Lexeme

A sphere stands for the degree of focalisation figure 1. It performs the map of Focus in that it represents one of the basic countries of significance.

A subdomain represents the degree of focalisation figure 2 in that it focuses on an country of intending within a sphere.

The undermentioned degrees of focalisation are formulated at lexeme-level. This means that the lexemes of a subdomain represent different degrees of focalisation based on the significance hierarchies within the subdomain.

What is most relevant is that what is Focus on a degree becomes Topic on the degree below. Then a sphere, which performs the map of Focus on the degree of focalisation figure 1, becomes subject at subdomain-level in that it presents the given information, since all the subdomains of MOVEMENT lexicalise the construct of motion. Therefore, the archilexeme of the lexical field, move, which performs the map of Focus at domain-level in that it codifies the atomic significance of the sphere, becomes Topic at subdomain-level, since it is the definiens of the archilexeme of each subdomain.

Similarly, a subdomain, which acts as Focus on the degree of focalisation figure 2, becomes Topic at lexeme-level, since all the lexemes in the subdomain portion the atomic information formalised by the subdomain. Then, as we move down in the semantic hierarchy which characterizes the internal construction of each subdomain, what is Focus in the significance definition of the archilexeme ( degree of focalisation figure 3 ) becomes Topic in the significance definition of its subordinate ( degree of focalisation figure 4 ) . For illustration, if we take the subdomain analysed supra, To travel down, the definiens & # 8220 ; to travel down & # 8221 ; acts as Focus in the definition of autumn ( the archilexeme ) , and as Topic in the definition of dip, plumb bob and come down, the map of Focus being performed by the semantic parametric quantities of mode and topographic point in that they individuate the members of the subdomain.

Let us now consider the maps of Topic and Focus in the instance of lexemes belonging to several subdomains. Here the map of Focus applies to a peculiar significance constituent, which therefore becomes particularly relevant. The verbs ace and rapid climb involve speedy motion, therefore belonging to the subdomain To travel rapidly. But they can besides denote motion through the air:

( 2 ) The slugs whizzed yesteryear.

Then, these verbs belong to the subdomain To travel rapidly or To travel through the air depending on which parametric quantity is highlighted, whether mode or medium.

Similarly, the verbs circle and commotion refer to round motion in the air. If the mode constituent is focalized, so the verbs autumn in the subdomain To travel in a round mode. If the focal point is on the medium, so the verbs belong to the subdomain To travel through the air.

The tabular array below shows the dual rank of these verbs.






rapid climb




To travel rapidly

To travel in a round mode

To travel ( an engine/device ) really rapidly with a loud whistle noise

To travel ( a vehicle/an aircraft ) really rapidly with a loud buzzing/humming noise

To travel in a round mode in the air

To turn unit of ammunition in the air really rapidly


rapid climb




To travel through the air

To travel really rapidly through the air with a loud whistle noise

To travel really rapidly through the air with a loud noise

To wing about in circles

To travel really rapidly in a round mode through the air

2.2. Genus of the lexeme

Many verbs describe generic motion. Verb rank is so determined by the semantic parametric quantity of medium or way, or by the parametric quantity stipulating the nature of the subject/object.

The tabular array below presents the verbs whose rank is influenced by the medium parametric quantity.








To travel through the air

To travel rapidly utilizing one & # 8217 ; s pess

To wing all of a sudden and rapidly ( insects )

To run all of a sudden




To travel down through air

To travel down through air

To travel downwards

To travel down through air rapidly and steeply

To travel down through air all of a sudden a long manner

To fall all of a sudden a long manner from a high place




To travel in/down below the surface of a liquid

To do sb/sth to travel in/down below the surface of a liquid

To travel head-first down into H2O

To do somatotropin to travel down into H2O rapidly and violently






To travel down through air

To travel in/down below the surface of a liquid

To travel down through air

To travel down below the surface of a liquid/ soft substance





To travel over liquid

To travel through the air

To travel swimmingly

To travel ( boat ) softly and swimmingly across H2O

To wing softly

To travel softly and swimmingly in an effortless manner

The verb dart describes sudden motion in air and on land:

( 3 ) He darted across the room.

( 4 ) Bees were fliting from one flower to another.

The verbs honkytonk, dip and drop designate downward motion in air and H2O:

( 5 ) She plunged into the swimming-pool.

( 6 ) The falcon plunged towards its quarry.

Sink, as the general term, denotes motion in a wider assortment of contexts:

( 7 ) Helen sank into water/mud/an armchair.

However, we postulate that the verbs dart, honkytonk and drop prototypically describe motion in a given medium: dart is prototypically associated with air, and honkytonk and sink with H2O. Our claim is supported by the fact that the medium parametric quantity need non be syntactically present:

( 8 ) She dived from the span and rescued the drowning kid.

( 9 ) The aircraft-carrier, hit by a gunman, sank at one time.

Further, as we will demo below, sink has a metaphorical projection onto FEELING, which codifies the metaphor Emotion = Liquid ( Goatly 1997 ) :

( 10 ) When he crashed, his bosom sank at the idea that he might decease.

Finally, glide refers to quiet/smooth motion in a broad scope of contexts ( H2O, air, land ) :

( 11 ) The patrol car glided across the sea.

( 12 ) An bird of Minerva glided over the Fieldss.

( 13 ) The serpent glided towards its quarry.

As mentioned above, the sphere of MOVEMENT is marked by the semantic parametric quantity of way, which can find verb rank. The lexemes leap, vault, spring, hop and spring are subsumed under assorted subdomains depending on whether they denote frontward or upward/downward motion over an obstruction:











To travel forwards quickly/suddenly

To travel forwards rapidly utilizing your legs

To leap onto somatotropin with your custodies on it

To leap energetically a long distance

To leap on one pes ( antimony ) /with both pess ( birds/small animate beings )

To leap all of a sudden




Over somatotropin

To travel across/over/


To travel over sth rapidly utilizing your legs

To leap over sth with your custodies on it

To leap over somatotropin energetically





To travel up/down utilizing one & # 8217 ; s pess

To travel up/down rapidly utilizing one & # 8217 ; s pess

To leap all of a sudden

To leap on one leg

( 14 ) Robert jumped one metre/over the fence/out of the shadow.

( 15 ) Carol sprang at him/to her pess.

Finally, as shown below, verb rank can besides be determined by the parametric quantity depicting the nature of the topic or object.











To travel from side to side/back and forth/up and down repeatedly

To travel rapidly from side to side/ up and down

To agitate un-controllably/ somewhat

To agitate somewhat

Part of the organic structure




To travel one & # 8217 ; s organic structure

To travel one & # 8217 ; s organic structure rapidly from side to side/up and toss off

To agitate un-controllably/slightly

To agitate somewhat





To travel towards a topographic point

To travel over liquid

To go to a topographic point by ship

To travel ( boat ) over the sea




To travel upwards

To travel downwards

To travel upwards through air

To travel down from a high position/the sky/a tree




plumb bob

vitamin D & gt ;

To travel in/downwards below the surface of a liquid

To travel downwards through air

To travel ( vehicle ) below the surface of H2O

To travel down through air really rapidly





plumb bob

To travel one & # 8217 ; s organic structure by raising it

To travel to the land

To stand up ( fml )

To travel to the land from force of weight / loss of balance

To fall all of a sudden a long manner from a high place

To fall really rapidly from a high place







To travel from side to side/back and forth/up and down repeatedly

To do stb/sth to travel up

To travel in a different way

To travel on a regular basis from side to side/back and forth

To do sb/sth to travel up

To raise somatotropin

To turn in a curve/angle

Part of the organic structure





To travel a portion of one & # 8217 ; s organic structure

To travel on a regular basis from side to side/back and forth

To travel a portion of one & # 8217 ; s organic structure upwards ( clairvoyance. head/arm/leg/foot )

To travel a portion of one & # 8217 ; s organic structure upwards

To travel a portion of one & # 8217 ; s organic structure downwards

The verbs shake, tremble and frisson may be found with a capable statement semantically characterized as human or as concrete. But they can besides take an object denoting a portion of the organic structure via the metaphor Body portion = Human ( Goatly 1997 ) :

( 16 ) Mark was so nervous that his articulatio genuss were agitating.

Sail typically occurs with a topic semantically characterized as boat. Its usage with a human agent consequences from a metonymical procedure ( content for receptacle ) :

( 17 ) They sailed the Mediterranean.

Rise designates upward motion of both human and concrete entities, but the archetypal statement is human, as shown in the restricted usage of rise with human topics when it describes body motion:

( 18 ) She rose to recognize me.

Fall, dip and plumb bob, which denote downward motion, may besides happen with human and concrete entities:

( 19 ) He fell off the Equus caballus.

( 20 ) The vase fell from her manus.

Last, the verbs swing, lift, rise and flex take an object semantically marked as object or portion of the organic structure:

( 21 ) She lifted her caput when I came in.

( 22 ) The bag is excessively heavy for him to raise.

2.3. Metaphorical extension of the lexemes

The verbs weirdo and flight autumn within assorted subdomains because of their metaphorical extension.





To travel in a peculiar manner

To travel softly and easy in order to acquire to a topographic point without being noticed

To travel easy

To travel ( light/shadow/mist ) really easy, so that you barely notice it ( lit. )


To travel off/away from a place/thing/person

To go forth a topographic point after making sth illegal

To travel out of a topographic point

To travel ( gas/liquid ) out of an object/a container

Creep typically describes a individual & # 8217 ; s decelerate motion towards a topographic point and therefore falls chiefly within the subdomain To travel in a peculiar manner, which refers to motion on land. Yet it besides belongs to the subdomain To travel easy through a procedure of personification ( Object/Substance=Human ) , whereby a concrete entity semantically marked as & # 8220 ; light/ shadow/ mist & # 8221 ; is seen as a human entity. The significance constituents speed & # 8212 ; & # 8220 ; easy & # 8221 ; & # 8212 ; and secrecy & # 8212 ; & # 8220 ; without/hardly being noticed & # 8221 ; & # 8212 ; are basic to the definition of both verbs.

On the other manus, flight falls in the subdomains To travel off/away from a place/ thing/ individual and To travel out of a topographic point. This dual rank obtains from the metaphorization of liquid as a human entity:

( 23 ) Gas is get awaying from this hole.

3. Interfield rank of MOVEMENT verbs

We have so far analysed the intrafield rank of a set of MOVEMENT verbs, i.e. their grouping under several subdomains within the semantic sphere of MOVEMENT. We will now concentrate on the verbs & # 8217 ; interfield rank, i.e. their projection onto other semantic Fieldss.

The dealingss of a semantic sphere with others codify metaphorical procedures, therefore demoing that lexical construction is governed by conceptual structure. , or, in Sweetser & # 8217 ; s words ( 1990:25 ) , & # 8220 ; much of significance is grounded in talkers & # 8217 ; apprehension of the universe & # 8221 ; . Indeed, each linguistic communication is tantamount to a peculiar conceptual system by agencies of which we interpret our environment, and this conceptual organisation is reflected in the vocabulary. This means that metaphor is non merely a cognitive but besides a lingual phenomenon. Metaphorical procedures are encoded in the vocabulary and must therefore be integrated in a lexical theoretical account.

Therefore, the codification of metaphorical procedures in the vocabulary non merely tells us a great trade about how we understand and construct world but besides reflects the internal organisation of the vocabulary.

Below we sketch the metaphors codified in the sphere of MOVEMENT, which set up connexions with the semantic Fieldss of COGNITION, SPEECH, CHANGE, FEELING and ACTION.

MET. Procedure



LEX. Expression




Idea = Object

swing, revolve, material

cram, jostle


Wordss = Object

rise, bead, base on balls


Ideas/Words = Cloth

spin, weave



Activity = Topographic point

haste, leave, quit wantonness



Health = Up

autumn, sink


Pitch = Up

rise, rise, sink, lower bead


More = Up

leap, rise, rise, autumn sink, dip, plummet come down, lower bead, sink


Importance/Status = Up

rise, ascent, come down


Happy = Up

autumn, sink, lift


Activity/Process = Movement forward

push, goad



Emotion = Sense look

shingle, tremble, shiver frisson, frisson


Idea = Human

faux pas, flight


Body portion = Human

autumn, sink


Following Goatly ( 1997 ) , the metaphorization of abstract entities can obtain through a procedure of hypostatization or personification. Reifying metaphors fall into three classs:

( I ) Concretizing metaphors, which codify the representation of abstract entities as objects or cloth/clothes ( first row ) .

( two ) Orientational metaphors, i.e. equations linked to the impression of place/space ( 2nd row ) .

( three ) Metaphors related to the impression of orientation. Abstract constructs such as wellness, pitch, felicity, sum and rank are seen as entities on a perpendicular axis ( up/down ) 5.

The last set of equations codify the personification of abstract entities.

Note that some verbs codify several metaphors, e.g. rise, autumn, sink, lower. In this respect, we may confirm that the intrafield rank correlatives with the interfield dual rank.

Motion and alteration

The projection of MOVEMENT onto CHANGE touches upon verbs denoting an addition or lessening in sum or grade, therefore associating MOVEMENT to CHANGE, since the semantic parametric quantities of sum and degree crossbeam the sphere of CHANGE. The connexion between both semantic Fieldss obtains from a set of orientational metaphors ( californium. above ) :

( 24 ) He has risen to the place of director.

( 25 ) Share monetary values have plunged.

Motion and feeling

MOVEMENT verbs besides extend to FEELING. This extension consequences from the codification of several metaphorical procedures:

– the metaphorical representation of a feeling ( felicity ) on an up/down graduated table:

( 26 ) Whenever I feel down, Martha lifts my liquors.

( 27 ) Peter & # 8217 ; s face fell when I broke the intelligence to him.

– the personification of organic structure parts. This metaphor interacts with the old one ( californium. illustration above ) .

– the metaphorical structuring of emotions as sense looks. The verbs shingle, tremble, shiver, shudder and quake describe organic structure motion as look of an internal emotional province ( anxiousness, fright, disgust ) . This metaphorical procedure can be explained by the fact that emotions have matching physical effects on the experiencer, and these effects have come to stand for the emotion that caused them:

( 28 ) He trembled like a foliage at the sight of the tiger.

Motion and knowledge

The metaphorical projection of MOVEMENT into COGNITION consequences from a procedure of hypostatization or personification of abstract entities. On the one manus, thoughts can be metaphorized as objects traveling in/into ( go around, perforate ) or out of person & # 8217 ; s head ( faux pas, flight ) :6

( 29 ) The importance of her determination did non perforate at first.

( 30 ) His family name has slipped my head.

( 31 ) There is a major point which seems to hold escaped you.

To utilize Halliday & # 8217 ; s nomenclature ( 1994:117 ) , the last illustrations are cases of the please-type metaphorical structuring of mental procedures. Mental procedures can be represented either as like-types or please-types. This means that I like X is tantamount to X supplications me. Then, It has slipped my mind/It has escaped me has the same significance as I have forgotten it.

Ideas can besides be seen as objects which are pushed into person & # 8217 ; s head:

( 32 ) He stuffed my caput full of unusual thoughts.

Following Reddy ( 1993 ) , the verbs material, cram and jostle lexicalise an facet of the conduit metaphor, which explains the conceptualisation of communicating as the transportation of ideas bodily from one individual to another.


The verbs rise, bead, base on balls, spin and weave show the extension of MOVEMENT to SPEECH. Ideas can be communicated like objects being moved: rise ( a topic, an expostulation ) , drop7 ( a intimation, comment ) , base on balls ( a sentence, comment ) :

( 33 ) You shouldn & # 8217 ; t bead intimations about publicity to your foreman.

Wordss can besides be metaphorically seen as strands of yarn that the talker puts together to bring forth a consistent message:

( 34 ) The old sea captain sat by the fire spinning oscitances.

Motion and action

The connexion of MOVEMENT with ACTION is established though the metaphorization of activities as topographic points. Activities can be described as if they were additive gesture. It is so possible to travel into ( haste ) or off from an activity ( leave, quit, wantonness ) :

( 35 ) They abandoned the game because of the rain.

On the other manus, doing an activity is doing motion forward:

( 36 ) She pushed me into taking the occupation.


The semantic analysis of the field of MOVEMENT has shown that words are embedded in a set of rich semantic dealingss. The focalisation of a significance constituent and the genus of the lexeme history for the extension of a few MOVEMENT verbs to other subdomains within the sphere ( intrafield extensions ) . On the other manus, the metaphorical procedures encoded in the semantic sphere of MOVEMENT history for the projection of many verbs onto other semantic Fieldss ( interfield extensions ) , therefore giving cogent evidence of the lingual significance of metaphor.a


1 This premise is found in some semantic theories ( i.e. paradigm semantics ) .

2 By working upwards from the definitional construction of primary lexemes, Faber and Mairal ( 1997 ) have identified eleven semantic spheres matching to basic conceptual classs: EXISTENCE, MOVEMENT, POSITION, CHANGE, PERCEPTION, FEELING, COGNITION, POSSESSION, SPEECH, SOUND, and GENERAL ACTION.

3 The construct of subdomain is based on Geckeler & # 180 ; s ( 1971 ) construct of lexical dimension.

4 See appendix for the constellation of the paradigmatic axis of the semantic sphere of MOVEMENT.

5 Lakoff and Johnson & # 8217 ; s Experiential Hypothesis ( 1980: 267-268 ) postulates that most abstract constructs arise from our preconceptual bodily experiences as babies & # 8212 ; like the experience of up and down & # 8212 ; by metaphorical projection.

6 Note the conceptualisation of the head as a topographic point. As Romelhart ( 1993:89 ) points out: & # 8220 ; We use a spacial universe to speak about the head & # 8221 ; .

7 This verb codifies the conduit metaphor ( californium. above ) .

8 The verbs in brackets are an illustration of the type of verbs falling in each subdomain.

& # 1057 ; & # 1087 ; & # 1080 ; & # 1089 ; & # 1086 ; & # 1082 ; & # 1083 ; & # 1080 ; & # 1090 ; & # 1077 ; & # 1088 ; & # 1072 ; & # 1090 ; & # 1091 ; & # 1088 ; & # 1099 ;

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