Reviewed by Heiko Narrog, Tohoku University
This work is a collection of seventeen papers on lexical semantics by Dirk Geeraerts, who is probably the leading lexical semanticist within the framework of cognitive linguistics. The papers, which were originally published between 1988 and 2003, cover a wide range of topics within the field of lexical semantics, starting with ’Prototypicality and salience’ (Section 1) and ‘Polysemy’ (Section 2), extending to ‘Constructions and idioms’ (Section 3), ‘Meaning and culture’ (Section 4), ‘Lexicography’ (Section 5), and, finally, ‘Theory and methods in lexical semantics’ (Section 6). In their approach these topics range from theoretical/conceptual considerations to case studies on the one hand, and to issues concerning the status of cognitive semantics in the history of linguistic semantics on the other.
Despite its programmatic commitment to the study of language use, cognitive linguistics may be first and foremost identified with an idealist approach that has relatively little regard for empirical language data and is more interested in theoretical modeling. This is a heritage that can be traced back to the theory’s roots in generative semantics, that is, ultimately in generative grammar, and its low regard for language use. In contrast, one of the characteristics of G’s approach is his strong empirically oriented position that has recently led him to the use of corpus data and statistical methods. Connected with this empiricism is G’s interest in social and cultural variation. Furthermore, G has been advocating the importance of an onomasiological approach in contrast to the semasiological approach, which has traditionally been at the center of lexical-semantics studies. Some onomasiological studies are included in this volume. Finally, concerning specifically his stance on polysemy, which is one of the central issues in cognitive semantics, G has espoused models of multidimensional meaning structure, in which parameters of each dimension are defined in terms of semantic features. This stands in contrast to the radial network model that dominates the field.
Many papers assembled here originally appeared in publications that are relatively widely available, but others may be less accessible to linguists, thus justifying their reissue in this volume. Furthermore, G has added introductory remarks that situate each paper within the development of G’s own research and of the field of lexical semantics in general. Although firmly committed to the framework of cognitive linguistics, the author presents himself as an independent and critical thinker. His articles will thus be welcome food for thought for semanticists regardless of theoretical persuasion.