Polysemy Posture in English: A Case Study of Non-literal Meaning

Katherine Fraser


It has been observed that cross-linguistically the core posture verbs ‘sit’/‘stand/‘lie’ can extend their meaning beyond the literal sense encoding posture or spatial orientation (see Newman 2002 for an overview). In the cognitive literature, the conceptual background of these extensions has been discussed, but up to now, there has been no discussion of the non-literal senses in the theoretical linguistic literature, including how the different senses are disambiguated. This paper supplements the cognitive descriptions of posture verbs, presenting data from an independent corpus study and proposing a formal analysis. The in-depth investigation of one English posture verb, ‘sit’, yields an empirical generalization that contributes to the discussion surrounding non-literal meaning.

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