Access Semantics

(aka The Theory of Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models: LCCM Theory)

Conceptual vs. Inter-lexical Polysemy: An LCCM Theory Account. Published in L. Pickering and V. Evans (eds.) 2018,  Language Learning, Discourse and Cognition. Studies in the tradition of Andrea Tyler. John Benjamins.

In this chapter, I consider two types of polysemy that haven't received wide attention in the cognitive linguistics literature. First, I argue that polysemy can also arise from the non-linguistic knowledge to which words facilitate access.  This phenomenon I refer to as conceptual polysemy.  I illustrate this with an analysis of the lexical item book.  Moreover, polysemy also arises from different word forms which, at least on first blush, appear to share a common semantic representation.  This phenomenon I refer to as inter-lexical polysemy.  I illustrate with a detailed case study involving an analysis of the prepositional forms in and on.  I draw on the Theory of Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models (LCCM Theory, Evans 2006, 2009, 2013), to account for these phenomena.


Published in Russian in Language and thought: Contemporary cognitive linguistics / Compiled by Ed. by A. A. Kibrik, A. D. Koshelev, A. V. Kravchenko, Ju. V. Mazurova, and O. V. Fedorova. — Moscow: Languages of Slavic Culture. (“Language and Reasoning” series). Volume contents here.

Russian title, and abstract:
Концептуальная и межсловная полисемия: анализ в терминах теории лексических концептов и когнитивных моделей (ЛККМ) В данной статье рассматриваются два типа полисемии, не получивших достаточного внимания в когнитивно-лингвистической традиции. В рамках этой традиции полисемия часто рассматривается как функция вокабул в семантической памяти: словам соответствуют отдельные, пусть и взаимосвязанные, лексические входы, и в результате в языковом употреблении возникает полисемия. Я полагаю, что полисемия может возникать на основе экстралингвистических знаний, доступ к которым обеспечивают слова. Это явление, именуемое в данной работе концептуальной полисемией, показано на примере лексической единицы book ‘книга’. Кроме того, полисемия может возникать на основе различных слов, имеющих сходное семантическое представление. Это явление межсловной полисемии демонстрируется на примере подробного разбора предложных форм in ‘в’ и on ‘на’. Анализ производится с опорой на теорию лексических концептов и когнитивных моделей (ЛККМ).

Design features for linguistically-mediated meaning construction: The relative roles of the linguistic and conceptual systems in subserving the ideational function of language. Published 2016 in Frontiers in Psychology.

Recent research in language and cognitive science proposes that the linguistic system evolved to provide an executive control system on the evolutionarily more ancient conceptual system (e.g., Barsalou et al. 2009; Bergen 2012; Evans 2009, In press a).  In short, the claim is that representations in the linguistic system interface with non-linguistic representations in the conceptual system, facilitating rich meanings, or ‘simulations, enabling linguistically-mediated communication.  In this paper I review empirical findings to support this contention, and outline arguments, based on linguistic analysis, to further elaborate the implications of such a perspective.  In particular, I make the case for two design-features, of language and the conceptual system that subserve linguistically-mediated meaning construction.    

A Unified Account of Polysemy within LCCM Theory. Published 2015, Lingua

Within the cognitive linguistics tradition, polysemy has often been viewed as a function of underlying entries in semantic memory: word forms have distinct, albeit related, lexical entries, which thereby give rise to polysemous word senses in language use (e.g., Evans 2004; Tyler and Evans 2001, 2003).  In this paper, I seek to broaden out the study of polysemy within this tradition by tackling it from three slightly different angles.  I argue that polysemy can also arise from the non-linguistic knowledge to which words facilitate access.  This phenomenon I refer to as conceptual polysemy.  I illustrate this with an analysis of the lexical item book.  Moreover, polysemy also arises from distinct, albeit related, conventionalised sense-units associated with the same linguistic form: the phenomenon I refer to as lexical polysemy. I illustrate with an analysis of the polysemy exhibited by the form in. And finally, semantic relatedness can be discerned as arising from different word forms which, at least on first blush, appear to share a common semantic representation.  This phenomenon I refer to as inter-lexical polysemy.  I illustrate with a case study involving an analysis of the prepositional forms in and on.  In presenting my account of these three types of polysemous phenomena, I introduce a contemporary account of lexical representation: the Theory of Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models, or LCCM Theory for short (Evans 2006, 2009, 2010b, 2013).  This provides a common theoretical architecture which facilitates a joined-up account of these specific phenomena, and of polysemy more generally.  Finally, the paper introduces a new construct within the theory—the notion of a meaning spectrum—which facilitates analysis of aspects of lexical and inter-lexical polysemy.

What's in a concept? Analog versus parametric concepts in LCCM Theory. Published 2015. The Conceptual Mind: New Directions in the Study of Concepts, pp. 251-290. Ed. by Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurence. MIT Press. 

Any account of language and the human mind has to grapple, ultimately, with the nature of concepts, the subject of this chapter.  In the words of cognitive scientist Jesse Prinz (2002: 1), concepts are “the basic timber of our mental lives.”  For without concepts that could be no thought, and language would have nothing to express.  What is less clear, however, is exactly how concepts are constituted, and the relationship between language and concepts.  These are the two issues I address in this chapter.  I address these issues by posing and attempting to answer the following question:  do linguistic units (e.g., words) have semantic content independently of the human conceptual system.  The answer to this question is, I will argue, a clear yes. 


Metaphor, lexical concepts and figurative meaning construction. Published 2013, Cognitive Semiotics

This paper addresses the status and significance of conceptual metaphor as an explanatory theoretical construct in giving rise to figurative language (e.g., Lakoff 2008; Lakoff and Johnson 1999), I argue that conceptual metaphor is but one component, albeit a significant one, in figurative meaning construction.  I contend that while conceptual metaphors inhere in the conceptual system, there is a class of metaphors—discourse metaphors—which emerge and evolve in and through language use, and inhere in the linguistic system.  Indeed, the semantic units associated with discourse metaphors, and other linguistic expressions I refer to as lexical concepts.  I also introduce LCCM Theory (Evans 2009, 2010), and suggest that lexical concepts provide access to non-linguistic knowledge representations, cognitive models, which can be structured in terms of conceptual metaphors. 

On the nature of lexical concepts. Published 2010 in Belgrade Journal of English Linguistics and Literature Studies (BELLS). 


This paper addresses the nature of lexical concepts, a theoretical construct in LCCM Theory (Evans 2006, 2009). It provides an overview of the main properties and characteristics of lexical concepts. It also provides a methodology for identifying and so distinguishing between lexical concepts. The latter is important when dealing with cases, such as polysemy, where a related form is paired with distinct lexical concepts.

Figurative language understanding in LCCM Theory. Published 2010. Cognitive Linguistics 21-4: 601-662. 

This paper presents a theoretical account of figurative language understanding, examining metaphor and metonymy in particular.  The account is situated within the Theory of Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models (LCCM Theory).  It is argued that an account of figurative language understanding from this perspective complements the ‘backstage cognition’ perspectives of Conceptual Metaphor Theory and Conceptual Blending Theory. 

From the spatial to the non-spatial: The ‘state’ lexical concepts of in, on and at.  Published 2010. In V. Evans & P. Chilton (eds.).  Language, Cognition & Space: The State of the Art and New Directions.  Published by Equinox.  


This paper is concerned with modelling the lexical representation of spatial relations, particularly as encoded by English prepositions, and examining how these spatial relations give rise to non-spatial meanings.  In particular, the paper develops an LCCM Theory account of the ‘state’ lexical concepts for the prepositional forms in, on, and at.  The paper shows how this treatment builds upon and revises the earlier Principled Polysemy account of spatial semantics.

Semantic representation in LCCM Theory.  Published 2009. In New Directions in Cognitive Linguistics,.  Published by John Benjamins.  

This paper focuses on the nature of semantic representation from the perspective of LCCM Theory.  It distinguishes between the nature and function of the conceptual and linguistic systems, before discussing the nature of representations in each, and their interaction.  It concludes by discussing implications for meaning-construction.

Semantic structure versus conceptual structure: The nature of lexical concepts in a simulation-based account of language understanding. 2009. Unpublished technical report. 

Towards a Cognitive Compositional Semantics: An Overview of LCCM Theory.  2007.  In Further Insights into Semantics and Lexicography, edited by Ulf Magnusson, Henryk Kardela and Adam Glaz.  pp. 11-42.  Lublin, Poland: Wydawnictwo UMCS.  

In this paper I am concerned with the nature of word ‘meaning’ and their semantic contribution in combination.  I argue that the semantic values associated with words are flexible, open-ended and highly dependent on the utterance context in which they are embedded.  In attempting to provide an account of meaning-construction that coheres with this fact, I present a cognitively-realistic theory of lexical representation and a programmatic theory of lexical concept integration: the Theory of Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models (LCCM Theory).


Lexical Concepts, Cognitive Models and Meaning-Construction.  2006.  Cognitive Linguistics 17/4, 491-534.


This paper provides a new approach to meaning-construction.   The fundamental claim is that there is a basic distinction between lexical concepts, and meaning.  While lexical concepts constitute the semantic units conventionally associated with linguistic forms, and form an integral part of a language user’s individual mental grammar, meaning is a property of situated usage-events, rather than words.  The paper presents an account of lexical concepts and the conceptual knowledge structures, cognitive models, with respect to which they are relativised.  A theory of lexical concept integration is then developed, which serves to provide an account of how lexical concepts are combined in service of situated meaning-construction.

Prof. Vyvyan Evans
Professor of Linguistics

© 2020 by Vyvyan Evans. 

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