A Lexicographic Approach to the Study of Copolysemy Relations

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The notion of lexical polysemy is considered under very different angles depending on the context in which it is called on, e.g. in theoretical lexicology, practical lexicography or so-called cognitive approaches to the lexicon. We adopt an approach where polysemy is defined as a property of vocables (roughly, entries in dictionary word lists): the property to regroup several word senses, monosemy being the opposite property. Polysemy is the consequence of a more basic fact: the relation that holds between lexical units grouped within the same vocable. This relation we term copolysemy . The notion of copolysemy is required to not only account for such a well-known phenomenon as regular polysemy, but also to model the polysemy structures of vocables and the incidence these structures may have on lexical dynamics, vocabulary acquisition, analogical reasoning based on lexical information, etc. As for many other aspects of lexicology, the study of copolysemy has to be anchored in a thorough analysis of lexical data. In this paper, we present the current results of an exploration of copolysemy in French, which allowed us to systematically retrieve patterns of copolysemy (on which we believe regular polysemy is built) and achieve formal description of the polysemy structure of several thousand French vocables. The descriptive work is embedded in a large-scale lexicographic project, namely the construction of the French Lexical Network (fr-LN). Though based on the study of the French lexicon, the approach to the modeling of polysemy presented here is expected to be applicable to natural languages in general.

About the authors

Alain Polguère

Université de Lorraine, CNRS, ATILF

Email: alain.polguere@univ-lorraine.fr
44 avenue de la Libération, BP 30687, 54063 Nancy Cedex, France
PhD in linguistics at the Université de Montréal (Montreal, Canada) on the semantics-syntax interface in computer text generation. After graduating, he began an academic career, first at the National University of Singapore (1991-1995), then at the Université de Montréal (1995-2010).


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