The papers are grouped in thematic sections. The first section deals with prototypicality as a theoretical and practical model of semantic description. The second section discusses polysemy and criteria for distinguishing between meanings. The third section tackles questions of meaning description beyond the level of words, on the level of idioms and constructions. The following section casts the net even wider, dealing with the cultural aspects of meaning. Moving away from the theoretical and descriptive perspective towards applied concerns, the fifth section looks at lexicography from the point of view of Cognitive Linguistics. The final section has a metatheoretical orientation: it discusses the history and methodology of lexical semantics.
Each paper is preceded by a newly written introduction that situates the text against the period in which it was first published, but that also points to further developments, in the author's own research or in Cognitive Linguistics at large.
The variety of topics dealt with make this book an excellent introduction to the broad field of lexicological and lexical semantic research.
Most of the contributions go back to talks presented at the meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea held in Leuven in 2001. The volume starts with a global typological view on the sociolinguistic landscape of Europe offered by Peter Auer. It is followed by a methodological proposal for measuring phonetic similarity between dialects designed by Paul Heggarty, April McMahon, and Robert McMahon. Various papers deal with specific phenomena of socially and conceptually driven variation within a single language. For Dutch, José Tummers, Dirk Speelman, and Dirk Geeraerts analyze inflectional variation in Belgian and Netherlandic Dutch, Reinhild Vandekerckhove focuses on interdialectal convergence between West-Flemish urban dialects, and Arjan van Leuvensteijn studies competing forms of address in the 17th century Dutch standard variety. The cultural and conceptual dimension is also present in the diachronic lexicosemantic explorations presented by Heli Tissari, Clara Molina, and Caroline Gevaert for English expressions referring to the experiential domains of love, sorrow and anger, respectively: the history of words is systematically linked up with the images they convey and the evolving conceptualizations they reveal. The papers by Heide Wegener and by Marcin Kilarski and Grzegorz Krynicki constitute a plea against arbitrariness of alternations at the level of nominal morphology: dealing with marked plural forms in German, and with gender assignment to English loanwords in the Scandinavian languages, respectively, their distributional accounts bring into the picture a variety of motivating factors. The four cross-linguistic studies that close the volume focus on the differing ways in which even closely related languages exploit parallel morphosyntactic patterns. They share the same methodological concern for combining rigorous parametrization and quantification with conceptual and discourse-functional explanations. While Griet Beheydt and Katleen Van den Steen confront the use of formally defined competing constructions in two Germanic and two Romance languages, respectively, Torsten Leuschner as well as Gisela Harras and Kirsten Proost analyze how a particular speaker's attitude is expressed differently in various Germanic languages.
Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings brings together twelve foundational articles, each of which introduces one of the basic concepts of Cognitive Linguistics, like conceptual metaphor, image schemas, mental spaces, construction grammar, prototypicality and radial sets. The collection features the founding fathers of Cognitive Linguistics: George Lakoff, Ron Langacker, Len Talmy, Gilles Fauconnier, and Charles Fillmore, together with some of the most influential younger scholars. By its choice of seminal papers and leading authors, Basic Readings is specifically suited for an introductory course in Cognitive Linguistics. This is further supported by a general introduction to the theory and, specifically, the practice of Cognitive Linguistics and by trajectories for further reading that start out from the individual chapters.