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The Adjectival Concept in Dynamics and in the Dictionary
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.
2012 (English)In: Cognitive Dynamics in Lilnguistic Interactions / [ed] Alexander Kravchenko, Newcastle upon Type: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The conventional dictionary is not a good learner’s dictionary. Pinning senses onto words, it mythifies the language, excluding cognitive dynamics, specifically the speaker as meaning-maker, from language use. Therefore, it fails to motivate the coherence of senses, combinability, and grammatical habits of the items described, i.e. the knowledge which makes up the content of the speaker’s linguistic intuitions. Cognitive lexicography tackles this task based on conceptual analysis of the symbolic units of language.


How the two models, the representationist and the cognitive one, differ, is shown in this paper using lexicographic description of adjectives as an example. The Russian adjective presents the traditional lexicography with a special challenge. It lacks the means to motivate the admissibility and conditions of use of the short form, the degrees of comparison, specifically, the analytical and the synthetic form, the so called forms of subjective evaluation, and the many varying uses in predicative positions. Defining adjectival words in propositional terms, or paraphrastically, it is unable to escape the bad infinity of referential synonymy. Neither can it explain the dynamic positioning of virtually any adjective along the “qualitative – relational” axis, with both use types included, quite mechanically, in the inventory of senses, essentially undifferentiated as to their nature, and tending to proliferate.


In cognitive grammar, the adjective represents an atemporal relational concept, a stative relation between a concrete, or reifiable, entity (a “thing” in the sense of R. Langacker), and an abstract, not separately verbalized entity implicit in the lexical meaning of the adjective. What the adjective designates is thus not a feature but a featural relation. For this reason, any adjective is, in effect, relative. Its position on the “qualitative – relational” axis is determined by how the landmark of the adjectival relation, i.e. its implicit secondary participant, is conceptualized. 


If construed as an immediate property revealed in, or ascribed to a thing, it can be thought of as an inherent or an autonomous one, respectively. This dialectics engenders conceptualizations imbued with the sense of “objective” property, ultimately, axiologically neutral construals, as well as of a property meaningful in the perspective of the speaker, i.e. evaluative ones. If, on the other hand, the landmark is construed as a domain, no property is ascribed to the thing; the adjective merely relates it to an entity in the domain, the relation meaningfully established by convention or context. The adjectives of this kind are non-evaluative and can not, in normal use, support a judgement, therefore, lacking predicative forms.


Thus, “qualitativeness” is functional, and originates with evaluation of an ontological relation. No morphological or other property typically invoked to categorize an adjective as a qualitative one, while pointing in the right direction, is a necessary feature of qualitativeness. If a domain relation gets conventionalized as an evaluative one, or deliberately re-categorized as such, i.e. if it gets transformed from an ontological and subcategorizing into a featural and characterizing one, the adjective shifts toward qualitativeness. Conversely, if a property gets ontologized, it acquires the domain status, with the adjective shifting toward relatedness. The extensions of this kind are underlied by mechanisms of metaphor, usually conceptual, and those of metonymy, usually regular, but also by creative uses.


In this paper, a so called specific-evaluation adjective slavnyj (usually interpreted as ‘1. glorious; famous’ and ‘2. nice’) provides the main example offering a conceptual analysis against the background of a traditional lexicographic description. The analysis reveals that it is slavnost' (≈ ’gloriousness’) rather than slava (‘fame’) that is this adjective’s correlate property name, while the eidetic core, or functional constituent, of the concept SLAVNYJ relates to the idea of “a source of grace”. Also presented are mechanisms of construing the concept in terms of a property resp. in terms of a domain. It is thus shown how exactly the conceptual analysis of an adjective based on the above premises helps to motivate the coherence of all its senses, conventional and less so, resulting from cognitive operations over the concept, as well the adjective’s combinatorial and grammatical behavior.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Newcastle upon Type: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.
Keyword [en]
cognitive semantics, conceptual analysis
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
Linguistics; Slavic Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-83215ISBN: 978-1-4438-3774-3OAI: diva2:574486
Available from: 2012-12-05 Created: 2012-12-05 Last updated: 2012-12-05Bibliographically approved

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