Competition Between Word Meanings: The Polysemy of (A)Round

  • Joost Zwarts


The preposition (a)round can be used to describe a wide variety of spatial paths, ranging from perfectly circular to slightly curved. This polysemy is approached from a formal semantic perspective, building on the descriptive work of cognitive semanticists. The different uses are defined in model-theoretic terms, using a vector-based model, and shown to be entailments, i.e. weaker versions or supersets, of the prototypical circle meaning of round. The different spatial senses of round can then be ordered according to strength. The interpretation that is chosen in a particular context is determined in an optimality-theoretic fashion from the interaction of a small number of general principles: STRENGTH, FIT and V AGUENESS, of which the last two are more important than the first. The strongest sense of round is chosen that fits the linguistic context. If the context does not favour a weaker meaning, a weaker meaning still results because of a preference for vagueness.
How to Cite
Zwarts, J. (2019). Competition Between Word Meanings: The Polysemy of (A)Round. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 8, 349-360.