A lexical pragmatic view on the relationship between word meanings and encyclopedic knowledge

31 May 2024
Room F1

A lexical pragmatic view on the relationship between word meanings and encyclopedic knowledge

In the past two decades or so, the investigation of word meaning has experienced a highly intensive interaction between lexical semantics and pragmatics. Although various theoretical strands of research adopt different criteria whether various word meanings in utterances are represented by the lexicon or pragmatics, there is no doubt that a new – lexical pragmatic – perspective has to be taken to explain contextually emerging word meanings. It is the general case that meanings of content/descriptive words do not encode full-fledged concepts and so their lexical representations are underspecified (cf. Bibok 2014, Carston 2016). Consequently, communicated concepts get enriched through considerable pragmatic inferences in immediate and extended contexts of utterances. Immediate contexts can be extended with (i) information from the preceding discourse, (ii) information from the observable physical environment or (iii) encyclopedic information evoked by context-dependent actual world knowledge (cf. Sperber and Wilson 1995). However, detached from its contexts, some encyclopedic information can become context-independent; and, what is more, it can be fixed in lexical entries as integral parts (Németh T. and Bibok 2010: 505, cf. also Kecskes 2012).

Against the above theoretical background, the present paper outlines a new typology of encyclopedic information. It does not only distinguish between two types of encyclopedic information: encoded and not encoded one by the lexical-semantic representation. Several subtypes are also identified in regard to (i) how the encoded encyclopedic information is connected to other fragments of lexical representations, as well as (ii) where the not encoded encyclopedic information comes from and where it is stored. All of them are illustrated by thorough analyses of Hungarian and Russian data including nouns of artifacts and verbs of cutting.

The paper concludes that the huge amount of human world knowledge involved in understanding linguistically communicated ideas can definitely be systematized in an elaborated lexical pragmatic framework.



Bibok, K. (2014). Lexical semantics meets pragmatics. Argumentum10, 221–31.

Carston, R. (2016). Contextual adjustment of meaning. In Riemer, N. (Ed.). The Routledge Handbook of Semantics (pp. 195–210). London: Routledge.

Kecskes, I. (2012). Encyclopaedic knowledge and cultural models. In Schmid, H.-J. (Ed.). Cognitive Pragmatics (pp. 175–97). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Németh T., E. & Bibok, K. (2010). Interaction between grammar and pragmatics: The case of implicit arguments, implicit predicates and co-composition in Hungarian. Journal of Pragmatics, 42 (2), 501–24.

Sperber, D. & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell, 2nd edition.