ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000

7.1. The Complexity of Verbal Meaning

The first point that should be stressed is that verbal meaning is extremely complex. As Fellbaum (1993) has noted, verbs are more polysemous than other parts of speech. The more frequently a verb is used, the more senses it acquires. This should be considered in any semantic theory that tries to account for verbal meaning. A common verb like run can be used to exemplify this complexity. In Garrudo’s (1996) Diccionario Sintáctico del Verbo Inglés, run presents 91 different lexical entries, 31 on its own, and the rest in combination with particles and prepositions. Just a few representative sentences will illustrate the variety of meanings that run can have:

(7.1) Examples with run (Garrudo 1996: 537-42):
The number corresponds to Garrudo’s lexical entry
a. Let the cattle run in the field (RUN 1)
b. He ran upstairs (RUN 2)
c. The ink is running (RUN 3)
d. He is running water into the bucket (RUN 4)
e. My tights have run (RUN 5)
f. She’s running the bath (RUN 6)
g. I arrived tired and he ran me a hot bath (RUN 7)
h. The local paper runs articles in English (RUN 8)
i. He is running a big risk, in trusting her (RUN 9)
j. She is running in the next election (RUN 10)
k. The children are running a race (RUN 12)
l. They are running drugs into the country (RUN 13)
m. The opera Tosca ran for three months (RUN 14)
n. The river ran blood (RUN 16)
o. He’s running the streets (RUN 17)
p. The engines are running (RUN 19)
q. He doesn’t even know how to run a computer (RUN 20)
r. How does the last line of the sonnet run? (RUN 21)
s. Tears ran down her cheeks (RUN 22)
t. He ran his hand over the boy’s head (RUN 23)
u. He ran the car into the garage (RUN 25)
v. I’ll run you downtown (RUN 26)
w. She ran a needle into her finger (RUN 29)
y. Supplies are running short (RUN 30).

If run were exceptional, this polysemy should not be a cause of concern. However, most high-frequency verbs are as polysemous as run.

Neither the lexicalist or projectionist, nor the constructional approaches to verb meaning can handle this complexity on their own. In this chapter, it will be proposed that an integration of the two is needed. First the advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches will be briefly discussed. Then, the integrationist view will be put forth.

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ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000