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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The polysemy of an “empty” prefix: A corpus-based cognitive semantic analysis of the Russian verbal prefix po-
by LeBlanc, Nicholas Lance, Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010, 222; 3427728
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation proposes a structured semantic account of the polysemous Russian verbal prefix po- within the theoretical framework of cognitive linguistics and using corpus linguistic methods. While scholarly consensus identifies five meanings for po- and an additional meaning in conjunction with the suffix -yva-, the relationships among these six meanings have not been fully explored. By means of a corpus-linguistic analysis I determine the semantic structure linking the various meanings of po-: I collect a randomly selected sample of po-prefixed verbs (with accompanying contexts) from the Russian National Corpus, the largest annotated Russian language corpus extant. The collected data is manually tagged for a number of collocational, syntactic, and semantic parameters to create a behavioral profile of po-. The behavioral profile is subjected to a hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis, resulting in a dendrogram that illustrates varying degrees of connection among meanings. Meanings are grouped into clusters based on degree of similarity, and the intra- and inter-cluster differences are investigated by use of z-scores and t-values. I then apply cognitive linguistic concepts to motivate the semantic structure of po-, showing how this account both echoes and expands previous work on prefixal semantics.

I conclude that the meanings of po- can be grouped into two clusters: Cluster one is comprised of the attenuative, delimitative, ingressive, and resultative meanings. Cluster two contains the more peripheral distributive and intermittent-attenuative meanings. The resultative meaning is prototypical and indicates that the subject has traversed the metaphoric path implied by the base verb in its entirety. The remaining meanings are metaphoric and metonymic extensions of that central meaning. This view of the semantics of po- coincides with what is known about the historical development of the prefix.

The contributions of this dissertation are twofold: First, I have produced a cognitively-motivated description of the semantic structure of po- based on empirical data. Secondly, this analysis suggests that quantitative methods are useful not only in the study of lexemes and grammatical constructions, but also in prefixal semantics. In addition, I point out large groups of po-prefixed verbs largely untouched by the scholarly literature that deserve further study.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Janda, Laura A., Feinberg, Lawrence
Commitee: Lapushin, Radislav, Putney, Christopher, Terry, J. M.
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: Slavic Languages & Literatures
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 72/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Slavic Studies
Keywords: Behavioral profile, Cognitive linguistics, Corpus linguistics, Russian, Semantics, Verbal prefixes
Publication Number: 3427728
ISBN: 978-1-124-32381-7
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