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Unformatted text preview: hose used in discourse
could be interpreted easily.
Sinclair’s work, however, was an exception as the majority of publications devoted to language corpora in the 1980s and 1990s were overridden
with technical questions of corpus construction, such as the representativeness
of corpora, word tagging and genre definition. The corpora found an obvious
practical application in lexicography, so that 1987 saw the publication of the
first corpus-based dictionary: Collins-Cobuild English Language Dictionary. It Corpus linguistics and the language of mass media 55 seems that the time has come to go back to the original intention of Sinclair’s –
that of investigating the relationship between meaning and form (word).1
3. Word meaning and the corpus
According to Teubert and Čermáková (2004), who base their view of language and meaning on the functional lexicogrammatic views of Halliday
(1975, 1985; Halliday – Hassan 1985), native speakers learn meaning
from discourse. It is discourse then, where we should look for meaning.
When a speaker encounters a unit of meaning in discourse, the process of
understanding starts. A part of this process is a reverberation of this unit
with all the previous uses of it that the language user has encountered.
This is the social dimension of understanding. Teubert and Čermáková
represent an extreme position in claiming that there is no meaning outside
social interaction. However, they agree that another part of decoding can
be related to an individual’s experience or memories. This is the psychological dimension, different for every member of the speech community.2
Meaning of words or collocations can be best represented by natural language definitions, as no other description, be it logical calculus or
any other abstract formal system, can be understood or learnt without recourse to natural language.3
Sinclair (1991) phrases his opinion on the form – meaning interaction in a very radical manner:
Soon it was realised that form could actually be a determiner of meaning,
and a causal connection was postulated, inviting arguments from form to
meaning. Then conceptual adjustment was made, with the realization that
the choice of a meaning, anywhere in a text, must have a profound effect
on the surrounding choices. It would be futile to imagine otherwise. There
is ultimately no distinction between form and meaning
(Sinclair 1991: 7). 1 On the vague status of word as a unit of meaning see Sinclair (1991) and Teubert (2004).
On the idea that the meaning of words can consist not only of propositions but also
other structures, such as visual representations or image schemata, see chapter one. It is
important to stress, though, that for first generation cognitive linguists meaning resides
in the brain (mentalism), whereas in the approach presented here it resides in discourse.
I voiced a similar opinion in my PhD thesis published as Fabiszak (2001: 31-32).
2 Chapter II 56 This quote seems similar to Langacker’s stance (1987, 1991b),4 as he also
claims that a change...
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