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Lexical Analysis


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Do word meanings exist? How do words mean? Hanks's answers to these formidable questions are not based on philosophical speculations but on the conclusions of a whole career spent observing texts to compile dictionaries. His theory of norms and exploitations (TNE) is 'a lexically-based, corpus-driven, bottom-up theory of language.' It posits that words have meaning potentials rather than meanings; that meanings correspond to syntactic and collocational patterns; that all or some of the components of these potentials are activated in each context, so that meanings are events, not entities; and that there are normal uses of words and more or less predictable exploitations of these norms. The gist of Hanks's research has been published in various journals and books over the years, but it is presented here for the first time in full book form. A fascinating text summing up decades of hands-on research that will be useful to linguists, semanticists, lexicographers, and the philosophers of language. Unputdownable. -- Henri Bejoint, Professor Emeritus at the University of Lyon This outstanding work is set to become a landmark in the long-running debate over word meaning and its interaction with word use. Patrick Hanks convincingly argues for a lexically based theory of language capable of accounting for both normal usage of language and its creative exploitations. One of the most appealing features of the volume for me was the balance it achieves between theory and practice. The rigorous corpus-driven analyses bring strong support to the theory but also provide the reader with methodological guidelines of how to implement it. This is not a book that will lie collecting dust on my bookshelf. I am quite certain it will prove an invaluable companion whenever I'm dealing with thorny lexical issues, both theoretical and applied. -- Sylviane Granger, Professor of English language and linguistics, Universite catholique de Louvain, Belgium This book is a tour de force, a work that will surely be a core point of reference for many years to come. Hanks applies his years of experience in lexicography to explain a curiously troublesome perennial question for linguists -- how we interpret the meanings of words. He models language in a way that simultaneously accommodates our intuitions about core meanings, and explains how we can be creative with words without confusing others. He navigates a path between the under- and over-interpretation of corpus data, to give us an extra dimension for understanding the mechanisms of lexical meaning. -- Alison Wray, Director of Research, Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy Patrick Hanks provides a brilliant interpretation of work on empirical semantics. He sets out clear methods and principles, illustrated with dozens of excellent examples from corpus data, from his long experience as a lexicographer, and from his wide knowledge of recent linguistics. -- Michael Stubbs, Professor of English Linguistics, University of Trier, Germany

About the Author

Patrick Hanks is Professor of Lexicography at the University of Wolverhampton, UK, and a visiting professor at the University of the West of England (Bristol, UK). He has edited a number of major reference works, including Collins English Dictionary, Cobuild, and the New Oxford Dictionary of English.


This book is recommended reading for those who are serious about studying lexis and/ or the interplay between structure and meaning.

-Linguist List

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