25.4161, Review: Lexicography; Linguistic Theories; Text/Corpus Ling: Hanks (2013)

The LINGUIST List linguist at listserv.linguistlist.org
Tue Oct 21 18:56:14 UTC 2014

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-4161. Tue Oct 21 2014. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 25.4161, Review: Lexicography; Linguistic Theories; Text/Corpus Ling: Hanks (2013)

Moderators: Damir Cavar, Indiana U <damir at linguistlist.org>
            Malgorzata E. Cavar, Indiana U <gosia at linguistlist.org>

Reviews: reviews at linguistlist.org
Anthony Aristar <aristar at linguistlist.org>
Helen Aristar-Dry <hdry at linguistlist.org>
Sara Couture, Indiana U <sara at linguistlist.org>

Homepage: http://linguistlist.org

Do you want to donate to LINGUIST without spending an extra penny? Bookmark
the Amazon link for your country below; then use it whenever you buy from

USA: http://www.amazon.com/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlist-20
Britain: http://www.amazon.co.uk/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlist-21
Germany: http://www.amazon.de/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlistd-21
Japan: http://www.amazon.co.jp/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlist-22
Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlistc-20
France: http://www.amazon.fr/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlistf-21

For more information on the LINGUIST Amazon store please visit our
FAQ at http://linguistlist.org/amazon-faq.cfm.

Editor for this issue: Sara  Couture <sara at linguistlist.org>

Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:55:40
From: Gill Philip [g.philip.polidoro at gmail.com]
Subject: Lexical Analysis

E-mail this message to a friend:
Discuss this message: 

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-629.html

AUTHOR: Patrick  Hanks
TITLE: Lexical Analysis
SUBTITLE: Norms and Exploitations
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Gill Philip, Università degli studi di Macerata

Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


Patrick Hanks' ‘Lexical Analysis: Norms and Exploitations’ is the fruit of a
career's research into and analysis of the English lexicon. The scope of this
work is impressive, and on the whole the work lives up to expectations.
Running at 430 pages plus notes and references, this is a book that demands
close and careful reading. Six of the thirteen chapters are re-worked versions
of previously-published papers, while the rest expands on the Theory of Norms
and Exploitations (henceforth, TNE) and contextualises it within the
discipline of linguistics as a whole. The writing is engaging and erudite,
featuring many insightful comments and observations and a plethora of worked
examples, all based on corpus evidence. 

In Chapter 1, 'Words and Meanings: The Need for a New Approach', Hanks
introduces the rationale for the book and for the theory of meaning which is
to be expounded over the following chapters. A comment made early on sets the
tone for what is to come: ''In linguistic analysis, many things seem obvious,
and only some of them are true'' (p. 4). A case study of the verb 'hazard'
serves as an initial illustration of the sorts of information that TNE is able
to shed light on, but which most current approaches to linguistic analysis
fail to address adequately: the unexpectedly complex relationship that holds
between lexical sets and semantic types.

In Chapter 2 the author deals with the possible answers to an apparently
straightforward question: 'What is a Word?' A number of competing definitions
are discussed: 'type', 'token, 'lemma' (or 'lexeme'), 'multiword expression'
(or 'praseme'), and 'lexical entry' (or 'headword') in a dictionary, plus the
variable element of proper nouns (which may or may not be included within each
of the other categories). Hanks explains the main ways in which new words are
formed from the existing resources of the language, suggesting that rather
than finite, the lexicon is instead a ''small infinite set'' (p. 30). The
section dealing with multiword expressions (MWEs), the most productive area of
the lexicon, raises thought-provoking issues about the nature of meaning in
compounds, in particular regarding the mismatch between compositional meaning
and meaning in collocations. 

Chapter 3, based on Hanks (2000), asks 'Do Word Meanings Exist?' The issue
raised here is not, as the title might suggest, to ask whether or not we can
use words meaningfully, but rather to draw a distinction between meaning in
actual communicative situations ('meaning events') and meaning in the memory
('meaning potential'). Understanding this distinction is crucial to the
appreciation of what TNE has to offer linguistics. The argument is that
meanings are tied to context, and that by examining words used in context
(i.e. in corpus data) it is possible to identify how those meanings are
carried by words. Words shorn of context cannot have 'a meaning' as such but
have (usually more than one) 'meaning potential', potential that can only be
realized when the words are used in combination, in context, to achieve some
communicative purpose. Once again, a case study lends support to the argument;
more detailed contextualization within the history of linguistics can be found
in later chapters (particularly chapter 11).

Chapter 4, 'Prototypes and Norms', begins the section of the book dedicated to
TNE, and, in the author's words, ''may be regarded as the seed paper for the
whole enterprise'' (p. xiv). Drawing on Hanks (1994) this chapter expands on
the argument that meanings are either potential or realized events, tying the
discussion into conversational implicatures (Grice 1957, 1975) and relevance
theory (Sperber & Wilson 1986). Systemic grammar, the framework proposed for
carrying out syntactic analysis with corpus data, is also outlined in this
chapter, and we also discover exactly what the author means by a ''norm'', and
how to identify one in linguistic data. 

Chapter 5, based on Hanks (1996), is dedicated to the topic of 'Contextual
Dependency and Lexical Sets'. Through a series of worked examples the author
illustrates and discusses how recurrent uses of words in particular
collocations and phrasal structures contribute to the construction of
cognitive profiles; in other words, he explains how our memories of repeated
meanings-as-events are transformed into beliefs about meanings. 

Extending the discussion of norms further, Hanks addresses diachronic change
in Chapter 6, 'Norms Change Over Time', where he focuses on the words
'enthusiasm' and 'condescension'. These words seem to be used with the 'wrong'
polarity in a 1762 monumental inscription: 'enthusiasm' is something to be
'exposed', while 'condescension' is painted as a virtue. The author compares
contemporary data from the British National Corpus with historical data from
the Oxford Historical Corpus, to uncover late 18th C norms (both lexical
usages and, by extrapolation, beliefs about meaning) for the two words. The
diachronic meaning change presented here illustrates the point that different
word senses co-exist, usually in different spheres of experience, and that as
society's norms change, so too do the norms that govern word meaning and use.

The stage between norms and exploitations is alternation, and 'Three Types of
Alternation'- lexical, semantic-type, and syntactic - are discussed in Chapter
7. Lexical alternations involve relations of synonymy and co-hyponymy,
including metonymy; the alternative word choice perhaps adding emphasis or
specificity, but not changing the message conveyed. Semantic-type alternation
operates at a more abstract level, involving changes in the semantic types
which normally populate a verb's clause roles. Again, for it to be alternation
rather than exploitation, the meaning conveyed should shift the focus but not
the overall sense, and here metonymic relations appear to be key, i.e. the
semantic type 'human' can alternate with 'human institution' (e.g. bank,
government) but not 'vehicle'. The long section dedicated to syntactic
alternation lists the main grammatical transformations which can occur to
change the focus of a clause without causing a change in meaning.

Chapter 8 is dedicated to 'Exploitations'. While acknowledging that the
boundary between alternation and exploitation is fuzzy, the essential
difference is that an exploitation changes the meaning conveyed. As well as
outlining different types of exploitation, this chapter provides a useful
overview of rhetorical tropes commonly involved in lexical exploitations as
well as an outline of Pustejovsky's (1995) notion of 'semantic coercion',
whereby context forces new meanings onto words so that they are made to 'fit'.

Chapter 9 deals with 'Intertextuality', not only in the more commonly-received
sense of deliberate citation, but also in the everyday recycling of words and
phrases that every language user engages in. Hanks takes the reader through
all forms of literature high and low to illustrate how writers exploit the
existing resources of the language, modifying patterns and creating memorable
forms which in turn are reused by other speakers and writers.

Chapter 10, 'Word and Pattern Meaning: A Complex Linguistic Gestalt', looks at
the conceptualization of words and meanings in terms of gestalts. The gestalt
for a word is a mental agglomeration of the patterns and meanings which it
participates in, and which contributes to the individual's beliefs about its
meaning and awareness of how to use it. Hanks discusses words of minimal,
medium and maximal complexity, outlining for each how a gestalt can be built
up from typical lexical patternings, and then goes on to discuss how secondary
norms can emerge out of exploitations of (primary) norms. 

Chapter 11, 'Meaning, Philosophy of Language, and Anthropology', marks a turn
in the book's focus. The author draws together the theoretical points which
have emerged during the previous ten chapters analyzing language data. This
comprehensive overview of how meaning has been dealt with by various academic
traditions over the years allows the reader to appreciate where TNE sits with
regard to the study of words and meaning. In particular, the influence of
Wittgenstein (1953) is evident in using word use to determine concepts, that
of Grice (1957, 1975) and Austin (1962) on 'doing things with words'; whereas
Rosch's (1973, 1975) work on prototype theory lies at the basis of the view of
language as being constructed from norms (lexical prototypes) and
exploitations of these.

Chapter 12 addresses the context for TNE from another angle, this time tracing
'The Role of the Lexicon in Linguistic Theory'. This long chapter (60 pages)
surveys the treatment of lexis in the main strands of linguistic research from
European structuralism to systemic linguistics, including work which is
relatively unknown in the English-speaking world, notably the German
Bedeutungsfeld (semantic field theory) and Russian lexicology. Central to the
arguments raised in this chapter is the use of invented linguistic examples
vs. the use of attested instances of language in use. These contrasting
practices reflect two opposing views of what linguistics is: the study of what
is possible in language, as opposed to the study of what is normal (or
probable). For each of the theories discussed, the author makes explicit those
aspects which have contributed to the development of TNE, stressing where TNE
can continue, improve or refine what has gone before.

As the title to Chapter 13, The Broader Picture, suggests, this final chapter
serves not only to recapitulate on the main points discussed in the book and
to reiterate the central aspects of TNE, but to suggest its potential
applications in various linguistics-related fields, primarily lexicography,
natural language processing, machine translation, and language learning and
teaching. The book ends with a short description of the author's work in
progress, the Pattern Dictionary of English Verbs.


The volume is well-conceived structurally. Chapters 1-3 provide the background
to TNE, outlining the issues at stake, presenting the theory and
contextualising it within the study of lexis in general. Chapters 4-9 deal
with the main aspects of TNE, from defining norms to explaining how
exploitation works; while the final portion of the book addresses the details
of how the relationship between words and meanings has been (and is now)
conceived in different fields of linguistics and in related disciplines.
Chapter 6 ('Norms Change Over Time'), might have been better positioned after
Chapter 10 ('Word and Pattern Meaning: A Complex Linguistic Gestalt'), since
these two chapters seem to form a pair, discussing on the one hand how the
semantic features associated with words come together to form gestalts
(chapter 10), and how these are subject to change over time (chapter 6). This
quibble aside, the sequencing is appropriate. 

In a book of this length and complexity, ease of navigation is important, and
sometimes the publishers' 'clean page policy' (for want of a better term)
interferes: the contents pages detail only the main numbered sections of each
chapter; there is no separate listing of figures and tables; and endnotes are
used in preference to footnotes. While this makes for a neater page layout, it
does entail some effort and will on the part of the reader trying to
(re)locate information. Worthy of note, however, is the decision to 'bookend'
each chapter with an abstract at the start and a bullet-point summary at the
end. These facilitate the reading (and re-reading) of the text, keeping the
reader's focus fixed on the main arguments that are built up as the volume
progresses, and help the reader refresh his or her memory before embarking on
subsequent chapters. The bibliography is clearly-set out (following the
lexicographic convention of listing dictionaries, corpora and 'other
literature' separately). The only potential addition to the volume, given its
impressive scope, would be a glossary of technical terms used - these are all
highlighted and defined within the text, but gathering them together in
glossary at the end would make it easier to keep track of them all.

With TNE, Hanks addresses the search for regularity ''lurking beneath the
surface of everyday usage'' (p 410). This regularity seems to be accessible
via gestalts in the mind of the language user, available for use whenever the
need to communicate arises, but locating prototypical examples of word use
(norms) in corpus data can be nigh-impossible except by generalizing and
abstracting out from the data. TNE offers the theoretical framework for these
prototypical forms to be identified, expressed in conceptual terms, and
illustrated with genuine examples. In one sense this is nothing new: norms are
already available in the minds of sensitive language analysts, indeed their
existence in the mind is precisely what makes it possible for linguists and
language teachers to invent example sentences ad hoc to suit their
exemplifying purpose. In another sense, however, TNE is quietly innovative. It
carves a consistent, empirically-sound distinction between lexical use and
concepts, which has implications for all areas of linguistics which deal with
the representation of meaning in the mind and its representation in language. 

The analysis of genuine examples of exploitations can tell us a great deal
about how language users make creative use of the resources available to them,
but one of the thorny issues raised (but not resolved) is this: when does an
alternation become an exploitation, or, conversely, when is an exploitation
not an exploitation but 'simply' an unusual alternation? At this point, the
individual and social aspects of language clash. Linguistics always treads a
precarious path between the language use of the individual (usually the
linguist him- or herself) and that of the collectivity of language users.
While corpus evidence can be used to posit norms for the community of language
users, there is always an underlying tension between what is normal for all
and what is normal for the few. These norms can conflict, even to the extent
that what for one speaker or even speech community is familiar and repeatedly
encountered, may be unfamiliar to another. For the former, it is a norm; for
the latter, an alternation or exploitation, depending on how far it deviates
from other familiar patternings. 

Even setting matters of the individual vs. the collectivity to one side,
deciding whether a variant is an alternant or an exploitation remains
something of a grey area. Hanks repeatedly mentions that the border between
these two classes is fuzzy, and that more analysis is required, and on a very
large scale, to resolve it. Having said that, he is very clear on how, in
theory, to distinguish alternants from exploitations. The difficulties that
are likely to be encountered in analysis are therefore not due to inadequate
classification, but from problems relating to its application. The degree of
subtlety and sensitivity required is considerable, much hanging on the
analyst's judgment and on his or her ability to distinguish between metonymy
and metaphor, which is itself a specialized area of study.

One of the recurring themes in this book is the need to differentiate between
word meaning and concept. The two are very often treated as one and the same
thing, but Hanks argues (along a similar train of thought to that of the
'common-sense' philosophers, but also following Saussure) that words are not
concepts, and concepts are not words: words are used by people to encapsulate
concepts. In some areas of linguistics the distinction is necessary.
Lexicography is one, foreign language learning and translation are others,
because in these fields the connection between words and meanings in the mind
of the language user is, frankly, irrelevant if the lexical patternings that
are chosen fail to activate the intended meaning in text. TNE therefore has a
lot to offer all branches of applied linguistics; it is also relevant to other
areas of linguistics, provides an analytical framework that makes it possible
to isolate meanings in text from meanings in the mind. 

This book is recommended reading for those who are serious about studying
lexis and/ or the interplay between structure and meaning, especially students
and scholars working in lexicography, text linguistics, cognitive linguistics
and natural language processing. It provides a straightforward methodological
framework for analysis, explains the necessary technical terms and provides a
plethora of illustrative examples. It not only presents the Theory of Norms
and Exploitations, but encapsulates in its discussion all the major trends in
twentieth-century linguistics and philosophy of language. In this sense, it is
also reference work, to be consulted time and time again.


Austin, John.L. 1962. How to do things with words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Grice, Henry Paul. 1957. Meaning. Philosophical Review 64, 377-388.

Grice, Henry Paul. 1975. Logic and Conversation. In P. Cole & J.L. Morgan
(eds), Syntax and Semantics, vol. 3, Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press.

Hanks, Patrick. 1994. Linguistic norms and pragmatic exploitations, or why
lexicographers need prototype theory and vice versa. In F. Kiefer et al.
(eds), Papers in Computational Lexicography: Complex '94. Research Institute
for Linguistics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 

Hanks, Patrick. 1996. Contextual dependency and lexical sets. International
Journal of Corpus Linguistics 1 (1), 75-98.

Hanks, Patrick. 1998 'Enthusiasm' and 'Condescension': changing norms of
meaning and use. In T. Fontenelle et al. (eds) Euralex '98 proceedings,
151-166. Liège: University of Liège.

Hanks, Patrick. 2000. Do word meanings exist? Computers and the Humanities 34,
Pustejovsky, James. 1995. The Generative Lexicon. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT

Rosch, Eleanor. 1973. Natural categories. Cognitive Psychology 4 (3), 328-350.

Rosch, Eleanor. 1975. Cognitive representations of semantic categories.
Journal of Experimental Psychology, 104 (3), 192-233.

Sperber, Dan & Deirdre Wilson. 1986. Relevance. Oxford: Blackwell.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell.


Gill Philip is a lecturer in English Language and Translation and TEFL at the
University of Macerata, Italy. Her research interests cover all aspects of
figurative language and phraseology, with particular emphasis on the interplay
between conceptual knowledge and its lexical realization.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-4161	


More information about the LINGUIST mailing list