A cognitive approach to Gikuyu polysemy
This thesis investigates polysemous common nouns in Gikuyu within the cognitive framework and more specifically in cognitive semantics. Since polysemy has multiple but related senses, finding any coherent system would seem to be very difficult. But its senses are not random. When someone looks at inferences among them, it becomes clear that there must be a systematic structure of some kind. Therefore this study will investigate how context knowledge provided for through lexical frames can explain the polysemy of words. In this investigation, The Fillmore's frame theory was used in analyzing the polysemous Gikuyu nouns. One of the outstanding conclusions of the present study on the polysemous Gikuyu nouns was that nouns form polysemy systematically and some senses of a word are related to one another more or less closely by various means. The relatedness in meaning of Gikuyu polysemous nouns can be divided into prototypical sense, radial sense and the peripheral sense. Besides the radial senses which are more concrete, physical and lying towards the prototype (centre of the category) the more abstract metaphorical senses lie towards the periphery. Radial categories share more features with the prototype than the peripheral categories. The other finding of the study was that the prototype is very important in understanding the nature of human categorization and context is very important in understanding the polysemy of nouns. Some of the sources of polysemy are metonymy, metaphor, hyponymy and meronymy. Sense demarcation is detained through autonomy mechanism and it is a useful tool for providing autonomy to a sense. Once a word attains autonomy it triggers frames which come with the encyclopedic entries (frame components) which help in the assignment of meaning.