Current Research Trends in Polysemy within Cognitive Linguistics


Polysemy, the phenomenon where a single word has multiple related meanings, has long been a subject of interest in cognitive linguistics. The exploration of polysemy provides valuable insights into how meaning is structured and organized in the human mind. This short report aims to summarize and discuss the current research trends in polysemy within the field of cognitive linguistics.

1. Conceptualization of Polysemy:

Recent research has focused on the conceptualization of polysemy, examining how multiple senses of a word are related and how they interact within the cognitive system. Cognitive linguists have emphasized the importance of cognitive processes such as metaphor, metonymy, image schemas, and conceptual frames in understanding the polysemous nature of words.

2. Prototype Theory and Polysemy:

Prototype theory has played a significant role in investigating polysemy. Recent studies have applied prototype theory to understand the relationships between the various senses of polysemous words. They have explored how certain senses can be considered central or prototypical, while others are peripheral or derived from the core meaning.

3. Network Models of Polysemy:

Network models have gained attention in studying polysemy, focusing on the interconnectedness of different senses and their cognitive associations. These models view polysemous words as complex networks, where each sense is represented as a node, and the relationships between senses are represented as edges. Network analyses provide insights into the organization and dynamics of polysemy networks.

4. Embodied Approaches to Polysemy:

Embodied cognition perspectives have enriched the study of polysemy by considering the role of sensorimotor experiences in the construction and understanding of multiple meanings. Researchers have explored how embodied simulations, conceptual metaphors, and image schemas contribute to the polysemous nature of words.

5. Contextual Factors in Polysemy:

Contextual factors play a crucial role in disambiguating polysemous meanings. Recent research has investigated the influence of situational context, discourse context, and cultural context on the activation and selection of specific senses. This line of inquiry emphasizes the importance of context in resolving polysemy and understanding word meaning in context.

6. Cognitive Corpus Linguistics and Polysemy:

Advancements in cognitive corpus linguistics have facilitated large-scale investigations of polysemy. Researchers have analyzed corpora to identify patterns of word usage and sense distribution, shedding light on the frequency, salience, and semantic associations of different senses in actual language use.

7. Cognitive Neurolinguistics and Polysemy:

The study of polysemy has also intersected with cognitive neurolinguistics. Neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI and EEG, have been employed to investigate the neural correlates of polysemous processing. These studies explore how different brain regions and networks are involved in the activation, selection, and integration of multiple senses.


Current research in polysemy within cognitive linguistics has provided significant insights into the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying the organization and representation of multiple meanings. The conceptualization of polysemy, prototype theory, network models, embodied approaches, contextual factors, cognitive corpus linguistics, and cognitive neurolinguistics have all contributed to advancing our understanding of polysemy. Further interdisciplinary collaborations and innovative methodologies will continue to deepen our knowledge of this intriguing phenomenon.