This paper uses a cognitive approach, applying Prototype Theory to the study of lexical fields, to increase our understanding of regular processes of semantic change. By examining lexical variation in words meaning 'to wake' in Spanish across three generations of speakers in northwestern Argentina, this study offers explanations for the acquisition and loss of this particular meaning that point to possible universals of lexical development. The first research question involves the cognitive mechanisms at work when a verb first acquires the meaning of 'to wake' thus entering into this lexical field. The second research question explores the effects of near-synonyms on changes that occur within the lexical field of 'to wake'. These changes involve the generation-dependent use of recordar, despabilar, and levantar alongside despertar to cover the conceptual field of 'to wake' among present-day speakers. The results show parallel patterns of development in near-synonyms, which, in turn, reveal important information about the shared cognitive understanding of the concept of 'to wake' that led to such developmental patterns. The focus is primarily on the theoretical and methodological implications of the study; these include the ability to shed light on historical and future developments of near-synonyms through the observation of present-day speakers and the discovery of semantic functions and features that are likely to remain hidden without the use of a cognitive linguistic framework.
Selected Proceedings of the 15th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Chad Howe, Sarah E. Blackwell, and Margaret Lubbers Quesada
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