Date of Award
Bachelor of Science
Human language strongly connects conveyed ideas to the spatial plane. Prepositions are some of the most important pieces in describing how two entities relate in spatial terms. Yet, within a preposition, there are many different variations in meaning that are conveyed. The word under, for example, might refer to a ball sitting under a table or a river flowing under a bridge, two uses which convey very different spatial and temporal information. In addition to differences in spatial senses, prepositions have metaphoric senses. Again following under as an example, a speaker could be under pressure. This experiment aims to determine when senses of polysemous prepositions interfere with each other using repeated picture naming procedure in which each prepositional sense had three depictions. We asked three questions: 1) Do distinct spatial senses of prepositions compete? 2) Do antonymic prepositions compete? 3) Do metaphoric and spatial senses of prepositions compete? Based on large gaps in reaction time, it was found that spatial senses interfere with both each other and metaphoric senses. Results regarding opposite pairs, however, was too noisy to give any conclusive indicators of competition. While this data was able to give preliminary ideas of the interference between prepositional senses, it is still unclear the depth and causes of these interactions. Refining the experiment by updating the specific images and number of pictures used, as well as looking more in-depth to variations between prepositional senses, would allow us to further explore the causes and define prepositional sense interference better.
McKinney, Veronica, "Polysemy in Spatially Ambiguous Prepositions" (2018). Undergraduate Honors Theses and Capstone Projects. 37.