motivated polysemy, cognitive linguistics, linguistics, semantics, language, lithuanian language, semantic principles, figure, ground


Adhering to the principle of motivated polysemy, this paper sets out to demonstrate how the principle works in interpreting numerous senses of the Lithuanian preposition ‘behind, beyond’. The present investigation relies on the cognitive linguistic framework employed, first of all, by Lakoff (1987), Langacker (1987), Talmy (2000), Tyler and Evans (2003), and Tyler (2012), who mainly worked on English, and such linguists as Tabakowska (2003, 2010) and Shakhova and Tyler (2010), who attempted to investigate inflecting languages, such as Polish and Russian. Based on such semantic principles as types of Figure and Ground, their relationship (geometric, functional, etc.), contextual clues and pattern of usage, etc., the present paper demonstrates that the polysemy of used with two cases, Genitive and Accusative, is not an array of arbitrary senses, but rather a motivated network. It posits a central sense of based on Figure located in the back region of Ground. All other senses, namely, those of function, control, obstacle, sequential location, hiding and covering, boundary or border, spatial distance, temporal distance, quality distance, replacement, retribution and remuneration, and benefactive, are directly or indirectly derived from the central sense.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Ambrazas, V. 2006. Lietuvių kalbos istorinė sintaksė [Syntax of Lithuanian on historic principles]. Vilnius: Lietuvių kalbos institutas.

Bellavia, E. 1996. ‘The German über’. In M. Pütz & R. Dirven (eds.) The Construal of Space in Language and Thought, 73–107. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Berg-Olsen, S. 2005. The Latvian Dative and Genitive: A Cognitive Grammar Account. Doctoral dissertation. Oslo: University of Oslo, Faculty of Arts.

Cienki, A. 1989. Spatial Cognition and the Semantics of Prepositions in English, Polish and Russian. (Slavistische Beiträge, 237). München: Verlag Otto Sagner.

Cuyckens, H. 1991. The Semantics of Spatial Prepositions in Dutch. A Cognitive-Linguistic Exercise. Antwerpen: Universiteit Antwerpen.

Diessel, H. 2013. ‘Commentary: Is there a deictic of frame of reference?’. In P. Auer, M. Hilpert, & A. Stukenbrock (eds.) Space in Language and Linguistics: Geographical, Interactional, and Cognitive Perspectives, 687–692. Berlin, Boston: Walter de Gruyter.

Dirven, R. & Verspoor, M. 1998. Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

DLKG 1997—Ambrazas, V. (ed.) 1997. Dabartinės lietuvių kalbos gramatika [Grammar of Contemporary Lithuanian], 3rd edition. Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos institutas.

Durrel, M. & Bree, D. 1993. ‘German temporal prepositions from an English perspective’. In C. Zelinsky-Wibbelt (ed.) The Semantics of Prepositions. From Mental Processing to Natural Language Processing, 297–325. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Endzelīns, J. 1951. Latviešu valodas gramatika [Grammar of Latvian]. Rīga: Latvijas valsts izdevniecība.

Endzelīns, J. 1971. ‘Latyšskije predlogi. 1 čast’ [Latvian prepositions. Part 1.]’. In J. Endzelīns Darbu izlase [Selected works], vol. 1, 307–520. Rīga: Zinātne.

Fraenkel, E. 1929. Syntax der Litauischen Postpositionen und Präpositionen. Heidelberg: Carl Winter’s Universitätsbuchhandlung.

Geeraerts, D. 1992. ‘The semantic structure of Dutch over. Leuvense Bijdragen 81: 205–229.

Gries, S. 2006. ‘Corpus-based methods and cognitive semantics: the many senses of to run’. In S. Th. Gries & A. Stefanowitsch (eds) Corpora in Cognitive Linguistics. Corpus-based Approaches to Syntax and Lexis, 57–100. Berlin, Boston: Walter de Gruyter.

Haspelmath, M. 1997. From Space to Time. Temporal Adverbials in the World’s Languages. München, Newcastle: Lincom Europa. Available at: http://email.eva.mpg.de/~haspelmt/SpaceTime.pdf, accessed January 2015.

Heine, B. & Kuteva, T. 2002. World Lexicon of Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Herskovits, A. 1986. Language and Spatial Cognition. An Interdisciplinary Study of Prepositions in English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jamrozik, A. & Gentner, D. 2011. ‘Prepositions in and on retain aspects of spatial meaning in abstract contexts’. In L. Carlson, Ch. Hoelscher & T. F. Shipley (eds.) Expanding the Space of Cognitive Science. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 1589–1594. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Available at: http://csjarchive.cogsci.rpi.edu/Proceedings/2011/papers/0358/index.html, accessed 11 January 2015.

Jamrozik, A., Sagi, E., Goldwater, M. & Gentner, D. 2013. ‘Relational words have high metaphoric potential’. In Proceedings of the First Workshop on Metaphor in NLP, 21–26. USA, Stoudsburg: The Association of Computational Linguistics. Available at: http://www.aclweb.org/anthology/W13-0903, accessed on 18 January 2015.

Janda, L. A. 2002. ‘Concepts of case and time in Slavic’. Glossos 3: 1–22. Available at: https://slaviccenters.duke.edu/uploads/media_items/3janda.original.pdf. Accessed 13 February 2015.

Janda, L. A. & Townsend, Ch. E. 2002. Czech. SEELRC.

Johnson, M. 2007. The Meaning of the Body. Aesthetics of Human Understanding. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Kilius, J. 1977. ‘Orientacinių reikšmių struktūra lietuvių kalboje (Apie vietos prielinksnių ir linksnių reikšmes)’ [The structure of orientational meanings in Lithuanian (on the meanings of locative prepositions and cases)]. Kalbotyra 28, no. 1: 40–49.

Kilius, J. 1980. ‘Slankumo reikšmių struktūra lietuvių kalboje (Apie vietos prielinksnių ir linksnių reikšmes)’ [The structure of dynamic meanings in Lithuanian (on the meanings of locative prepositions and cases)]. Kalbotyra 31, no. 1: 34–56.

Koptjevskaja-Tamm, M. & Wälchli, B. 2001. ‘The Circum-Baltic languages: An areal-typological approach’. In Ö. Dahl & M. Koptjevskaja-Tamm (eds.) Circum-Baltic Languages. Vol. 2: ‘Grammar and Typology’, 615–750. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Lakoff, G. 1987. Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. What Categories Reveal about the Mind. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G. & Johnson M. 1980/2003. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Lang, E. 1991. ‘A two-level approach to projective prepositions’. In G. Rauh (ed.) Approaches to Prepositions, 127–168. Tübingen: Gunter-Narr.

Langacker, R. W. 1993. ‘Grammatical traces of some “invisible” semantic constructs’. Language Sciences 15, no. 4: 323–355.

Langacker, R. W. 1987. Foundations of Cognitive Grammar 1: Theoretical Prerequisites. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Levinson, S. C. 2003. Space in Language and Cognition. Explorations in Cognitive Diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

LKŽ 2005—Naktinienė, G., Paulauskas, J., Petrokienė, R., Vitkauskas, V. & Zabarskaitė, J. (eds.) 2005. Lietuvių kalbos žodynas (Vol. 1–20, 1941–2002): elektroninis variantas [Electronic Version of the Dictionary of the Lithuanian Language]. Vilnius: Lietuvių kalbos institutas. Available at: www.lkz.lt.

Lipovšek, F. 2014. ‘Prepositional use with the object-of-activity function of the landmark in English and Slovene’. Jezikoslovle 15, no. 2–3: 153–171.

Luraghi, S. 2009. ‘Case in Cognitive Grammar’. In A. Malchukov & A. Spencer (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Case, 136–150. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Maljar, T. N. & Seliverstova, O. N. 1998. Prostranstvenno-distancionnyje predlogi i narechija v russkom i anglijskom jazykach [Prepositions and adverbs of space and distance in Russian and English]. (Slavistiche Beiträge, 362). München: Verlag Otto Sagner.

Matlock, T. 2004. ‘The conceptual motivation of fictive motion’. In G. Radden & K.-U. Panther (eds.) Studies in Linguistic Motivation, 221–248. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Pawelec, A. 2009. Prepositional Network Models. A Hermeneutical Case Study. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego.

Przybylska, R. 2002. Polisemia przyimków polskich w świetle semantyki kognitywnej [The polysemy of Polish prepositions in the cognitive semantic framework]. Kraków: Universitas.

Radden, G. 1985. ‘Spatial metaphors underlying prepositions of causality’. In W. Paprotte & R. Dirven (eds.) The Ubiquity of Metaphor: metaphor in language and thought, 177–207. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Regier, T. 1996. The Human Semantic Potential: Spatial Language and Constrained Connectionism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Sandra, D. 1998. ‘What linguists can and can’t tell you about the human mind: A reply to Croft’. Cognitive Linguistics 9, no. 4: 361–378.

Sandra, D. & Rice, S. 1995. ‘Network analyses of prepositional meaning: mirroring whose mind—the linguist’s or the language user’s?’. Cognitive Linguistics 6, no. 1: 89–130.

Schmalstieg, W. R. 1987. A Lithuanian Historical Syntax. Columbus: Slavica Publishers.

Šeškauskienė, I. 2001. ‘Cross-linguistic variation of space conceptualization’. In Translation and Meaning, Part 5 (Proceedings of the Maastricht Session of the 3rd International Maastricht-Lodz Duo Colloquium on “Translation and Meaning”, held in Maastricht, the Netherlands, 26–29 April 2000), 85–95. Maastricht: Hogeschool Maastricht.

Šeškauskienė, I. 2003. ‘Proximity in English and Lithuanian’. Kalbotyra 53, no 3: 117–125.

Šeškauskienė, I. 2004. ‘The extension of meaning: spatial relations in English and Lithuanian’. In B. Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk & A. Kwiatkowska (eds.) Imagery in Language. Festschrift in Honour of Professor Ronald W. Langacker [In the series Łόdź Studies in Language, vol.10], 373–384. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang.

Šeškauskienė, I. 2007. ‘Artumo santykiai anglų ir lietuvių kalbose: kai kurie perkeltinės lokatyvų reikšmės ypatumai’ [Relations of proximity in English and Lithuanian: meaning extension of some locatives]. Filologija 12: 85–94. Also available at: http://www.su.lt/bylos/mokslo_leidiniai/filologija/2007_12/seskauskiene.pdf

Shakhova, D. & Tyler, A. 2010. ‘Taking the principled polysemy model of spatial particles beyond English: the case of Russian za. In V. Evans & P. Chilton (eds.) Language, Cognition and Space: The State of the Art and New Directions, 267–291. London, Oakville: Equinox.

Schepping, M.-T. 1991. ‘The lexical meaning of the French preposition contre. In G. Rauch (ed.) Approaches to Prepositions, 225–252. Tübingen: Günter-Narr.

Steen, G. J., Dorst, A. G., Herrmann, J. B., Kaal, A. A. & Krennmayr, T. 2010. ‘Metaphor in usage’. Cognitive Linguistics 21, no. 4: 765–796.

Šukys, J. 1998. Lietuvių kalbos linksniai ir prielinksniai: vartosena ir normos [Lithuanian prepositions and cases: usage and norm]. Kaunas: Šviesa.

Svorou, S. 1994. The Grammar of Space. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Svorou, S. 2008. ‘Relational constructions in cognitive linguistics’. In D. Geeraerts & H. Cuyckens (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics, 726–752. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tabakowska, E. 2003. ‘Space and time in Polish: the preposition za and the verbal prefix za-’. In H. Cuyckens, Th. Berg, R. Dirven & K.-U. Panther (eds.) Motivation in Language. Studies in Honor of Günter Radden, 153–177. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Tabakowska, E. 2010. ‘The story of ZA: in defense of the radial category’. Studies in Polish Linguistics 5: 65–77.

Talmy, L. 2000. Toward a Cognitive Semantics. Vol. 1. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Talmy, L. 2007. ‘Attention phenomena’. In D. Geeraerts & H. Cuyckens (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics, 264–293. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, J. R. 1988. ‘Contrasting prepositional categories: English and Italian’. In B. Rudzka-Ostyn (ed.) Topics in Cognitive Linguistics, 299–326. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Taylor, J. R. 1993. ‘Prepositions: patterns of polysemization and strategies of disambiguation’. In C. Zelinsky-Wibbelt (ed.) The Semantics of Prepositions: from mental processing to natural language processing, 154–175. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Taylor, J. R. 1995. Linguistic Categorization. Prototypes in Linguistic Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Tyler, A. 2012. Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language learning. Theoretical Basics and Experimental Evidence. New York/London: Routledge.

Tyler, A. & Evans, V. 2003. The Semantics of English Prepositions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Valiulytė, E. 1998. Dabartinės lietuvių kalbos sintaksiniai sinonimai [Syntactic synonyms in contemporary Lithuanian]. Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos institutas.

Vandeloise, C. 1991. Spatial prepositions. A Case Study in French. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Zinkevičius, Z. 1966. Lietuvių dialektologija [Lithuanian dialectology]. Vilnius: Mintis.

Zinkevičius, Z. 1981. Lietuvių kalbos istorinė gramatika [Grammar of Lithuanian on historical principles]. Vol. 1. Vilnius: Mokslas.