CLaC invited talk: Semantic prosody, register and polysemy

CLaC invited talk: Semantic prosody, register and polysemy

CLaC was delighted to welcome Mathias Russnes on 10 April to talk about his PhD research into ‘Semantic prosody, register and polysemy’. This was a very thought-provoking talk open to staff and students of the School of Humanities and associated research centres, the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities and the Centre for Global Learning and it was well-attended both in person and online. We had a lively Q&A session discussing some of the implications of Mathias’s findings.

The talk abstract is copied below:

In this talk, I explore semantic prosody’s sensitivity to register. Semantic prosody describes meaning that is not inherent in lexical items, but rather belongs to an extended unit where the item functions as core (Partington 1998: 67). Polysemous items can exemplify this model of extended units of meaning, in that they are ambiguous in isolation, and therefore context-dependent (Rundell 2018: 7). In previous research, prosodies of units have been shown to vary across registers (Xiao & McEnery 2006; Hunston 2007; Ebeling 2021), but this has generally not been viewed in connection to polysemy. This presentation investigates this connection through a corpus study of the items possession, the edge of and penalty inside and outside of a football context. In the study, material from the English-Norwegian Matchday-Report Corpus will be compared with data from the two registers newspaper and fiction in the British National Corpus 2014, addressing the following research question: why do prosodies vary across registers? The results of the study suggest that the register-specificity of semantic prosody can be connected to the separate senses of the cores of units, the semantic fields in which they are prevalent, and how these fields are distributed unequally in different registers. 


Ebeling, S. O. 2021. Hope for the future: An analysis of HOPE/HÅP(E) across genres and languages. Bergen Language and Linguistic Studies 11(1), pp. 7-26.

Partington, A. 1998. Patterns and Meanings. Using Corpora for English Language Research and Teaching. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Hunston, S. 2007. Semantic Prosody Revisited. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 12(2), pp. 249-268. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Rundell, M. 2018. Searching for extended units of meaning – and what to do when you find them. Lexicography ASIALEX 5, pp. 5-21. Springer.

Xiao, R. & McEnery, T. 2006. Collocation, semantic prosody, and near synonymy. A cross-linguistic perspective. Applied Linguistics 27(1): 103-129. Oxford University Press.