Erdoğan BOZ1, Asiye Hande Nur TÜRKOLUK2

1Eskişehir Osmangazi University
2Eskişehir Osmangazi University

Keywords: The Context of the Situation, contextuality, polysemy, Halliday, semantic structure, methods of gaining new meanings.


The context of the situation (Cos) is a journey of the stages of a word obtaining new meanings in the context. The context shapes the meaning of the word. However, this process has some sub-headings. The main title of these sub-headings is the context of the situation. While sub-headings of cos change, the context itself alters, so the word obtains new meanings. Cos and the context are facts that intertwine with each other.

The first usage of cos as a linguistic term belongs to ethnographer Bronislaw Malinowski. As he translates the verbal data from a primitive tribe Kiriwa into English, he realizes that translation causes loss of meaning. Then, one thinks translation techniques must bear the environment of the source language. Hence, he begins to translate, considering the sense that the environmental variables attach to the words in the text (2014, p. 238-239).

In the following years, Michael Halliday groups Malinowski’s environmental variables into three sub-headings. These are the field, the tenor, and the mode (1989, p. 10-12). According to Halliday, these sub-lines carry the meaning in a conversation. We can understand and respond to each other in the moment of the conversation thanks to comprehending sub-lines of cos. It has to be noted that the process is quick to realize for the human perception.

The first step in this process is to display the application of Halliday’s theory into a screenplay. In this application, the aim is how words from the scenario get new meanings based on cos. These words gain new meaning through different sub-heads of cos based on the word class of the lexical item. The very first part is information of terminology about the subject. In the paper, the two main terms are cos and polysemy. Thus, the terminology part consists of the short history of cos and polysemy.

After the terminology, polysemic nouns, adjectives, and verbs selected from the scenario named Korkuyorum Anne İnsan Nedir ki, an example of Turkish text, are listed and classified based on cos theory. The polysemic words are categorized according to which sub-line of cos (the field, the tenor, the mode) gives a new meaning to them. In the follow-up phase of the study, it is determined that sub-heads of cos causing the polysemy is distributed at different rates according to word class. Finally, the main question is ‘While words gain new meanings, does each word class have a unique method?.’

2. Terminology

2.1. The Context of the Situation

Cos as a term has a very deep bond with Erving Goofman’s situation theory. Goofman is the founder of dramaturgical sociology. His situation notion is that individuals engage in social interaction in a social establishment which is domestic or industrial. The main purpose of the social interaction for the individual is to get what the other person says and act accordingly (Melkinov ve Johnson, 2000, p. 18). The term of the situation may consist of either a family gathering or a business meeting. However, the situation does not evaluate the individual as a mere self, because one cannot present oneself in an unbiased way within the social establishment. Hence, one and the situation where one is in are not evaluated separately.

Cos and the situation intersect at this point. Since the individual’s self cannot be evaluated independently from the situation, the boundaries of the self-depend on cos. In other words, these boundaries vary by person, set, and time. As in Goofman’s elevator example (1971, p. 30-32), individuals present themselves with masks chosen by themselves or the society in a situation. In addition, these people want to know whether these false faces work in the set or context where they present themselves with masks. In other words, they want to get to know the people they are communicating with and know what people think about what they say during the dialogue. Reaching these pieces of information is partly impossible because reading the mind is unattainable. The possible thing is clues getting from the context of the talk among these people. The people in question try to direct the dialogue according to the clues they have collected formerly. This phenomenon is referred to as the context of the situation in the literature.

The primary thesis of cos in linguistics is that an utterance cannot be understood until the context reveals itself. J. R. Firth suggests that one cannot know the meaning of an utterance without knowledge about the context. As such, the meaning of a word is specific to the situation in which it occurs (1968, p. 61).

For instance, [ev] (house) as a lexical unit has some meanings. These meanings are just definitions of the substance that contains the essence of the semantic content of the [home] image (Başar, 2019, p. 26-27). On the other hand, sentences formed in a context have meaning. Having meaning intends to perform a conscious act of generating ideas (Langendeon, 1967, p. 107). The sentences which are consciously produced have senses specific to the context in which they are performed. Halliday divides the context in which sentences are produced into three subheadings (1989, p. 12):

i. The Field

ii. The Tenor

iii. The Mode

2.1.1. The Field

The field is a term pointing to what happens in the situation (Halliday and Hasan, 1989, p. 12). For example, while kids play hide-and-seek, he or she does not close his/her eyes during the counting. When the other kids notice the cheat, they object to it. In this example, the field is cheating and objection in hide-and-seek. Thanks to the field, we see that playing by rules is fundamental, and kids know the rules because they had formerly played the game.

2.1.2. The Tenor

The tenor consists of the roles and status of individuals and their relationships with each other in the situation (1989, p. 12). In the example, it seems that kids are at the same level as status. However, the first kid objecting to the cheat becomes superior thanks to others’ supports.

2.1.3. The Mode

The mode is how people use the language to achieve their goals in the situation (1989, p. 12). In the hide-and-seek example, the style of kids’ objection may be kind, didactic, or pejorative. Similar or the same sentences are made with each. But their signification cannot be identical. At this point, it seems inevitable that cos causes polysemy.

2.2. Polysemy

Polysemy is a feature that word has more than one meaning which is relevant to each other. Polysemy has become a topic in contemporary linguistics at the end of the 19th century (Nerlich, 2003, p. 49). Geoffrey Nunberg takes polysemy to a contextual level.

(1) ‘Beykoz buradan geçiyor mu?’
‘Does Beykoz pass from here?’

The first sight, the sample sentence may seem logically wrong. However, it becomes a logical and grammatical sentence if one asks for the bus to Beykoz in Istanbul. Rationality and grammaticality meaning in that the sentence fits syntax rules and it has meaning for native speakers. If we go deeper for having sense, whether a sentence has a signification depends on the context. In other words, meaningfulness emerges from the relationship between the linguistic structure matched by the (native) speaker and the extra-linguistic reality (referent) and/or concepts (Boz: 2020, p. 5-8). The sample sentence (1) may be meaningless within some context, while one living in Istanbul and using the bus is meaningful. Nunberg defines this kind of dialogue as cooperation between speaker and listener (1979, p. 174). In a word, Beykoz means a district in İstanbul as a lexeme, while it means the bus to Beykoz in the context.

One of the outstanding linguistics’ theories defending that polysemy is the contextual phenomenon is truth-conditional pragmatics. This theory reveals that a word gains new meanings via semantic extension, restriction, and transfer, within the context (Recanati, 2017, p. 379-381; Benveniste, 1973, p. 227). Based on this view, we can argue that semantic changes and context cannot be considered separately. In other words, for semantic change, context is a must.

The semantic change mainly includes semantic extension, restriction, and transfer.

(2) ‘ATM kartımı yuttu.’
‘ATM swallowed my credit card.’

In the Turkish Language Institute Dictionary (GTS), the first meaning of [yut-] (to swallow) is ‘to pass something in the mouth into the pharynx.’ In example (2) [yut-] obtains a new meaning which is that ATM is not returning a card, via semantic extension. If these new senses settle in social memory, it may become a new connotation (Recanati, 2017, p. 382).

Another linguist who argues that polysemy emerges with context is Alan Cruse. According to Cruse, meaning of a word cannot shell without being used in a context. Indeed, we do not convey the message with words in a conversation. The meanings of words in context form the communication (1986, p. 1-16). For instance, [kanepe] (couch) generates several meaningful images in the mind. Even these images are formed in mind in their context. Such as both the sofa in a seating group and the tiny sandwiches served at a cocktail party refer [kanepe] in Turkish. Thus, we communicate through utterances. Therefore, the meaning of a word in an utterance becomes more reliable for us; the meaning of a word derives from its contextual relations.

2.3. Semantic Changes Providing Polysemy

As mentioned before, semantic changes arising from the context cause polysemy (see 2.2.). This process begins with the instant generation of new meanings within the context. If this new input is accepted by society, it becomes a new connotation; if not, the new input is forgotten (Bussmann, 1996, p. 805-806; Crystal, 2008, p. 329).

The speaker meets a new situation with a word from one’s mental lexicon based on the previous experiences. When this usage spreads in society and shows resistance to generalize, it becomes a new input to the dictionary (Bozkurt, 2017, p. 56). Sperber and Wilson explain this topic: Speakers tend to use existing words for new scenes rather than create new ones (1998, p. 197). While speakers use existing words for a recent incident, they bring new meanings appropriate to that scene. By doing this, they make use of semantic changes. Here, we explain the main semantic changes providing polysemy.

2.3.1. Simile

The simile is associating a feature of one object or action with another thing or movement. In other words, it is describing an object or action by reminding another stuff or action having a similar feature in one way (İmer, Kocaman & Özsoy, 2011, p. 49). It is the similarity of an object to another thing in one aspect (softness, length, sharpness, etc.). As a result of this change, the likened word gains a new meaning by taking on a specific feature of another object.

(3) ‘Odun kafalısın.’
‘You are a wood-head’ (You are a knucklehead.)

In the example, an analogy to wood known for its hardness and thickness in nature gives new meaning to the word. Thus, the term wood-headed can be used for someone who understands late.

2.3.2. Figure

It is a semantic change that adds a new meaning to the word only in the event in which it occurs. In the figure, the word temporarily takes on the meaning of another word. But this temporal meaning is valid only in a particular context.

(4) ‘Tüm bunlar senin başının altından çıktı.’
‘All of them get out from your head.’ (All of them are your own doing.)

In the sample sentence, the word head gains new meaning through the figure and temporarily represents the person in this context.

2.3.3. Metaphor

The metaphor is quite similar to the simile. In the metaphor, while one represents a notion, one uses another notion that relates to the first notion in some ways (Aksan, 2006, p. 62).

(5) ‘Benim tarlada üç elim ayağım var.’
‘I have three hands and feet in the yard.’

In this example, a farmer refers to his three employees as three hands and feet, who are as necessary and helpful to him as his hands and feet. However, it is not possible for all new meanings acquired through transfer to be new input into the dictionary.

(6) ‘Biri beni buraya sıkıştırmış.’
‘Someone has trapped me here.’

A driver may use this phrase when one saw someone else parks very close to his car. By telling “me” here, one intends to mean the car. However, it is not possible to find the equivalent of the car in the dictionary for the input “me” (Murphy, 2010, p. 98). Obtaining new meaning is performative and context dependent. Metaphors are the strategy of using a familiar sign to tell something new (Uçar, 2009, p. 43). This view is also valid for other semantic changes.

3. Polysemy Caused by Cos in Turkish

This study refers to the master’s thesis titled ‘A Polysemy Phenomenon: The Context of the Situation’ presented at Eskişehir Osmangazi University in 2019.

The examples in the study appear in the scenario book titled Korkuyorum Anne İnsan Nedir ki… published by Reha Erdem and Nilüfer Güngörmüş in 2009. The polysemic words which have the highest frequency of occurrence in the script are chosen. The words include nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Also, they are displayed in the sequence in which they appear in the scenario. Later, these examples were examined under the titles of the field, the tenor, and the mode, which Halliday assigned as the sub-headings of cos. The main question is what happened to the words as the semantic change when elements of cos change?

Turkish Language Institute Dictionary (GTS)[2] and Kubbealtı Dictionary (KL)[3] are used in the study.

3.1. Cos Causing the Polysemy of Nouns in Turkish

There are many polysemic nouns in the script titled as Korkuyorum Anne İnsan Nedir ki… But the frequency of occurrence of the noun abla (elder sister) is the highest of all. Here below examination of the noun abla is shown in sequences:

“13. (dış-gün/ali ev, balkon)

neriman- peki baştan başlayalım!.. şimdi... beni hatırlıyor musun? ben alt komşunuz neriman. hani hep dikiş diken ... ııı, modacı diyelim.

ipek-(ali ’ye, sakin) terzi.

neriman- insan zorlanıyor ayol, ne zor şey kendini anlatmak ... (arkasına yaslanıyor.) aslında evet, iyi dikiş dikerim. ustam annik bana, sen cerrah olacak karıymışsın, derdi. iyi fransızca bilirim, ispanyolcam vardır... aslını sorarsan yerim burası değildi benim ...

rasih- allah allaah, ne alakası var şimdi sizin...

neriman-(sertleşiyor) e, yardım ediyoruz işte! anlatın, hatırlatın dedi doktor! nasıl anlatayım kendimi?

selvi- kşşşt! kşşşt! Kör olasıcalar! bıktım be sizden!

ipek-(hızlı hızlı) dur abla bak ben söyleyeyim ... (ali ’ye) neriman abla terzi, iyi terzi ... çok işi, çok da parası var!

neriman- ah nerede çok para!

ipek-bu da oğlu keten. o da iyi terzi olacak.

neriman- ohoo, ona daha çok zaman var ...

neriman- bu ipek. karnındaki çocuğu doğuracak...

ipek- e beni zaten hatırlıyor...

neriman-(aldırmayıp devam ediyor) tek başına... nasıl bakacak belli değil.

ipek-(gülüyor) neriman abla, söylemeyi unuttum, yanıma kiracı buldum. çok tatlı bir kız. adı ümit.

ali- aman evinin içine alacaksın, öyle hemen atlama üstüne. biz de bir görelim, bakalım. neriman- iyileşiyor. (rasih’e) bak vallahi söylediklerimizin faydası oldu!

rasih- ali, oğlum beni de hatırla, bak ... baban. seni ben büyüttüm sayılır. rasih aktar. emekli sağlıkçı. seni doktor yapmak istedim ama, okumadın. dinlemedin beni.

rasih- neyse, ben...

neriman- baban seni çok sever evladım... sana hem anne hem baba ...

ali- aa, çakır’a yeni tasma almışsınız!

rasih-(kızıyor) dinlemiyor ki!

ipek- bak çakır’ı bile bildi, rasih amca!

keten- tasmayı bile anladı.

rasih-(bağırıyor) beni hatırlıyor musun, beni?

ipek’ın sesı- bu da selvi. .. uçan kadın, camların perisi, mutfakların gülü, kadınlığın gururu ... bir erkek göremezsin onun gibi... buralarda her şeyi o yapar, yemek, temizlik, hastabakıcılık, cambazlık...

selvi- (ince sesiyle çığlık çığlığa bağırıyor) kşşşşşşşt! kuş değil bela bunlar be! daha yeni sildiydim camları, gene etmişler kanadı kırılasıcalar! gaganız kopsun sizin! cıy! cıy! cıy! yeter!

ipek- çok yaşa.

ali- çok yaşa.

neriman- siz de görün. (hapşırıyor.) ay bıktım. yine çok azdı.

selvi- çok yaşa. alerji mevsimi geldi herhalde ...”

The field: In the sequence the neighbors are trying to tell Ali who has lost his memory about themselves to help him regain his memory.

The tenor: In the sequence at first it seems like a casual relationship between Ali and neighbors. But they are like a big family living in the same apartment.

The mode: In this sequence oral communication is used. Purpose of the use of language is to inform. Since the class of people are close in the sequence, the language is not didactic; it is informal speech.

“26. (iç-gün/neriman ev)

neriman- bak madem abla diye sordun, açık söyliyeyim, kulaklarını küçülttürmen şart. biliyorum yapıyorlar...

neriman- ayrıca çenen iri. onun da çaresi var, tıp ilerledi kızım. korkulacak bir şey yok. şöyle etini güzelce yaracaklar ikiye, kemiğe bir·iki törpü ...

neriman (ds)-... duymayacaksın kız, anestezi var. sonra kapayacaklar. fazla gelen etleri ya alırlar, ya da içe kıvırıp ince teğel... anladın?

kız (ds)-çok para değil mi be abla?

neriman- taksitle yaptır. çalışan kadınsın!

neriman- omuzların dar, onun çaresi biraz zor. göğüsler iyi, fakat ortalı değil be canikom, benim modeller tutmuyor, biliyorsun. onları da ortalattırıcan!

neriman- yapma be güzelim! senin güzelliğin için diyorum! millet cinsiyetten cinsiyete geçiyor ameliyattan, seninki ne ki, bir-iki rektif!”

The field: Neriman, who is a tailor, is giving advice on beauty to her customer.

The tenor: People in the sequence seems like a usual customer-seller relationship. In fact, Neriman and her customer has more intimate relationship than it seems.

The mode: Neriman uses a superior style to her customer even though they have intimate relationship. Thus, Neriman prefers to use a didactic speech.

“146. (iç-gün / merdivenler)

çetin- kap, kap çakır kap!

Neriman- o ne öyle?

çetin- ümit abla’nın ayağı! çakır’a şaka yapıyorum! yani belki yer diye!

Neriman- çakır’ıım! hadi gel annene, sevsin seni biraz! bak çok özledi seni annen! (fısıldıyor) çakıır... affet, n’olur affet!

çetin- neriman teyze, köpekler bizi içimizde kemik var diye mi ısırıyo?

Neriman-(çocuk gibi ağlayarak) hayır... içimizde kalp yok diye... ısırıyor!”

The field: Neriman and her dog are on bad terms. To make up with her dog, Neriman uses an opportunity. This is one of her failed attempts to make peace with her dog.

The tenor: There is a mother-son relationship between Neriman and her dog. There is an aunt-nephew relationship between Neriman and Çetin.

The mode: The speech used in the sequence is informal. So, Neriman uses the language as a tool to make up with her dog. The main communication is not with Çetin. Here the important thing is the purpose which is making peace with the dog; not the speech itself.

The first meaning of abla is elder sister as it says on the GTS. The noun abla means a woman who is respected as an elder sister in the 13th sequence.[4] At the 26th sequence, it means a reliable elder woman. [5] In both sequences, nouns gain their meanings via the simile within the context (also see 2.3.1.). According to Halliday’s theory, the meanings arise from the tenor including the class dynamics between the people, as shown in the sequences. In addition, at the 146th sequence the noun abla obtains the meaning via the tenor. The sense of the noun is a title used after female names to show respect. [6] Since this title is very common in Turkish society, the role of tenor, obtaining the new meaning, does not draw attention as much as the examples shown at other sequences.

3.2. Cos Causing the Polysemy of Adjectives in Turkish

The most used adjective is derin (deep) in the scenario. Here are the sequences:

“100. (ıç-gün/ıpek ev)

çetin- niye cevap vermiyorsun?

ümit- ıpek’in telefonu o. onu arıyorlardır.

telesekreterdeki ses- orda mısın? cevap ver bana! .. ... yüzüğümü istiyorum. benden böyle kurtulamazsın... bana bak biliyorum ordasın! ... ver şunu diyorum! ver!

çetin- ne istiyormuş? kimin sesi o?

ümit- bilmem. ipek’le ilgili. korktun mu?

ümit- korkma.

çetin- korkuyorum bazen.

ümit- neyden korkuyorsun?

çetin-... bazı şeylerden... mesela sünnetten.

ümit- başka?

çetin- karanlıktan.

ümit- başka?

çetin- rasih amca’dan...

çetin- rasih amca’nın ölü kitabından...

ümit- herkesin bir sürü korkusu vardır zaten. bütün korkularını bir cebine doldurursun. sonra teker teker alır diğer cebine geçirirsin. geçirirken derin bir nefes alır, hepsine bir bir bakarsın, bir de bakmışsın bazıları yok olup gitmiş...”

The field: Ümit is giving advice to Çetin on how to beat his fears.

The tenor: Ümit and Çetin are neighbors. Since Ümit is elder, she has higher status than Çetin.

The mode: The speech is instructive and didactic.

“143. (ıç-gün/ali ev)

Rasih- size iyi haberi vereyim, oğlum iyileşti! hatırladı beni! baba, dedi! yapma baba, dedi! Neriman- ah gözümüz aydın! gözümüz aydın! ali, nasıl oldu birdenbire... anlatsana...

Ali- ben şurada duruyordum. babam bağırarak üzerime geldi, beni itekledi, düşürdü. düşerken de, “yapma baba” dedim. (gülümsüyor) bunda ne var?

Neriman-(gülerek, rasih’e) sen bu oğlancığı çocukken çok dövmüşün herhalde. yine dövmeye kalkınca, bak korktu, hatırladı.

Rasih-yok canım!

Ali- yok, babam beni hiç dövmedi...

Ali- sadece hep böyle koluyla itekler, düşürürdü. değil mi baba?

Rasih- belki bir nevi şoklama oldu. şok ona iyi geldi. hafıza şoku tabii. şöyle hafifçe ittirdim, yere düşerken (mutlu, gülümser), “yap-ma ba-ba”, dedi. gene beğenmediğiniz sağlıkçınız rasih aktar, bir derin sağlık problemini daha çözdü.”

The field: Ali, who has lost his memory, takes a step further to remember his father Rasih and getting better.

The tenor: Rasih and Ali have a problematic relationship. When Ali remembers Rasih, father and son realize they only want each other’s love.

The mode: The speech is used for the communication. Since the purpose is in the frame, the informal speech is present.

The main meaning of derin is being far away from surface or entrance in GTS. In 100th sequence the adjective is used for breath taking from lungs for a long time. [7] The informative feature of the mode creates using the adjective for breathing. The word gains the new meaning via the simile within the context. At the 143rd sequence, the adjective means having comprehensive knowledge in one’s own profession. [8] The field causes rise of the new meaning via the figure within the context.

3.3. Cos Causing the Polysemy of Verbs in Turkish

At last, one of the polysemic verbs tut- (to hold) is displayed within the sequences.

“26. (iç-gün/neriman ev)

neriman- bak madem abla diye sordun, açık söyliyeyim, kulaklarını küçülttürmen şart. biliyorum yapıyorlar...

neriman- ayrıca çenen iri. onun da çaresi var, tıp ilerledi kızım. korkulacak bir şey yok. şöyle etini güzelce yaracaklar ikiye, kemiğe bir·iki törpü ...

neriman (ds)-... duymayacaksın kız, anestezi var. sonra kapayacaklar. fazla gelen etleri ya alırlar, ya da içe kıvırıp ince teğel... anladın?

kız (ds)-çok para değil mi be abla?

neriman- taksitle yaptır. çalışan kadınsın!

neriman- omuzların dar, onun çaresi biraz zor. göğüsler iyi, fakat ortalı değil be canikom, benim modeller tutmuyor, biliyorsun. onları da ortalattırıcan!

neriman- yapma be güzelim! senin güzelliğin için diyorum! millet cinsiyetten cinsiyete geçiyor ameliyattan, seninki ne ki, bir-iki rektif!”

The field: Neriman tells how to look more beautiful, to her customer.

The tenor: Neriman and the customer have a relationship like sisters rather than a customer-seller relationship. Therefore, Neriman is too outspoken while she’s pinpointing the customer’s faults in her appearance. Also, the customer doesn’t try to hide her broken feelings.

The mode: Since Neriman has a higher status than the customer, she uses an authoritative speech.

“34. (iç-gün/ali ev)

ali (ds)- burada annemle gittiğimiz piknik. topum kaybolmuştu sonradan.

ali (ds)- burada çok belim ağrırdı.

ali (ds)- burada gülüyorum.

rasih (ds)- burada bak ben. buradayım işte! bu da sen.

ali (ds)- burada ben yokum.

rasih (ds)- şu sensin işte.

alı (ds)- evet işte karayolları!

ali (ds)- burada ağlıyorum.

ali (ds)-burada çok hastayım.

rasih (ds)-çocukken de hep hastaydın.

ali- bu benim gömleğim değil mi? niye giydiniz?

rasih- allah allaaah! bir de bunu ısrarın tuttu! oğlum senin elbiselerin bana olmaz ki!

ali (ds)- burada, yokum.

rasih (ds)- burada yoksun.”

The field: Ali and Rasih try to bring Ali’s memory back by looking at family photos.

The tenor: Rasih and Ali are father and son. But they have a problem in showing each other affection.

The mode: The bond between Ali and Rasih affects the speech they use via the tenor. Based on the tenor, the words they choose are shaped by problems on their relationship. In other words, the relationship of them affects the new meanings of the verb by way of the tenor.

The first meaning of tut- is to grasp, to carry in GTS. At 26th sequence, the verb means to be suitable and consistent. [9] The field gives the signification. In 34th sequence, the verb means to be demanding. [10] The mode, which is based on the tenor, determines the meaning of the verb within the context. Clauses with semi-auxiliary verb tut- shows how much the subject wants to take the action made with tut- (Kamacı-Gencer, 2019, p. 320). If the speaker uses auxiliary verb et- rather than semi-auxiliary verb tut-, the sentence has more figurative (2019, p. 312) sense. At this example, when Rasih prefers to use the semi-auxiliary verb tut-, it is understood that Rasih realizes Ali’s willingness to perform the action. Also, Rasih wants to end the tension between him and Ali. Therefore, when he chooses to use ısrarı tut- instead of ısrar et-, he shows his fondness and understanding to Ali via the speech. The difference between ısrarı tut- and ısrar et- is that former belongs to more intimate language.

4. Discussion

As mentioned before, the paper refers to the master thesis presenting in 2019. Each example of polysemic words is not included from the thesis. One of the nouns, adjectives and verbs is chosen to examine based on frequency of occurrence. The tables below (1,2 and 3) show which sub-heading of cos affects the most used words in the script. For example, according to the table 1, the noun anne (mother) gains its new meanings via once the tenor and twice the mode.

When we analyze the distribution of nouns, baba (father) and abla gain new meanings from the change of status among people. The noun anne obtains its new meaning via manner of the use of the language (intimate, didactic, etc.). Erkek (man) seems neutral.

On table 2, adjectives gain new meanings more with the field compared to nouns. Adjectives mainly obtain new meanings as cases change. Why do nouns gain new meanings with every area of cos, while adjectives obtain the new meanings with the field rather than other subheadings of cos? Is it caused by the difference between semantic structures of the noun and adjective? Many researchers think that words not randomly divide into nouns, adjectives, and verbs. This derives from their subtle structures. The difference between semantic structures of nouns and adjectives affects their syntactic structure (Wierzbicka, 1986, p. 380-381). For instance, yuvarlak (round) and daire (circle) refer to nearly the same sign. However, they show different aspects in the sentence.

(7) ‘Ay yuvarlaktır.’
‘The moon is round.’

(8) ‘Ayın şekli bir dairedir.’
‘The shape of the moon is circle.’

One of the conclusions reached in Anna Wierzbicka’s work is that if a situation is seen as permanent and/or remarkable and/or important, human nature tends to use nouns rather than adjectives. This is because nouns indicate a classification, while adjectives only indicate a description. Indeed, if people use nouns when they want to express themselves better, it means they use them more. This process may cause that nouns exhibit multifaceted behaviors compared to adjectives while they gain the new meanings. Needless to say that, this thesis needs more comprehensive research and examination to be proved.

On table 3, it seems like a verb gains new meanings mostly in the field. Other subheadings of cos seem neutral for verbs. However, dominancy of the field is peculiar to just one verb, which is unut-. So, we can accept the verb as an exception. Also, it can be said that verbs are neutral as in gaining the new senses. Indeed, what is the cause of that? Dedre Gentner reaches these conclusions about the semantic structure of verbs:

I. Acquiring significations of verbs is relatively slower.

II. Gaining new significations of verbs is multicomponent and,

III. Verbs have wider area of application than simple nouns by children and adults.

These findings are discussed by types of semantic structure of nouns and verbs: Simple nouns refer to entities in the real world. Verbs refer to relationship between entities (1978, p. 988). This results in which verbs enter the dictionary slower than the nouns. Verbs may get support from every subheading of cos because they have more discrete semantic field than nouns and adjectives.

To which class a word belongs to its lexical identity. It has no structural marker on it. In fact, the word acquires this property syntactically. A word can belong to different word classes in different contexts without any structural changes. Therefore, it would be appropriate to separate them as primary categorization and final categorization. While the primary categorization determines the lexical identity of a word, the final categorization states the meaning of a word gaining within the context in line with the speaker’s intention (Lehmann, 2008, p. 4-5) It is important that there is a difference between these two. When a word is used in the context, it gains its own meaning as well as a word class. It shows the context has a primer role in the semantic field of a word.

5. Conclusion

In this paper, attempted to prove that the new meanings of words in Turkish are context dependent. The term cos is used in this topic. Cos interests in new meanings based on the context. The main helpers of cos are Halliday’s subheadings: the field, the tenor, and the mode.

As discussed in the previous part of this paper, nouns, adjectives, and verbs have different semantic structures while gaining new meanings. It is only possible to say an assumption about why these word types get support from different subheadings of cos while gaining new meanings. Since this paper only consists of one script, the aim is not reaching a strict conclusion. However, the research gives clues about semantic structures of different word types. This paper may enlighten the minds to examine the topic further and in more detail.

To not go beyond borders of the topic, lexicology is not mentioned in this research. It is possible to conduct another comprehensive study on whether the new meanings identified in this study are in the dictionary. Simply put why should they be in the dictionary or not? As such, we hope that this will be the subject of another article.

The purpose of the paper is arousing curiosity about how semantic structures of word types develop. It is revealed that each word types go through different processes based on their semantic structures. Therefore, while each word types gain new senses, they behave differently from each other. This idea will open new doors in semantics and lexicology.


COS : The Context of the Situation

GTS : Turkish Language Institue Dictionary

KL : Kubbealtı Dictionary


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  1. This article emerged from the thesis titled A polysemy phenomenon: The context of the situation, which is written by Asiye Hande Nur Başar under the consultancy Prof. Dr. Erdoğan Boz.
  2. (Access date: 1.07.2021).
  3. (Access date: 1.07.2021).
  4. Similar meaning on GTS ‘A girl or woman who is treated with respect and love like an older sister.’
  5. Similar meaning on KL ‘a person who is treated as or respected as an older sister.’
  6. (Access date: 01.07.2021).
  7. Similar meaning on GTS ‘everlasting’ (Access date: 01.07.2021).
  8. (Access date: 01.07.2021).
  9. (Access date: 01.07.2021).
  10. GTS ve KL do not consist of this meaning.

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