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N°21 – The lexicon and pragmatics

Deadline for sending in final versions of papers: 1 February 2023

Lexis Journal in English Lexicology – will publish its 21st issue in 2023. It will be edited by Olivier Simonin (Université de Perpignan – Via Domitia, France) and will deal with the topic “The lexicon and pragmatics”.

The lexicon and pragmatics

What pertains to the meaning of lexical units (whether simple or complex) and interpretative mechanisms to yield meaning in context is a crucial question in linguistic theory. It is exemplified by distinctions such as Oswald Ducrot’s opposition between “signification” and “sense”. Linguists have been encouraged by lexicographic tradition to consider that lexical meaning amounts to dictionary entries, which can then take on a more specific meaning in a given utterance.

The 21st issue of Lexis will explore the connections between the lexicon and pragmatics, investigating how the lexicon interacts with linguistic pragmatics, which accounts for the role and influence of contexts (situational, linguistic contexts…) on the semantic interpretation of utterances. Its purpose is to question the classical conception of the lexicon, inherited from lexicography, which tends to regard lexical units as stable – providing basic building blocks to construct utterance meaning afterwards. Firth [1935] in fact already noted that “the complete meaning of a word is always contextual”. It now seems absolutely essential to investigate with sound scientific caution the new models that account for the lexicon and utterance meaning in order to understand the various phenomena that pertain to the interaction between the lexicon and pragmatics.

The study of the articulation between the lexicon, or lexical semantics, and pragmatics, is one of the main research issues in linguistics, and many publications focus on this topic (Zufferey et al. [2019], Carston [2019], Depraetere & Salkie [2017], etc.). The notion that there could be a strict separation between a rigid, abstract lexical meaning on the one hand, and pragmatic mechanisms operating afterwards on the other, has been shown to be highly problematic in a significant number of publications: post-Gricean pragmatics (Sperber & Wilson [1995], Recanati [2004]) puts forward many arguments to demonstrate that the literal meaning of utterances is partly determined by pragmatic mechanisms: in The ham sandwich in the corner wants more coffee, for instance, the hearer first needs to infer that ham sandwich refers to a customer through metonymy to represent the proposition conveyed by that utterance mentally. Some scholars have sought to include a pragmatic component to their account of some linguistic items, like modals (Depraetere [2019]), or to suggest an instructional component to determine meaning (Col [2017]).

To treat the lexicon without paying attention to the use of language in context has already created several difficulties that are well-known among lexicographers and lexicologists, who readily acknowledge the arbitrary nature of many definitional and classificatory choices regarding lexical units. How can one safely draw a line between polysemy and homonymy? How many entries should be proposed for a given word, if some senses can be inferred from others? One should perhaps consider that only (a) part(s) of (a) concept(s) connected with a word is activated in an utterance (Langacker’s active zones [1991]), but this solution is not exempt from criticism (Kleiber [1999]).

The evolution of lexical units over time raises the question of the emergence of new meanings from what appears to be inferences initially (Dasher & Traugott [2002]) and the issue of connotation (Kerbrat-Orecchioni [1977]) − or encyclopaedic entries and semantic prosody in Sinclair’s [2004] sense −, which also undergoes change and is deeply involved in generating implicatures. Although rather poorly studied in lexicology, it also relates to the problem of how the context in which lexical units occur influences semantic interpretation: lexical meaning seems to be first given or selected depending on the context of utterance, which appears to be true for new euphemisms (Lexis 7 [2012]) or other tropes that lexicalize in a specific domain (Firth [1951] went as far as saying that “each word when used in a new context is a new word”).

Contributions to appear in Lexis 21 will focus on the articulation between the lexicon and pragmatics taken in a broad sense, studying occurrences of lexical units within specific contexts in English. For instance, authors could explore one the following topics and produce a linguistic study or a theoretical paper or survey on:

  • Instructional models of meaning;

  • Any other approach offering an alternative to the classical model;

  • Inferential meaning that becomes invited into lexical meaning;

  • Pragmatic enrichment of literal meaning;

  • Semantic prosody;

  • Connotation;

  • Argumentative semantics (Carel [2011]; Anscombre & Ducrot [1976]);

  • The influence of the contexts of utterance and occurrence on lexical meaning.


Anscombre J.-C. & Ducrot O., 1976, « L’argumentation dans la langue », Langages 42, 5-27.

Carel M., 2011, L’entrelacement argumentatif : Lexique, discours et blocs sémantiques, Paris, Champion.

Carston R., 2019, “Ad hoc concepts, polysemy and the lexicon”, in Scott K., Clark B. & Carston R. (Eds.), Relevance, Pragmatics and Interpretation, Cambridge, CUP, 150-162.

Col G., 2017, Construction du sens : un modèle instructionnel pour la sémantique, Bruxelles, Peter Lang.

Dasher R. B. & Traugott E. Closs, 2002, Regularity in Semantic Change, Cambridge, CUP.

Depraetere I., 2019, “Meaning in context and contextual meaning: a perspective on the semantics-pragmatics interface applied to modal verbs”, Anglophonia 28.

Depraetere I. & Salkie R. (Eds.), 2017, Semantics and Pragmatics: Drawing a Line, New York, Springer.

Ducrot O., 1991, Dire et ne pas dire, 3e édition, Paris, Hermann.

Firth J. R., 1935, The Techniques of Semantics, Transacations of the Philological Society.

Firth J. R., 1951, “Modes of Meaning”, Essays and Studies, The English Association.

Kerbrat-Orecchioni C., 1977, La connotation, Lyon, Presses Universitaires de Lyon.

Kleiber G., 1999, Problèmes de sémantique : La polysémie en question, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.

Langacker R. W., 1991, Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, vol. II, Stanford, Stanford University Press.

Recanati F., 2004, Literal Meaning, Cambridge, CUP.

Sinclair J., 1998. “The Lexical item”, in Weigand E. (Ed.), Contrastive Lexical Semantics [Current Issues Linguistic Theory 171], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1-24.

Sinclair J., 2004, Trust the Text: Language, Corpus and Discourse, London: Routledge.

Sperber D. & Wilson D., 1995, Relevance: Communication and Cognition, 2e edition, Oxford, Basil Blackwell.

Wilson D. & Sperber D., 2012, Meaning and Relevance, Cambridge: CUP.

Zufferey S., Moeschler J. & Reboul A., 2019, Implicatures, Cambridge: CUP.

How to submit

Please clearly indicate the title of the paper and include an abstract between 3,000 and 6,000 characters (including spaces) as well as a list of relevant key-words and references. All abstract and paper submissions will be anonymously peer-reviewed (double-blind peer reviewing) by an international scientific committee composed of specialists in their fields. Papers will be written preferably in English or occasionally in French.

Manuscripts may be rejected, accepted subject to revision, or accepted as such. There is no limit to the number of pages.

Abstracts and articles will be sent via email to


December 2021: Call for papers

September 30 2022: Deadline for sending in abstracts to Lexis

End of October 2022: Evaluation Committee’s decisions notified to authors

January 15 2023: Deadline for sending in papers (Guidelines for submitting articles:

January and February 2023: Proofreading of papers by the Evaluation committee

March 2023: Authors’ corrections

April 1 2023: Deadline for sending in final versions of papers

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