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Cognitive perspectives on English-Italian spatial particles: Towards a motivated description of spatial and non-spatial senses from the lower section of the vertical dimension

English and Italian differ a great deal in their respective repertoires of spatial particles (an important subset of which are prepositions), an area which seems to be quite problematic in foreign language learning. Most current EFL textbooks and didactic grammars tend to provide partial and idiosyncratic cross-linguistic descriptions of such items, while the majority of dictionaries' accounts are grounded in an alphabetical order. This article contributes to the field of research on Cognitive Linguistics applications to pedagogical grammar (see, e.g., Tyler and Evans 2004, Evans and Tyler 2005, Boers et al. (eds) 2010) by proposing a motivated, cognitively grounded contrastive account of particles in English and Italian which ideally addresses the needs of pedagogy professionals as well as of advanced Italian learners of English. The proposal draws on Tyler and Evans's (2003) Principled Polysemy Network model (also see Evans 2010) and applies the rationale of a cognitively oriented view of Lexical Complexity (Bertuccelli Papi and Lenci 2007) to the overall organisation of data. Spatial and non-spatial senses of particles of verticality are here focused on, especially those in the lower section of the vertical axis. The examples were mainly gathered from dictionaries, corpora and informants.

Key words: spatial particles, polysemy networks, lexical complexity


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