Dr Anu Maarit Koskela

Job: Senior Lecturer in English Language

Faculty: Arts, Design and Humanities

School/department: School of Humanities

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, UK, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 207 8340

E: akoskela@dmu.ac.uk

W: http://www.dmu.ac.uk/humanities


Personal profile

Anu Koskela's research is concerned with lexical semantics (word meaning), particularly from a cognitive linguistic perspective. Her main research interests are the multiplicity of word meaning and lexical semantic relations. Most of her research has examined the phenomenon of ‘vertical polysemy’ or ‘autohyponymy’, where a word has a broader and a narrower reading (e.g. drink ‘consume liquid’; ‘consume alcohol’). She is the co-author (with M. Lynne Murphy) of Key Terms in Semantics (2010, Continuum). 

Publications and outputs 

  • Coats and bras and jeans – and clothes, too: Lexical contrast between hyperonyms and hyponyms
    Coats and bras and jeans – and clothes, too: Lexical contrast between hyperonyms and hyponyms Koskela, Anu A special case of lexical contrast involves contrasting a hyperonym and a hyponym (as in clothes and socks), leading to the narrowing of the hyperonym’s sense. However, not all hyperonym/hyponym pairs are amenable to contrast (e.g. ?animals and cats). While category prototype structure forms a strong motivating and constraining factor for hyperonym/hyponym contrast (e.g. Lehrer 1990), what is lacking in previous work is a systematic consideration of the phenomenon in real language use. To that end, data from the GloWbE corpus (Davies 2013) was used to investigate which terms for items of clothing (e.g. coat, bra, jeans) can be contrasted with their hyperonym (either clothes or clothing). While marginal members of the ITEM OF CLOTHING category (e.g. belt, hat) have a stronger potential for contrasting with the hyperonym, even prototypical hyponyms (e.g. shirt, jeans) contrasted with clothes/clothing in at least some contexts. Language users can therefore manipulate category boundaries to meet their discourse needs, exploiting a range of dimensions of difference to create contrast. Many clothing terms were also found to contrast more readily with clothes than with clothing, suggesting that the meaning of clothes is generally narrower than that of its near-synonym clothing.
  • Signals of Contrastiveness: But, Oppositeness, and Formal Similarity in Parallel Contexts
    Signals of Contrastiveness: But, Oppositeness, and Formal Similarity in Parallel Contexts Murphy, M. Lynne; Jones, Steven; Koskela, Anu By examining contexts in which “emergent” oppositions appear, we consider the relative contribution of formal parallelism, connective type, and semantic relation (considered as an indicator of relative semantic parallelism) in generating contrast. The data set is composed of cases of ancillary antonymy—the use of an established antonym pair to help support and/or accentuate contrast between a less established pair. Having devised measures for formal and semantic parallelism, we find that but is less likely to appear in contexts with high levels of formal parallelism than non-contrastive connectives like and or punctuation. With respect to semantic parallelism, we find that contrastive connectives are less likely to occur with pairs that are in traditional paradigmatic relations (“nym relations”: antonymy, co-hyponymy, synonymy). The article’s main hypothesis—that non-paradigmatic relations need more contextual sustenance for their opposition—was therefore supported. Indeed, pairs in nym relations were found to be more than twice as likely to be joined by a non-contrastive connective as by a contrastive one.
  • Inclusion, contrast and polysemy in dictionaries: The relationship between theory, language use and lexicographic practice
    Inclusion, contrast and polysemy in dictionaries: The relationship between theory, language use and lexicographic practice Koskela, Anu This paper explores the lexicographic representation of a type of polysemy that arises when the meaning of one lexical item can either include or contrast with the meaning of another, as in the case of dog/bitch, shoe/boot, finger/thumb and animal/bird. A survey of how such pairs are represented in monolingual English dictionaries showed that dictionaries mostly represent as explicitly polysemous those lexical items whose broader and narrower readings are more distinctive and clearly separable in definitional terms. They commonly only represented the broader readings for terms that are in fact frequently used in the narrower reading, as shown by data from the British National Corpus.
  • Identification of homonyms in different types of dictionaries
    Identification of homonyms in different types of dictionaries Koskela, Anu Homonyms are generally defined as distinct lexical items that happen to share an identical form but whose senses are etymologically or semantically unrelated (e.g. tattoo1 ‘ink mark on skin’ / tattoo2 ‘military drum signal’). In lexicography, however, the decision of when to split particular senses of a lexical form into different homonymous entries must take into account the function of the dictionary and the needs of its intended users. Consequently, different types of dictionaries adopt different homonymy identification policies. This chapter discusses how homonyms are identified and represented in different types of dictionaries, based on a review of 32 monolingual English dictionaries. In the general-purpose dictionaries surveyed, homonyms were generally identified on etymological or semantic grounds. In the special-purpose dictionaries and some of the dictionaries aimed at children and language learners, however, there was a tendency to avoid homonymous headwords and instead group even unrelated senses of a lexical form under the same headword.
  • Shoes, boots and vertical polysemes: The dynamic construal and conventionality of word senses
    Shoes, boots and vertical polysemes: The dynamic construal and conventionality of word senses Koskela, Anu This paper considers lexical items such as 'shoe', whose meaning can be construed more broadly or narrowly (i.e., as either including or excluding boots), and examines how this type of “vertical” meaning variation relates to the distinction between ambiguity and vagueness. I argue that the broader and narrower readings of a single lexical form can be treated as polysemous senses to the extent that they exhibit some symptoms of autonomy as contextually construed sense units. However, as some vertical polysemes’ senses also exhibit symptoms of unity, they fall in between ambiguity and vagueness. As word senses are here defined as contextually construed units of meaning, their autonomy is considered independently from their conventionality. However, a corpus study of pairs of words with a dual inclusion/contrast relationship (including 'shoe/boot', 'cup/mug', 'dog/bitch', 'meat/chicken' and 'dog/puppy') suggests that even senses that exhibit a low degree of autonomy may nevertheless be conventionalised.
  • Metonymy, category broadening and narrowing, and vertical polysemy
    Metonymy, category broadening and narrowing, and vertical polysemy Koskela, Anu This chapter examines the relationship between metonymy and cases of category broadening and narrowing and the resulting state of vertical polysemy (e.g., cat ‘domestic cat’ > ‘any feline’ and drink ‘consume liquid’ > ‘consume alcohol’). Broadening and narrowing have been argued to be motivated by metonymic processes where a category member stands for the whole category or vice versa (Radden and Kövecses, 1999; cf. also Lakoff, 1987). Here, I show that there is a crucial difference between the domain structures involved in metonymy and in vertical polysemy. Unlike metonymies, broadening and narrowing do not involve a shift in the salience of domains (see Croft, 1993). Instead, I argue that there are four possible domain configurations that may underlie vertically related meanings.
  • Key Terms in Semantics
    Key Terms in Semantics Murphy, M. Lynne; Koskela, Anu Key Terms in Semantics explains the all the terms and concepts in semantics which students on linguistics and language studies course are likely to encounter during their undergraduate study. The book is organized alphabetically, and fully cross-referenced. The book includes a section on key thinkers in semantics, from Aristotle to Noam Chomsky and will be a valuable desk reference for students throughout their undergraduate course. The final section presents a list of key readings in semantics, to signpost the reader towards classic articles, as well providing a springboard to further study. M. Lynne Murphy is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at the School of English, University of Sussex, UK.


Click here for a full listing of Anu Koskela's publications and outputs.

Key research outputs


Research interests/expertise

  • lexical semantics
  • lexicography
  • cognition
  • conceptual metonymy 

Areas of teaching

  • Semantics
  • General linguistics
  • Cognitive linguistics
  • Psycholinguistics
  • History of English language


  • BA (Hons) Linguistics (Sussex)
  • DPhil Linguistics (Sussex)

Courses taught

English Language BA (Hons)

  • ELAN1002 Evolving Language
  • ELAN2004 Structure and Meaning in Language
  • ELAN3000 English Language Dissertation
  • ELAN3002 Psycholinguistics
Anu Koskela

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