Finding the Core - OUT

Updated: Nov 14, 2020

If you really want to understand the concept behind phrasal verbs, you need to begin at the core (Verspoor & Lowrie, 2003).

And here's the same idea in a more technical image from Fujii (2018)


The idea is that all the meanings of a polysemous word (a word that has multiple meanings) are interrelated through the core spatial meaning. And the core spatial meaning is identified through the particle of a phrasal verb: prepositions and adverbs such as up, down, in, out, to, through, on, off, etc.


There are plenty of research papers on the core meanings of particles, but I find it's fun to do a little bit of analysis yourself. As teachers, going through this process will help us know how to guide students through a similar process of discovery.


Step #1: Go to the PHaVe Dictionary and type in the particle that you want to focus on. In my case, I looked at the particle OUT.

Step #2: Write down each phrasal verb using OUT on an index card.

Step #3: Write down the principle meanings on the back of the index card.

Step #4: Sort the verbs by the concepts or metaphors that you perceive. It's helpful to review some core image schemas or metaphors (see post on spatial primitives).

Step #5: Organize the concepts from literal to abstract. Here you can use a visual like concentric circles, or create a mind map. This is what is called "semantic mapping"(more on this later).


I made a little video of how I perceived and analyzed the core meaning and metaphorical extensions of the particle OUT.

Check it OUT!



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