Meaning in Discourse; A Relevance - Theoretical Approach to EkeGusii Polysemes.

Volume 19
Issue 1
Opande Nilson Isaac
This study is motivated by assertions made by Bréal (1924 [1897]) claiming
that deciphering of polysemes at a synchronic level should not posit a problem
because meanings of such polysemes are mainly determined by the context of
the discourse: It is the context that eliminates ambiguity and foregrounds the
meaning of a particular polyseme. The study is based on the tenets of
relevance theory, particularly the cognitive and communicative principles,
(Sperber and Wilson, 1986/1995; and Carston, 2002) to render a pragmatic
account of EkeGusii polysemes. It strives to investigate how polysemous
senses of EkeGusii lexical items are established and meaning deciphered.
This study deduces that the meaning of a polysemous word is inferred
pragmatically as a result of the addressee endeavouring to deduce what a
speaker intends by the particular lexical concepts they encode; hence it is
a communicative phenomenon that is highly dependent on the addressee’s
ability to employ pragmatic inference.