Cognitive Linguistics
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Encyclopaedic Meaning project
Ideas from cognitive grammar
Immediate scope
Scope of predication
Dictionary meaning
Encyclopaedic meaning
Frame semantics
Frame evocation
Semantic frame
Mental space theory
Structural semantics
Windowing of attention

Frame semantics is a theory that relates linguistic semantics to encyclopaedic knowledge developed by Charles J. Fillmore, and is a further development of his case grammar.

The basic idea is that one cannot understand the meaning of a single word without access to all the essential knowledge that relates to that word. For example, one would not be able to understand the word sell without knowing anything about the situation of COMMERCIAL TRANSACTION, which also involves, among other things, a SELLER, a BUYER, GOODS, MONEY, the relation between the MONEY and the GOODS, the relations between the SELLER and the GOODS and the MONEY, the relation between the BUYER and the GOODS and the money and so on.

Thus, a word activates, or evokes, a semantic frame of encyclopaedic meaning relating to the specific concept it refers to (or highlights, in frame semantic terminology).

Words not only highlight individual concepts, but also specify a certain perspective in which the frame is viewed. For example "sell" views the situation from the perspective of the seller and "buy" from the perspective of the buyer. This, according to Fillmore, explains the observed asymmetries in many lexical relations.

While originally only being applied to lexemes, frame semantics has now been expanded to grammatical constructions and other larger and more complex linguistic units and has more or less been integrated into construction grammar as the main semantic principle.


  • Fillmore, Charles J. (1977). "Scenes-and-frames semantics". In A. Zampolli, ed. Linguistic Structures Processing. Amsterdam: North-Holland. 55-81.
  • Fillmore, Charles J. (1982). "Frame semantics". In The Linguistic Society of Korea, eds. Linguistics in the Morning Calm. Seoul: Hanshin. 111-37.
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