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IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to apply some recent findings about the meaning
of prepositions in Cognitive Linguistics to some phrasal verbs in ESP, namely
Medical and Computer English. We analyse the meaning of some phrasal verbs
by applying the cognitive model of prepositions as large networks of related
senses with a central spatial meaning that can be extended towards more
abstract, metaphorical senses. For this, we have chosen the most obvious spatial
scene, that of a container, and the phrasal verbs referring to that container, those
which are formed with the particles in and out. A number of metaphorical
projections emerge from the analysis that evidences both the unitary meaning of
the particles in different contexts and the motivation underlying the apparent
arbitrariness of the compounds. Those metaphorical projections are but
specifications of some common metaphors we can find in more general uses of
English, which supports the idea that the model presented can be easily extended
to other fields in English as well as to general discourse.
Key words: phrasal verbs, Cognitive Linguistics, Medical English, Computer
English, metaphors.
Resumen
Unu uproximución cognitiuu u ulgunos uerbos con purtículu en el inglés
puru jines especíjicos
El objetivo de este trabajo es aplicar algunos hallazgos recientes sobre el
significado de las preposiciones en Lingüística Cognitiva a algunos verbos con
partícula en IFE, concretamente, Inglés Médico e Inglés de Informática.
Analizamos el significado de algunos verbos con partícula aplicando el modelo
A cognitive approach to some phrasal
verbs in English for Specific Purposes
Mª Dolores Porto Requejo and Carmen Pena Díaz
Universidad de Alcalá de Henares (Spain)
mdolores.porto@uah.es & carmen.pena@uah.es
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cognitivo de las preposiciones como grandes redes de sentidos relacionados con
un sentido espacial central que puede extenderse hacia otros sentidos
metafóricos más abstractos. Para ello, hemos elegido la escena espacial más
obvia, la de un recipiente y los verbos con partícula que se refieren a ese
recipiente, los que están compuestos con las partículas in y out. Del análisis
surgen varias proyecciones metafóricas que demuestran tanto el significado
unitario de las partículas en diferentes contextos, como la motivación que
subyace a la aparente arbitrariedad de los compuestos. Esas proyecciones
metafóricas no son más que especificaciones de algunas metáforas corrientes que
se pueden encontrar en usos más generales de inglés, lo cual confirma la idea de
que el modelo presentado se puede extender fácilmente a otros campos del
inglés para fines específicos así como al discurso común.
Palabras clave: verbos con partícula, Lingüística Cognitiva, inglés médico,
inglés para informática, metáforas.
Introduction
Most English grammars define phrasal verbs as idiomatic verbs in which a
verb combines with prepositions or particles and creates a different meaning
from the original one. The idea is that the particle changes the meaning of
the verb in such a way that it is not possible to connect it any more with the
dictionary definition of the individual words. Moreover, the very same
combination of verb and particle seems to mean different things in different
contexts, which supports the intuition that the final meaning is absolutely
arbitrary. No wonder phrasal verbs are one of the most difficult parts of the
lexicon for foreign learners. On the other hand, they are so expressive that
they are very widespread in native speech, especially in spoken English and,
what is more, new phrasal verbs are constantly being created. If meanings
were as arbitrary as could be inferred from the above definition, they would
not be so easily interpreted and created by speakers. Apparently, what makes
phrasal verbs so unpredictable is the meaning of the particles, since
prepositions seem to be quite arbitrary themselves, whereas the meaning of
the verbs is usually less controversial. Besides, as long as the expressions
refer to spatial locations and movements, the meanings are quite transparent,
but when they refer to more abstract concepts, feelings, relations, etc. the
meanings are not so obvious (Rudzka-Ostyn, 2003).
Over the past few years, a cognitive approach to the meaning of prepositions
has been fruitful in the explanation of their numerous possible uses and how
they are all motivated and related to one another. This paper intends to apply
M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ
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IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS
those findings to phrasal verbs and see if they also provide a satisfactory
explanation for the differences in meaning between the original words and
the final compound. Still, as there are so many possible variations depending
on the contexts where a phrasal verb is used, it will be useful to reduce the
analysis to a few specific fields, if only for researching purposes, namely to
those of Medical English and Computer English. This reduction will provide
a better understanding of the unitary meaning of the phrasal verbs in
question before it can be extended not only to other fields, but also to more
general discourse.
Phrasal verbs and Cognitive Linguistics
Traditionally, the semantics of English prepositions and particles has been
considered largely arbitrary. A long list of possible uses in different contexts
is often provided by textbooks and dictionaries without any apparent relation
to one another. This poses a particular problem for students of English as a
foreign language, who mostly see English prepositions as idiomatic
expressions that must be learnt one by one without a reasonable explanation
of their uses. Also, since the major nuances of the meaning, and also of the
syntax, of phrasal and prepositional verbs lie in these particles, it follows that
phrasal verbs constitute a sort of a mystery for foreign learners. They cannot
be interpreted by the mere addition of the meanings of their constituents,
verb and particle, so they seem to be even more impossible to predict or
guess than prepositions alone.
However, in the last 25 years, Cognitive Linguistics has paid great attention
to polysemy in general
1
and more specifically to prepositions. Since the work
by Brugman (1981) on the meaning of over, many studies have been carried
out on prepositions from a cognitive perspective (Lakoff, 1987; Brugman,
1988; Herskovits, 1988; Radden, 1989; Taylor, 1993; Dirven, 1993;
Vandeloise, 1994; Pütz & Dirven, 1996; Cuyckens & Radden, 2002; Tyler &
Evans, 2003, among others). An accurate, rational clarification on the
meaning of prepositions will result in a better understanding of phrasal
verbs, but not so much work has so far been devoted to them in Cognitive
Linguistics (Lindner, 1982; Morgan, 1997; Dirven, 2001; Rudzka-Ostyn,
2003). The view that it is possible to establish links among the different
senses of a preposition would present the various meanings of a phrasal
verb as motivated ones, if not predictable, and so eliminate the idea that they
are arbitrary (Tyler & Evans, 2003 & 2004). Apart from the consequences of
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IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ
this view for the improvement of the learning of English as a foreign
language, it will also contribute to the construction of a better model of the
semantics of words in general, the way they are stored and organized in our
minds, as well as it will better help to elucidate the strategies by which
speakers interpret and use them.
The cognitive approach considers that all the senses in a polysemous word are
related and therefore the meaning of a word can be seen as a big semantic
network of related senses. Being so, all the possible senses of a preposition
would make up a large network of related senses, some of them being more
peripheral (i.e., less common or less significant), and some others more central
(i.e., basic ones). The core meaning of a preposition is the one that refers to
the cognitive domain of physical space, whereas other abstract senses “tend to
be derived from concrete, spatial senses by means of generalization or
specialization of meaning or by metonymic or metaphoric transfer” (Cuyckens
& Radden, 2002: xiii). In other words, English prepositions encode an abstract
mental idealization of a spatial relation, derived from more specific spatial
scenes; this is what Tyler and Evans (2003 & 2004) call the “proto-scene”
2
. For
example, let’s consider the following sentences:
(1) I think John is in his room
(2) I think John is in the city
(3) I think John is in trouble
(4) I think John is in love
The spatial sense of the preposition “in” is quite obvious in sentences (1)
and (2), even if sentence (2) involves a metaphorical perception of the city
as a bounded space. Far more abstract are the meanings of sentences (3) and
(4), in which some abstract concepts, TROUBLE and LOVE, are also perceived
as physical entities, as containers that people can get “into” or “out of ”. The
relation between “John” and “love” or “trouble” is considered a
metaphorically spatial one and this is the reason why the preposition “in” is
used. In this network of senses that constitute the meaning of a preposition,
conceptual metaphors play a leading role. Metaphors are the way in which we
usually understand the world around us (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). Anything
beyond what is physical and concrete can only be understood metaphorically.
As for the role of the verb in the compound, according to Rudzka-Ostyn
(2003), apart from a few static verbs such as “be”, “sit”, “hold”, etc. most of
the verbs used with particles are verbs of motion, either physical (“run”,
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“break”, “throw”, etc.) or abstract (“think”, “sell”, “buy”, “refer”, etc.). Even
those that refer to physical motion are often used to designate abstract, non-
visible changes as in the following examples:
(5) To run up the hill
(6) To run up expenses
(7) To throw out old clothes
(8) To throw a person out of a club
Moreover, the verbs often provide the perspective of the speaker. Since
spatial scenes can be viewed from different perspectives, each of these views
will determine how we conceptualize the scene. This is evidenced in the
related meanings of those phrasal verbs with the same particle and similar
meanings, such as “go down”/“come down”/“get down”, etc.
In this paper we will analyse the meaning of some phrasal verbs by applying
the before-mentioned cognitive model that considers the semantics of
prepositions as big networks of related senses with a central spatial meaning
that can be extended towards more and more abstract, metaphorical senses.
For this, we have chosen the most obvious spatial scene, that of a
CONTAINER, and therefore the phrasal verbs with the particles “in” and “out”
referring to that container. However, the possibilities are almost unlimited,
since phrasal verb meanings are highly dependant on their context of use.
3
This pragmatic aspect is even more remarkable when we consider different
fields in English for Specific Purposes. The following sentences are examples
of how the same compound can provide very different meanings depending
on the context:
(9) You have put your shoulder out
(10) The doctor decided to put her out during the birth
(11) It took them a long time to put the fire out
(12) They are putting out a special issue this week
(13) The yacht put out to sea in the morning
(14) The tree has put out new leaves
(15) This printer offers excellent output quality
Still, we will see that the apparent differences are due to contextual matters
and this paper intends to evidence how closely they are related. Since there
A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
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is such a wide range of possible contexts, and therefore meanings, it is not
easy to find a common core to all the senses of a phrasal verb. For this
reason, we have constrained our study to a few specific fields, Medical and
Computer English, which will allow us to reduce the number of possible
meanings from a pragmatic point of view and consider the similarities
underlying the surface differences. This way, all the possible senses of one
verb will be better contextualized and will likely be better connected with
each other so that we can see all the senses as a unitary meaning. Thus, the
analysis will be easier and clearer and it will hopefully serve as a sound basis
to eventually extend the results to other fields by adding new senses without
altering the global meaning.
The CONTAINER metaphor: The meaning of “in” and
“out”
The CONTAINER metaphor is one of the most basic and most pervasive ones
in our conceptual system. We understand an extended number of abstract
concepts in terms of the experiential image-schema of CONTAINMENT
(Johnson, 1987). According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980) it is the human
body, our physical bounded reality, which is the origin of this metaphor:
Each of us is a container, with a bounding surface and an in-out orientation.
We project our own in-out orientation onto other physical objects that are
bounded by surfaces. Thus we also view them as containers with an inside
and an outside. (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980: 29)
Thus, the human body is perceived as a container where we can introduce
food or where we can keep emotions and fill it up to the point of a
“metaphorical burst” (for instance, in anger or in tears)
4
. We can then project
this conceptualization to external areas, even if they do not have clear,
physical boundaries and conceptualize them as containers. Therefore, our
mind is also perceived as a container “full of ” ideas. What is more, we can
metaphorically understand abstract concepts in terms of physical containers,
such as the visual field as well as events, actions and states as evidenced by
the use of the prepositions “in” and “out” in sentences like “I have him in
sight” and “he fell into a depression” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980).
The linguistic evidence shows that the conceptualization of a particular LM
[landmark] as bounded is determined not in absolute terms by its geometry
M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
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(although clearly this does play some part), but rather by virtue of the way in
which humans experience and interact with the LM in question (Tyler &
Evans, 2003: 132).
Moreover, the way in which humans experience and interact with containers,
or any other bounded spaces, has a number of functional consequences.
According to Tyler and Evans (2003), these consequences are reflected in the
meanings typically associated with the spatial particles “in”, “into”, “out”,
“out of ”, and “through”. Thus, for instance, CONTAINMENT involves
constraining movement, as in the case of a prison cell, which restricts the
movements of a convict, but the container can also be conceived as a
protection, as in the case of a jeweller’s safe (Tyler & Evans, 2003). Also, if
the boundaries of the container are opaque, what is inside remains hidden
and can only be seen if taken “out”. The functional elements in the spatial
meaning of prepositions are essential to understand how other senses are
generated. Besides, these functional elements can explain the apparent
arbitrariness of the alternation of prepositions. For example, if someone is
“in trouble”, this is conceived as a state from which one cannot easily escape,
whereas if one is “on the take” or “on the pill”, it is perceived as a choice
that can be reversed.
Therefore, there is a basic spatial meaning in prepositions and a number of
metaphorical and metonymical extensions, but also some other associated
senses must be taken into account, which derive from the way in which we
interact with physical entities in the real world. The schematic meaning of
“in” and “out” is a basic spatial scene (Tyler & Evans, 2003), the mental
image of a container to convey the idea that something is or is not inside that
container (see Figure 1).
From this schematic image we can extend that meaning to more
metaphorical senses where entities that are not containers can be seen as
such. Depending on the context, concepts like a HUMAN BODY, an ILLNESS, a
A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
115
OUT
IN
Figure 1. Basic spatial scene for “in” and “out”
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COMPUTER or the INTERNET can be perceived as CONTAINERS. We will see
that the way in which we conceptualize and interact with many non-physical
entities are but metaphorical projections of the concept CONTAINER and the
expressions we use to refer to them, especially phrasal verbs with “in” and
“out”, are the evidence.
The particles “in” and “out” in Medical English
Let us consider first the metaphor THE BODY IS A CONTAINER
5
(see Figure 2),
which can make sense of some phrasal verbs in Medical English like:
(1) Take out They took his appendix out
(2) Cut out Jane had a lump on her neck cut out
(3) Set in You can see gangrene has set in to your left leg
(4) Take in She sat taking in breathes of fresh air
The average daily intake of iron in a normal diet…
(5) Breathe in/out The doctor asked her to breathe in and out softly
(5) Hold in She wanted to cry but held in the tears
(6) Kick in Her hayfever didn’t feel as bad once the
antihistamines had kicked in
We can also conceptualise BUILDINGS as CONTAINERS, like large boxes where
people get “in” or “out of ”. In general uses, the default building to be “in”
is home, which explains general phrasal verbs like “stay in” to mean “stay at
home”. In Medical English this use is reflected in verbs like:
M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
116
Figure 2. THE BODY IS A CONTAINER.
!
They took his appendix out
!
The doctor asked her to breathe in and out softly
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(7) Call in We had to call in a doctor because she was feeling
really bad
(8) Look in The stoma nurse will look in again next week
However, in Medical English, the default place is a hospital (see Figure 3), so
THE HOSPITAL IS A CONTAINER, as evidenced in the following examples:
(9) Come in Someone came in with an undiagnosable bleeding
(10) Go in He went in for a triple bypass operation two days
ago
Or else, the most specific place in a hospital: the ROOM or WARD:
(11) Room in Most hospitals have a policy of rooming in mothers
and their babies
We can also perceive some places without physical boundaries as containers,
in this sense when something spreads to occupy a wider area, it can also be
conceived as going or spreading “out” (see Figure 4).
(12) Break out An epidemic broke out
A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
117
Figure 3. A BUILDING (i.e. THE HOSPITAL) IS A CONTAINER.
Figure 4. UNBOUNDED PLACES ARE CONTAINERS.
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Or we can consider that the right place for something is its container, so
when something is not in the right place to be, then it is “out”:
(13) Put out You’ve put your shoulder out
In a higher level of abstraction, a person’s control area can also be regarded
as a container, so anything beyond a person’s reach or availability is
commonly referred to as “out of reach” (see Figure 5). The same
conceptualization is reflected in verbs like:
(14) Run out The nurse run out of bandages
(15) Have in Do we have any penicillin in?
As explained in the previous section, when we consider containers, there are
some functional elements we know about from our experience of the world.
For instance, a container involves the idea of confinement and therefore
some kind of obstacle that must be overcome (Tyler & Evans, 2003 & 2004).
In that sense, we usually perceive that A BAD HABIT IS A CONTAINER that
keeps the person trapped inside (see Figure 6):
(16) Get into How did he get into drugs?
(17) Get out Mary managed to get out of smoking
M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
118
!
The nurse ran out of bandages
bandages
Figure 5. THE AREA OF INFLUENCE IS AN UNBOUNDED PLACE (i.e., A CONTAINER).
Figure 6. A BAD HABIT IS A CONTAINER.
smoking
!
Mary managed to get out of smoking
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Also from our experience of containers, we know that something inside a
container is usually hidden from sight, so BEING UNKNOWN IS BEING INSIDE
A CONTAINER (see Figure 7).
Therefore when something unknown is discovered, it is usually conceived as
“getting out” (as evidenced by common phrasal verbs in general speech such
as “find out” or “come out”) (see Figure 8), which explains the meaning of
verbs in Medical English like the following:
(18) Break out Julie broke out in a disease
Finally, STATES ARE CONTAINERS, as evidenced in common expressions like
“we are in trouble” or “he is in love” (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). In Medical
English, we can find this meaning in verbs like “come out” and “fill in” as in
the following sentences:
(19) Come out He is coming out of the coma
(20) Fall in He fell in a deep depression
A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
119
Figure 7. BEING UNKNOWN IS BEING INSIDE A CONTAINER.
Figure 8. REVEALED IS OUT.
!
Julie broke out in a disease
!
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And just the same as we have seen in (13) that BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE IS
BEING IN, also THE RIGHT CONSCIOUS STATE IS IN, and when you are
unconscious you are “out” (see Figure 9):
(21) Put out The doctor put the patient out for the operation
Very significant for this particular conceptualization are those verbs which
carry both “in” and “out” at the same time like:
(22) Bring out in It was the lobster that brought me out in this rash all
over my body
(23) Come out in She came out in a nasty rash after touching the
poisonous plant by mistake
As shown in Figure 10, the mental image underlying these sentences is that
of someone being taken “out” of a normal, healthy state (as we pointed out
above BEING IN THE RIGHT STATE IS BEING “IN”) and “into” a different state.
M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
120
Figure 9. BEING UNCONSCIOUS IS BEING OUT.
The doctor put the patient out for the operation
!!
or the operation
!
Figure 10. STATES ARE CONTAINERS /BECOMING ILL IS GETTING INTO A CONTAINER.
She came out in a nasty rash after touching the poisonous plant by mistake
!
Healthy
state
disease
OUT IN
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The particles “in” and “out” in Computer English
In the specific field of English for Computer Science, there is an obvious
container: the computer itself.
6
The mental image of a container can be easily
projected onto that of a computer, mostly because a computer has actually
got the shape of a box with chips and circuits inside. Firstly, all the
components of a computer system(i.e., the monitor, the keyboard, the CPU,
speakers, etc.) can be perceived as one whole container. This
conceptualization motivates expressions like “built-in speakers” or “built-in
modem”. Secondly, in a more abstract sense, non-physical concepts, such as
the software or data, are conceived as physical entities that can be
“introduced” in the computer system as if in a big box. The two possible
uses of “plug in” and “plug into” in the following sentences evidence the
transition from a physical, spatial sense to a more abstract one (see Figure
11):
(1) Digital cameras can be plugged into a computer to download and
edit the photos
(2) A plug-in application like Acrobat Reader is recognized
automatically by the browser
Thus, the computer is a sort of box with not only chips and devices “inside”,
but also non-physical entities –i.e., the software, the operating systems, the
data. All these are usually conceptualized as physical objects, which we keep
in the computer system. The way in which we refer to the computer
functions evidences this conceptualization of the computer as a CONTAINER,
and so we usually speak about “storing” information, “moving” files to a
folder, or about the lack of “space” in the hard disk. For this reason,
compounds with “in” and “out” are so frequent when we speak about what
we do with the computer, as in the following examples (see Figure 12):
A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
121
Figure 11. “plug in”: from concrete to abstract meanings.
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(3) The images were then scanned into a Macintosh and the final
composition was arranged with Adobe Photoshop
(4) A lightpen is an input device similar to a pen.
(5) If the file is not specified, the program will print the output at the
screen
(6) A person would only have to key in words or phrases and he would
have access to any information he wants to have.
(7) You should rub out all the unwanted files to get some free space in
your disk
(8) Instructions and data must be fed into the computer
Moreover, since the computer is seen as a closed container where we keep
our belongings, it is quite straightforward that the action of accessing the
information stored in a computer without permission is conceived as
“breaking” or “hacking into” the container:
(9) A few hackers began to use their skills to break into private
computer systems and steal money.
Since the computer is a container that not only stores but also processes the
data, we can find a very special meaning of “out” in Computer English.
Consider the following sentences:
(10) The computer crunched out all those computations in a fraction of
a second.
(11) A series of inputs were set up and fed into the computer, which
would work out the answers and print them.
M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
122
Instructions must be fed into the computer
You should rub out all the unwanted
files to get some free space in your disk.
Figure 12: THE COMPUTER IS A CONTAINER
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The mental image we can obtain from these sentences is that of a computer
processing data for some time and putting out the results at the end of the
process (see Figure 13). Because what comes out of a computer is usually the
result of a processing, the output, the meaning of “out” in Computer
English includes a sense of “getting the results (and giving them out)”.
This is also a meaning that can be found in English for general purposes, as
in sentence (12), whose mental representation would be similar to that of
Figure 14:
(12) I worked it out in my head
This sense of getting the results is also related to “the completion sense” of
the preposition “out” in common language.
7
In Computer English it is quite
straightforward that the “output” is not only what the computer “puts out”
–i.e., the information that the computer shows on the display, but also the
last step of a process performed by the computer, since the data provided
has been previously processed and only the final result is given.
8
This sense
of completion can be easily found in general English as much as in the
specific field we are dealing with:
A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS
IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128
123
FIGURE 13. OUT IS GETTING THE RESULTS.
The computer crunched out all those computations in
a fraction of a second.
I worked it out in my head.
FIGURE 14. OUT IS GETTING THE RESULTS AND COMPLETION.
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(13) A program is a set of instructions to make a computer carry out a
task
Apart from the computer itself, we can find other projections of the
CONTAINER concept related to the field of Computer English. For example,
it is typical of online forms and graphical interfaces to present some sort of
“boxes” that the user must “fill in” with the required information –i.e.,
passwords, personal data, etc. (see Figure 15):
(14) Type in your password to access the system
(15) Fill in the coloured fields of the form
Once again this meaning of the particle “in” can be found in more general
uses as in sentences like:
(16) Fill in the blanks in the following sentences
(17) You can fill in the details by studying the paper at leisure
In (16), the blanks are still conceptualized as containers, even if they are not
framed or clearly bounded, whereas in (17) the gaps to fill in are
metaphorically conceptualized.
Finally, there is another obvious container that is always present in the
language of computers and Information Technologies: the Internet.
Computer users perceive the Internet as a huge box, rather than a network
of connected computers. It is conceived as a storage place where they can
search for information. This explains the use of the particles “in” and “out”
in the compounds “log in” to refer to the action of accessing the Internet
and “log out” to mean “stop working on it”.
(18) Please use your new password to log in to the Internet Service and
email
M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ
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124
Figure 15. BOXES IN GRAPHICAL INTERFACES ARE CONTAINERS.
Type in your password to access the system
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(19) At the end of each Internet session, users must log out of the
Internet.
As explained in the section of Medical English, the container is not always
physically bound, and so, an undetermined area can be also conceived as a
container. This explains how out develops a sense of “separation”, as in
“branch out” or “sort out” (see Figure 16), that can be physical as in
sentence (20) or metaphorical, as evidenced by examples (21) and (22):
(20) These cables branch out from the main feeder routes to cover the
entire Distribution Area
(21) The system sorts out the computer’s memory into blocks
(22) Let your computer sort out your tasks rather than you doing it all
Conclusions
In this paper we have applied Cognitive Linguistics insights on prepositions
to some phrasal verbs in Medical and Computer English. As we have seen,
prepositions encode mental idealizations of spatial scenes whose meanings,
through a process of abstraction, can be extended to other domains to
express more abstract concepts. This way, all the possible senses of a
preposition, and particularly of a phrasal verb, appear to be related and
therefore motivated, instead of constituting a bunch of arbitrary,
unconnected senses. This has been made more apparent by reducing the
analysis to those phrasal verbs in two specific fields, namely Medical English
and Computer English.
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125
Figure 16. An UNBOUNDED AREA IS A CONTAINER.
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The CONTAINER metaphor, which is the spatial scene in the core meaning of
the particles “in” and “out”, has proved to be the link between all the senses
of the phrasal and prepositional verbs with “in” and “out” in Medical and
Computer English. Instead of the traditional list of possible uses of those
compounds in different contexts, we now have an image-schema, that of
CONTAINMENT, that can be projected onto the different contexts and so
explain the meaning of the particle in those combinations. We have seen that
the most frequent CONTAINERS in Medical English are the HUMAN BODY and
the HOSPITAL, whereas in Computer English, it is the COMPUTER itself and
the concept of the INTERNET which are perceived as CONTAINERS. The
analysis of the particles in a constrained domain is only methodological,
since it provides a unitary picture of the meaning of the particles by
reducing the range of possible context in which they can be used. Once the
image-schema has been defined, it can be easily projected onto other specific
actions or events in different contexts.
As a matter of fact, the metaphors considered in this paper are not new ones,
but mere specifications of some common metaphors we use everyday.
According to Lakoff (1993) it is possible to organize metaphors in different
levels of abstraction. Thus, the metaphor A HOSPITAL IS A CONTAINER
belongs to the subordinate level of the more general metaphor BUILDINGS
ARE CONTAINERS. Also, AN ILLNESS IS A CONTAINER or A BAD HABIT IS A
CONTAINER derives from STATES ARE CONTAINERS, and so on. The
subordinate level of metaphors provides richer mental images than those at
a more abstract level and this is the reason why it is easier to analyse the
meaning of particles in reduced contexts.
This paper has aimed at showing how metaphors can explain the meaning of
the particles and how a unitary view of their meaning can account for a
better knowledge of phrasal verbs in the chosen specific fields. However,
further research related to other particles, other metaphors and, obviously
other ESP branches would be of great interest to this field.
(Revised paper received January 2008)
M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ
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References
Dr. Mª Dolores Porto Requejo received her PhD from the Universidad
Autónoma de Madrid and has worked at the University of Alcalá since 2000,
where she teaches ESP mostly (Medical, Legal and IT English). Her interest
in the relationship between mind and language led her to the Cognitive
Linguistics framework, especially to the processes of meaning construction
and text interpretation.
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and Dangerous Things: What
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Porto Requejo, M.D. (2006).
“Making sense of prepositions in
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Dr. Carmen Pena Díaz is an ESP lecturer at the Department of Modern
Philology at Alcalá de Henares University (Madrid, Spain). She has
previously taught at Vigo University (Spain) and at Louisiana State University
(USA). She obtained her PhD at Santiago de Compostela University. Her
research areas include bilingualism and ESP.
NOTES
1
Cognitive Linguistics considers that polysemy is “the natural order of things” (Langacker, 1988: 50; and
also Cuyckens, 2002: 257).
2
Tyler and Evans (2003) also argue that the proto-scenes for each spatial particle tend to represent the
diachronically earliest uses of the lexical form.
3
It must be noted that Cognitive Linguistics does not distinguish between semantics and pragmatics since
the meaning is considered extensively and everything that affects to the meaning construction is part of
it.
4
For a full account of the human body as a container of emotions see Kövecses (2000).
5
We follow the common convention of writing metaphors in small capitals.
6
The compounds appearing in this section, as well as most of the examples, have already been discussed
in Porto Requejo (2006).
7
For Tyler and Evans (2003) the completion sense of “out” is motivated by the correlation in our
experience between an entity leaving a container and the process of leaving being complete, and it is
evidenced in the meaning of sentences like “this jacket needs to dry out before you wear it again” (Tyler
& Evans, 2003: 204).
8
In Rudzka-Ostyn (2003) verbs like “figure out”, “carry out”, “work out”, etc. are motivated by the
container metaphor in the sense that the state of non-existence or invisibility is a container and the
particle “out” is used to express the fact that an object moves out of these states. Similarly, in Tyler and
Evans (2003) this use of the particle “out” is an example of the “knowing sense” of “out” –i.e., if
something becomes visible it also becomes known, as in the sentence “we figured out the problem”.
However, when analysed in the specific field of Computer English the senses of “completion” and
“getting a result” seem more plausible than just “becoming visible and known”, since there is a whole
processing of the information before the results are visible/known. Further research would be needed to
see if these senses of phrasal verbs with “out” in Computer English also work in the general uses of
English.
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M.D. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ

cognitivo de las preposiciones como grandes redes de sentidos relacionados con un sentido espacial central que puede extenderse hacia otros sentidos metafóricos más abstractos. Para ello, hemos elegido la escena espacial más obvia, la de un recipiente y los verbos con partícula que se refieren a ese recipiente, los que están compuestos con las partículas in y out. Del análisis surgen varias proyecciones metafóricas que demuestran tanto el significado unitario de las partículas en diferentes contextos, como la motivación que subyace a la aparente arbitrariedad de los compuestos. Esas proyecciones metafóricas no son más que especificaciones de algunas metáforas corrientes que se pueden encontrar en usos más generales de inglés, lo cual confirma la idea de que el modelo presentado se puede extender fácilmente a otros campos del inglés para fines específicos así como al discurso común. Palabras clave: verbos con partícula, Lingüística Cognitiva, inglés médico, inglés para informática, metáforas.

Introduction
Most English grammars define phrasal verbs as idiomatic verbs in which a verb combines with prepositions or particles and creates a different meaning from the original one. The idea is that the particle changes the meaning of the verb in such a way that it is not possible to connect it any more with the dictionary definition of the individual words. Moreover, the very same combination of verb and particle seems to mean different things in different contexts, which supports the intuition that the final meaning is absolutely arbitrary. No wonder phrasal verbs are one of the most difficult parts of the lexicon for foreign learners. On the other hand, they are so expressive that they are very widespread in native speech, especially in spoken English and, what is more, new phrasal verbs are constantly being created. If meanings were as arbitrary as could be inferred from the above definition, they would not be so easily interpreted and created by speakers. Apparently, what makes phrasal verbs so unpredictable is the meaning of the particles, since prepositions seem to be quite arbitrary themselves, whereas the meaning of the verbs is usually less controversial. Besides, as long as the expressions refer to spatial locations and movements, the meanings are quite transparent, but when they refer to more abstract concepts, feelings, relations, etc. the meanings are not so obvious (Rudzka-Ostyn, 2003). Over the past few years, a cognitive approach to the meaning of prepositions has been fruitful in the explanation of their numerous possible uses and how they are all motivated and related to one another. This paper intends to apply
110
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many studies have been carried out on prepositions from a cognitive perspective (Lakoff. Tyler & Evans. so they seem to be even more impossible to predict or guess than prepositions alone. 1993. Phrasal verbs and Cognitive Linguistics Traditionally. 2003). Vandeloise. 2003 & 2004). of phrasal and prepositional verbs lie in these particles. 2002. The view that it is possible to establish links among the different senses of a preposition would present the various meanings of a phrasal verb as motivated ones. it will be useful to reduce the analysis to a few specific fields. 2003. in the last 25 years. Also. Apart from the consequences of IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 111 . but not so much work has so far been devoted to them in Cognitive Linguistics (Lindner. 1987. 2001. Dirven. Brugman. 1989. 1982. Cognitive Linguistics has paid great attention to polysemy in general1 and more specifically to prepositions. and so eliminate the idea that they are arbitrary (Tyler & Evans. An accurate. namely to those of Medical English and Computer English. Rudzka-Ostyn. Since the work by Brugman (1981) on the meaning of over. Morgan. Radden. verb and particle. rational clarification on the meaning of prepositions will result in a better understanding of phrasal verbs. but also to more general discourse. Cuyckens & Radden. This reduction will provide a better understanding of the unitary meaning of the phrasal verbs in question before it can be extended not only to other fields. it follows that phrasal verbs constitute a sort of a mystery for foreign learners. since the major nuances of the meaning. This poses a particular problem for students of English as a foreign language. 1988. 1993. the semantics of English prepositions and particles has been considered largely arbitrary.A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS those findings to phrasal verbs and see if they also provide a satisfactory explanation for the differences in meaning between the original words and the final compound. and also of the syntax. A long list of possible uses in different contexts is often provided by textbooks and dictionaries without any apparent relation to one another. if not predictable. 1988. They cannot be interpreted by the mere addition of the meanings of their constituents. if only for researching purposes. Pütz & Dirven. as there are so many possible variations depending on the contexts where a phrasal verb is used. who mostly see English prepositions as idiomatic expressions that must be learnt one by one without a reasonable explanation of their uses. Dirven. 1994. among others). However. 1996. Taylor. Still. Herskovits. 1997.

even if sentence (2) involves a metaphorical perception of the city as a bounded space. as well as it will better help to elucidate the strategies by which speakers interpret and use them. “sit”. Far more abstract are the meanings of sentences (3) and (4). the way they are stored and organized in our minds. all the possible senses of a preposition would make up a large network of related senses. In this network of senses that constitute the meaning of a preposition.D. In other words. basic ones). according to Rudzka-Ostyn (2003). derived from more specific spatial scenes. TROUBLE and LOVE. For example. “hold”. this is what Tyler and Evans (2003 & 2004) call the “proto-scene”2. let’s consider the following sentences: (1) I think John is in his room (2) I think John is in the city (3) I think John is in trouble (4) I think John is in love The spatial sense of the preposition “in” is quite obvious in sentences (1) and (2). it will also contribute to the construction of a better model of the semantics of words in general. 2002: xiii).e.e. 112 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 .. Being so. The relation between “John” and “love” or “trouble” is considered a metaphorically spatial one and this is the reason why the preposition “in” is used. as containers that people can get “into” or “out of ”. Metaphors are the way in which we usually understand the world around us (Lakoff & Johnson.M. The core meaning of a preposition is the one that refers to the cognitive domain of physical space. less common or less significant). are also perceived as physical entities. PENA DÍAZ this view for the improvement of the learning of English as a foreign language. either physical (“run”. spatial senses by means of generalization or specialization of meaning or by metonymic or metaphoric transfer” (Cuyckens & Radden. in which some abstract concepts. some of them being more peripheral (i. conceptual metaphors play a leading role.. whereas other abstract senses “tend to be derived from concrete. As for the role of the verb in the compound. PORTO REQUEJO & C. Anything beyond what is physical and concrete can only be understood metaphorically. and some others more central (i. 1980). most of the verbs used with particles are verbs of motion. The cognitive approach considers that all the senses in a polysemous word are related and therefore the meaning of a word can be seen as a big semantic network of related senses. English prepositions encode an abstract mental idealization of a spatial relation. etc. apart from a few static verbs such as “be”.

). each of these views will determine how we conceptualize the scene.) or abstract (“think”. nonvisible changes as in the following examples: (5) To run up the hill (6) To run up expenses (7) To throw out old clothes (8) To throw a person out of a club Moreover. However. This is evidenced in the related meanings of those phrasal verbs with the same particle and similar meanings. we will see that the apparent differences are due to contextual matters and this paper intends to evidence how closely they are related. the possibilities are almost unlimited. etc. that of a CONTAINER. “refer”. such as “go down”/“come down”/“get down”. The following sentences are examples of how the same compound can provide very different meanings depending on the context: (9) You have put your shoulder out (10) The doctor decided to put her out during the birth (11) It took them a long time to put the fire out (12) They are putting out a special issue this week (13) The yacht put out to sea in the morning (14) The tree has put out new leaves (15) This printer offers excellent output quality Still. Since there IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 113 . we have chosen the most obvious spatial scene. and therefore the phrasal verbs with the particles “in” and “out” referring to that container. For this.3 This pragmatic aspect is even more remarkable when we consider different fields in English for Specific Purposes.A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS “break”. In this paper we will analyse the meaning of some phrasal verbs by applying the before-mentioned cognitive model that considers the semantics of prepositions as big networks of related senses with a central spatial meaning that can be extended towards more and more abstract. etc. “throw”. metaphorical senses. Even those that refer to physical motion are often used to designate abstract. “sell”. etc. Since spatial scenes can be viewed from different perspectives. the verbs often provide the perspective of the speaker. since phrasal verb meanings are highly dependant on their context of use. “buy”.

it is not easy to find a common core to all the senses of a phrasal verb. The linguistic evidence shows that the conceptualization of a particular LM [landmark] as bounded is determined not in absolute terms by its geometry 114 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 . Thus we also view them as containers with an inside and an outside. actions and states as evidenced by the use of the prepositions “in” and “out” in sentences like “I have him in sight” and “he fell into a depression” (Lakoff & Johnson. physical boundaries and conceptualize them as containers. The CONTAINER metaphor: The meaning of “in” and “out” The CONTAINER metaphor is one of the most basic and most pervasive ones in our conceptual system. PENA DÍAZ is such a wide range of possible contexts.M. We can then project this conceptualization to external areas. our mind is also perceived as a container “full of ” ideas. This way. our physical bounded reality. 1987). (Lakoff & Johnson. For this reason. What is more. we have constrained our study to a few specific fields. We understand an extended number of abstract concepts in terms of the experiential image-schema of CONTAINMENT (Johnson. Medical and Computer English. which is the origin of this metaphor: Each of us is a container. we can metaphorically understand abstract concepts in terms of physical containers. the human body is perceived as a container where we can introduce food or where we can keep emotions and fill it up to the point of a “metaphorical burst” (for instance. According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980) it is the human body. and therefore meanings. which will allow us to reduce the number of possible meanings from a pragmatic point of view and consider the similarities underlying the surface differences.D. the analysis will be easier and clearer and it will hopefully serve as a sound basis to eventually extend the results to other fields by adding new senses without altering the global meaning. Therefore. such as the visual field as well as events. Thus. 1980). 1980: 29) Thus. with a bounding surface and an in-out orientation. We project our own in-out orientation onto other physical objects that are bounded by surfaces. even if they do not have clear. all the possible senses of one verb will be better contextualized and will likely be better connected with each other so that we can see all the senses as a unitary meaning. in anger or in tears)4. PORTO REQUEJO & C.

Therefore. The functional elements in the spatial meaning of prepositions are essential to understand how other senses are generated. For example. as in the case of a prison cell. Besides. a IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 115 . it is perceived as a choice that can be reversed. the way in which humans experience and interact with containers. “out”. what is inside remains hidden and can only be seen if taken “out”. but also some other associated senses must be taken into account. which derive from the way in which we interact with physical entities in the real world.A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS (although clearly this does play some part). the mental image of a container to convey the idea that something is or is not inside that container (see Figure 1). these functional elements can explain the apparent arbitrariness of the alternation of prepositions. According to Tyler and Evans (2003). OUT IN Figure 1. The schematic meaning of “in” and “out” is a basic spatial scene (Tyler & Evans. Depending on the context. but rather by virtue of the way in which humans experience and interact with the LM in question (Tyler & Evans. has a number of functional consequences. 2003: 132). concepts like a HUMAN BODY. for instance. Thus. which restricts the movements of a convict. if someone is “in trouble”. “out of ”. if the boundaries of the container are opaque. as in the case of a jeweller’s safe (Tyler & Evans. but the container can also be conceived as a protection. whereas if one is “on the take” or “on the pill”. this is conceived as a state from which one cannot easily escape. and “through”. Basic spatial scene for “in” and “out” From this schematic image we can extend that meaning to more metaphorical senses where entities that are not containers can be seen as such. CONTAINMENT involves constraining movement. or any other bounded spaces. an ILLNESS. 2003). there is a basic spatial meaning in prepositions and a number of metaphorical and metonymical extensions. “into”. these consequences are reflected in the meanings typically associated with the spatial particles “in”. Also. Moreover. 2003).

M. We can also conceptualise BUILDINGS as CONTAINERS. especially phrasal verbs with “in” and “out”. In general uses.D. which can make sense of some phrasal verbs in Medical English like: (1) Take out (2) Cut out (3) Set in (4) Take in They took his appendix out Jane had a lump on her neck cut out You can see gangrene has set in to your left leg She sat taking in breathes of fresh air The average daily intake of iron in a normal diet… (5) Breathe in/out The doctor asked her to breathe in and out softly (5) Hold in (6) Kick in She wanted to cry but held in the tears Her hayfever didn’t feel as bad once the antihistamines had kicked in ! ! They took his appendix out The doctor asked her to breathe in and out softly Figure 2. like large boxes where people get “in” or “out of ”. The particles “in” and “out” in Medical English Let us consider first the metaphor THE BODY IS A CONTAINER5 (see Figure 2). which explains general phrasal verbs like “stay in” to mean “stay at home”. PORTO REQUEJO & C. the default building to be “in” is home. are the evidence. PENA DÍAZ COMPUTER or the INTERNET can be perceived as CONTAINERS. THE BODY IS A CONTAINER. We will see that the way in which we conceptualize and interact with many non-physical entities are but metaphorical projections of the concept CONTAINER and the expressions we use to refer to them. In Medical English this use is reflected in verbs like: 116 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 .

A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS (7) Call in (8) Look in We had to call in a doctor because she was feeling really bad The stoma nurse will look in again next week THE HOSPITAL IS A CONTAINER. (12) Break out An epidemic broke out Figure 4. IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 117 . A BUILDING (i. UNBOUNDED PLACES ARE CONTAINERS. it can also be conceived as going or spreading “out” (see Figure 4). the most specific place in a hospital: the ROOM or WARD: (11) Room in Most hospitals have a policy of rooming in mothers and their babies We can also perceive some places without physical boundaries as containers. in this sense when something spreads to occupy a wider area. the default place is a hospital (see Figure 3).e. so as evidenced in the following examples: (9) Come in (10) Go in Someone came in with an undiagnosable bleeding He went in for a triple bypass operation two days ago Figure 3. THE HOSPITAL) IS A CONTAINER. Or else. However. in Medical English.

For instance. 118 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 .. The same conceptualization is reflected in verbs like: (14) Run out (15) Have in The nurse run out of bandages Do we have any penicillin in? ! The nurse ran out of bandages bandages Figure 5. PENA DÍAZ Or we can consider that the right place for something is its container.M. so when something is not in the right place to be. A CONTAINER). so anything beyond a person’s reach or availability is commonly referred to as “out of reach” (see Figure 5). then it is “out”: (13) Put out You’ve put your shoulder out In a higher level of abstraction. a person’s control area can also be regarded as a container. 2003 & 2004). A BAD HABIT IS A CONTAINER. there are some functional elements we know about from our experience of the world. PORTO REQUEJO & C.e.D. we usually perceive that A BAD HABIT IS A CONTAINER that keeps the person trapped inside (see Figure 6): (16) Get into (17) Get out How did he get into drugs? Mary managed to get out of smoking smoking ! Mary managed to get out of smoking Figure 6. In that sense. As explained in the previous section. THE AREA OF INFLUENCE IS AN UNBOUNDED PLACE (i. when we consider containers. a container involves the idea of confinement and therefore some kind of obstacle that must be overcome (Tyler & Evans.

we can find this meaning in verbs like “come out” and “fill in” as in the following sentences: (19) Come out (20) Fall in He is coming out of the coma He fell in a deep depression 119 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 . it is usually conceived as “getting out” (as evidenced by common phrasal verbs in general speech such as “find out” or “come out”) (see Figure 8). Figure 7. we know that something inside a container is usually hidden from sight. REVEALED IS OUT. STATES ARE CONTAINERS. as evidenced in common expressions like “we are in trouble” or “he is in love” (Lakoff & Johnson. so BEING UNKNOWN IS BEING INSIDE A CONTAINER (see Figure 7). Therefore when something unknown is discovered. which explains the meaning of verbs in Medical English like the following: (18) Break out Julie broke out in a disease !! Julie broke out in a disease Figure 8. Finally. In Medical English.A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS Also from our experience of containers. BEING UNKNOWN IS BEING INSIDE A CONTAINER. 1980).

and when you are unconscious you are “out” (see Figure 9): (21) Put out The doctor put the patient out for the operation ! (22) Bring out in (23) Come out in The doctor put the patient out for the operation or Figure 9. And just the same as we have seen in (13) that BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE IS also THE RIGHT CONSCIOUS STATE IS IN.D. healthy state (as we pointed out above BEING IN THE RIGHT STATE IS BEING “IN”) and “into” a different state.M. the mental image underlying these sentences is that of someone being taken “out” of a normal. Very significant for this particular conceptualization are those verbs which carry both “in” and “out” at the same time like: It was the lobster that brought me out in this rash all over my body She came out in a nasty rash after touching the poisonous plant by mistake As shown in Figure 10. OUT IN ! disease Healthy state ! She came out in a nasty rash after touching the poisonous plant by mistake Figure 10. PORTO REQUEJO & C. PENA DÍAZ BEING IN. BEING UNCONSCIOUS IS BEING OUT. STATES ARE CONTAINERS /BECOMING ILL IS GETTING INTO A CONTAINER. 120 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 .

as in the following examples (see Figure 12): IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 121 . speakers. the monitor. This conceptualization motivates expressions like “built-in speakers” or “built-in modem”. “plug in”: from concrete to abstract meanings. there is an obvious container: the computer itself. and so we usually speak about “storing” information. Firstly.6 The mental image of a container can be easily projected onto that of a computer. the data. The way in which we refer to the computer functions evidences this conceptualization of the computer as a CONTAINER. non-physical concepts. The two possible uses of “plug in” and “plug into” in the following sentences evidence the transition from a physical. the CPU. the keyboard. are conceived as physical entities that can be “introduced” in the computer system as if in a big box. Thus. mostly because a computer has actually got the shape of a box with chips and circuits inside. For this reason. etc. the operating systems. “moving” files to a folder. such as the software or data.e. which we keep in the computer system.) can be perceived as one whole container. all the components of a computer system (i..e.. the software. in a more abstract sense. or about the lack of “space” in the hard disk.A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS The particles “in” and “out” in Computer English In the specific field of English for Computer Science. spatial sense to a more abstract one (see Figure 11): (1) Digital cameras can be plugged into a computer to download and edit the photos (2) A plug-in application like Acrobat Reader is recognized automatically by the browser Figure 11. the computer is a sort of box with not only chips and devices “inside”. compounds with “in” and “out” are so frequent when we speak about what we do with the computer. All these are usually conceptualized as physical objects. Secondly. but also non-physical entities –i.

which would work out the answers and print them. 122 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 . Figure 12: THE COMPUTER IS A CONTAINER Moreover. Consider the following sentences: (10) The computer crunched out all those computations in a fraction of a second. (5) If the file is not specified. PORTO REQUEJO & C. (11) A series of inputs were set up and fed into the computer. the program will print the output at the screen (6) A person would only have to key in words or phrases and he would have access to any information he wants to have. it is quite straightforward that the action of accessing the information stored in a computer without permission is conceived as “breaking” or “hacking into” the container: (9) A few hackers began to use their skills to break into private computer systems and steal money. we can find a very special meaning of “out” in Computer English. since the computer is seen as a closed container where we keep our belongings. PENA DÍAZ (3) The images were then scanned into a Macintosh and the final composition was arranged with Adobe Photoshop (4) A lightpen is an input device similar to a pen. Since the computer is a container that not only stores but also processes the data.M. (7) You should rub out all the unwanted files to get some free space in your disk (8) Instructions and data must be fed into the computer Instructions must be fed into the computer You should rub out all the unwanted files to get some free space in your disk.D.

the output. FIGURE 13.. whose mental representation would be similar to that of Figure 14: (12) I worked it out in my head I worked it out in my head. as in sentence (12). OUT IS GETTING THE RESULTS. but also the last step of a process performed by the computer.A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS The mental image we can obtain from these sentences is that of a computer processing data for some time and putting out the results at the end of the process (see Figure 13). This sense of getting the results is also related to “the completion sense” of the preposition “out” in common language. The computer crunched out all those computations in a fraction of a second.8 This sense of completion can be easily found in general English as much as in the specific field we are dealing with: IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 123 . FIGURE 14. the meaning of “out” in Computer English includes a sense of “getting the results (and giving them out)”. This is also a meaning that can be found in English for general purposes. since the data provided has been previously processed and only the final result is given. OUT IS GETTING THE RESULTS AND COMPLETION. the information that the computer shows on the display. Because what comes out of a computer is usually the result of a processing.e.7 In Computer English it is quite straightforward that the “output” is not only what the computer “puts out” –i.

. Finally. PORTO REQUEJO & C. it is typical of online forms and graphical interfaces to present some sort of “boxes” that the user must “fill in” with the required information –i. whereas in (17) the gaps to fill in are metaphorically conceptualized. (see Figure 15): CONTAINER (14) Type in your password to access the system (15) Fill in the coloured fields of the form Type in your password to access the system Figure 15. etc. rather than a network of connected computers. personal data. there is another obvious container that is always present in the language of computers and Information Technologies: the Internet. even if they are not framed or clearly bounded. BOXES IN GRAPHICAL INTERFACES ARE CONTAINERS. passwords.e.D. This explains the use of the particles “in” and “out” in the compounds “log in” to refer to the action of accessing the Internet and “log out” to mean “stop working on it”.M. Computer users perceive the Internet as a huge box. Once again this meaning of the particle “in” can be found in more general uses as in sentences like: (16) Fill in the blanks in the following sentences (17) You can fill in the details by studying the paper at leisure In (16). we can find other projections of the concept related to the field of Computer English. For example. It is conceived as a storage place where they can search for information. the blanks are still conceptualized as containers. (18) Please use your new password to log in to the Internet Service and email 124 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 . PENA DÍAZ (13) A program is a set of instructions to make a computer carry out a task Apart from the computer itself.

and so. as in “branch out” or “sort out” (see Figure 16). an undetermined area can be also conceived as a container. the container is not always physically bound. namely Medical English and Computer English. This way. This explains how out develops a sense of “separation”.A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS (19) At the end of each Internet session. unconnected senses. can be extended to other domains to express more abstract concepts. all the possible senses of a preposition. prepositions encode mental idealizations of spatial scenes whose meanings. IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 125 . and particularly of a phrasal verb. through a process of abstraction. appear to be related and therefore motivated. This has been made more apparent by reducing the analysis to those phrasal verbs in two specific fields. An UNBOUNDED AREA IS A CONTAINER. that can be physical as in sentence (20) or metaphorical. Conclusions In this paper we have applied Cognitive Linguistics insights on prepositions to some phrasal verbs in Medical and Computer English. users must log out of the Internet. instead of constituting a bunch of arbitrary. as evidenced by examples (21) and (22): (20) These cables branch out from the main feeder routes to cover the entire Distribution Area (21) The system sorts out the computer’s memory into blocks (22) Let your computer sort out your tasks rather than you doing it all Figure 16. As we have seen. As explained in the section of Medical English.

AN ILLNESS IS A CONTAINER or A BAD HABIT IS A CONTAINER derives from STATES ARE CONTAINERS. obviously other ESP branches would be of great interest to this field. According to Lakoff (1993) it is possible to organize metaphors in different levels of abstraction.D. since it provides a unitary picture of the meaning of the particles by reducing the range of possible context in which they can be used. that of CONTAINMENT. whereas in Computer English. (Revised paper received January 2008) 126 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 . but mere specifications of some common metaphors we use everyday. it can be easily projected onto other specific actions or events in different contexts. Once the image-schema has been defined. We have seen that the most frequent CONTAINERS in Medical English are the HUMAN BODY and the HOSPITAL. which is the spatial scene in the core meaning of the particles “in” and “out”. The subordinate level of metaphors provides richer mental images than those at a more abstract level and this is the reason why it is easier to analyse the meaning of particles in reduced contexts. This paper has aimed at showing how metaphors can explain the meaning of the particles and how a unitary view of their meaning can account for a better knowledge of phrasal verbs in the chosen specific fields. the metaphor A HOSPITAL IS A CONTAINER belongs to the subordinate level of the more general metaphor BUILDINGS ARE CONTAINERS.M. PENA DÍAZ The CONTAINER metaphor. that can be projected onto the different contexts and so explain the meaning of the particle in those combinations. other metaphors and. As a matter of fact. it is the COMPUTER itself and the concept of the INTERNET which are perceived as CONTAINERS. Also. we now have an image-schema. The analysis of the particles in a constrained domain is only methodological. Instead of the traditional list of possible uses of those compounds in different contexts. the metaphors considered in this paper are not new ones. PORTO REQUEJO & C. further research related to other particles. and so on. Thus. However. has proved to be the link between all the senses of the phrasal and prepositional verbs with “in” and “out” in Medical and Computer English.

C. (2006). Mª Dolores Porto Requejo received her PhD from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and has worked at the University of Alcalá since 2000. The Semantics of Prepositions. Second Language Acquisition and Foreign Language Teaching. Zaragoza: Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza. Cuyckens. 551-576. C. 151-175. The Story of “Over”: Polysemy. “Making sense of prepositions in computer English” in M. Women. C. The Story of “Over”. Figurative Use of Prepositions in R. Cognitive Linguistics 8: 327-357. P. A. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Kövecses. 202-251. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Perspectives on Prepositions. “What goes up doesn’t necessarily come down: the ins and outs of opposite. Ortony (ed. Johnson (1980). Semantics and the Structure of the Lexicon. Herskovits.) (1993).) (2002). Cognitive Linguistics. Achard & S. where she teaches ESP mostly (Medical. 73-97. R.). “The metaphoric in recent cognitive approaches to English phrasal verbs”. The Semantics of English Prepositions: Spatial Scenes. Dirven. (1993). “Metonymy in prepositions” in H. R. The Construal of Space in Language and Thought. (1987). (2002).P. “Applying cognitive linguistics to pedagogical grammar: the case of over” in M. Zelinsky-Wibbelt (ed. “Dividing up physical and mental space into conceptual categories by means of English prepositions” in C. G.). Radden. 727-732. “Spatial expressions and the plasticity of meaning” in B. 257266. Pütz. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. Dirven (ed. Her interest in the relationship between mind and language led her to the Cognitive Linguistics framework. 49-90. A. (2000).D. Brugman. Word Power: Phrasal Verbs and Compounds.A COGNITIVE APPROACH TO SOME PHRASAL VERBS References Brugman. & V.A. (2001). Pérez-Llantada Auría. Tyler. A Cognitive Approach. M. (1982). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Taylor. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. “Methodology and analyses of the preposition. “Figuring out Figure out: metaphor and the semantics of the English verbparticle construction”. Niemeier (eds. Metaphors We Live by. (1994). Radden.” CLS 8: 305-323. Actas del V Congreso Internacional AELFE – Proceedings of the 5th International AELFE Conference. 257-280. Cuyckens. Zelinsky-Wibbelt. Rudzka-Ostyn (ed. Cuyckens & G.). In B. M. M. H. 1: 39-54.). Zelinsky-Wibbelt (ed. Tyler. S. (1997). IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 127 . Metaphorik. (1988). Rudzka-Ostyn (ed.) (1988). Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind. (2003). (1989). R. Culture and Body in Human Feeling. Dr.de. H. & R. (1988). Vandeloise. & G. G. (1993). R. Rudzka-Ostyn. Interaction. Plo Alastrué & C.). “Prepositions: patterns of polysemization and strategies of disambiguation” in C.). Dirven. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Lindner. Radden (eds. J.” Cognitive Linguistics 5: 157-184. Evans (2003). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Z. 271-298. G. (1993). Lakoff. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. G. Berkeley: University of California.). Legal and IT English). Metaphor and Emotion Language. (1987). A View of Linguistic Semantics. & V. & M. New York: Garland. especially to the processes of meaning construction and text interpretation. Evans (2004). Chicago: Chicago University Press. Neumann (eds. “The contemporary theory of metaphor” in A. Sentence. Text. (1988). The Body in the Mind. Rudzka-Ostyn.) (1996). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Porto Requejo. Metaphor and Thought. Tübingen: Niemeyer. Johnson. A User’s Grammar of English: Word. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. (ed. From Mental Processing to Natural Language Processing. The Bodily Basis of Meaning. B. Embodied Meaning and Cognition. (1981). M.C. Lakoff. Thesis. (ed. Dirven (eds. Imagination and Reason. Lakoff. Morgan. A.R. Topics in Cognitive Linguistics. C. B.). Langacker. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Further research would be needed to see if these senses of phrasal verbs with “out” in Computer English also work in the general uses of English. 6 The compounds appearing in this section. when analysed in the specific field of Computer English the senses of “completion” and “getting a result” seem more plausible than just “becoming visible and known”. PENA DÍAZ Dr. are motivated by the container metaphor in the sense that the state of non-existence or invisibility is a container and the particle “out” is used to express the fact that an object moves out of these states.M. “carry out”. She has previously taught at Vigo University (Spain) and at Louisiana State University (USA). have already been discussed in Porto Requejo (2006). 2 Tyler and Evans (2003) also argue that the proto-scenes for each spatial particle tend to represent the diachronically earliest uses of the lexical form. 2002: 257). “work out”. Spain). She obtained her PhD at Santiago de Compostela University. 128 IBÉRICA 16 [2008]: 109-128 . since there is a whole processing of the information before the results are visible/known. as well as most of the examples. Her research areas include bilingualism and ESP. and it is evidenced in the meaning of sentences like “this jacket needs to dry out before you wear it again” (Tyler & Evans. NOTES 1 Cognitive Linguistics considers that polysemy is “the natural order of things” (Langacker. 8 In Rudzka-Ostyn (2003) verbs like “figure out”. etc. 4 For a full account of the human body as a container of emotions see Kövecses (2000). 1988: 50. 7 For Tyler and Evans (2003) the completion sense of “out” is motivated by the correlation in our experience between an entity leaving a container and the process of leaving being complete. Similarly. However. PORTO REQUEJO & C. if something becomes visible it also becomes known.. as in the sentence “we figured out the problem”. 3 It must be noted that Cognitive Linguistics does not distinguish between semantics and pragmatics since the meaning is considered extensively and everything that affects to the meaning construction is part of it. Carmen Pena Díaz is an ESP lecturer at the Department of Modern Philology at Alcalá de Henares University (Madrid.D. and also Cuyckens. 5 We follow the common convention of writing metaphors in small capitals. in Tyler and Evans (2003) this use of the particle “out” is an example of the “knowing sense” of “out” –i. 2003: 204).e.

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