Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Conceptual Extendedness


Conceptual extendedness is a semantic relationship between senses of a lexeme as currently recognized by speakers of a language.

The progressive derivation of more figurative senses from the basic literal sense can be divided into three stages:

  • primary
  • secondary
  • figurative

In LinguaLinks, a sense in the lexical database may be classified by one of these categories to help in comparing it with other senses. The relationship of a particular sense to the primary sense, however, is somewhere on a continuum of conceptual extendedness. The classification is subjective, therefore, and should not be considered precise.


 English verb (rake):


  • 'to gather or scrape together with or as with a rake'
  • 'to scratch or smooth with a rake, as in leveling broken ground'


  • 'to gather with great care'
  • 'to scratch or scrape'
  • 'to cover a fire with ashes (metonymy)'


  • 'to search through minutely; scour (metaphor)'
  • 'to direct gunfire along a surface such as a line of troops or the deck of a ship'
  • 'to look over rapidly and searchingly'

English noun (bank):

Here is a nonexample of conceptual extendedness as illustrated by the English noun bank using only the primary senses of each lexeme:

  • bank (1) 'an establishment for receiving, keeping, lending, or sometimes, issuing money'
  • bank (2) 'a stretch of rising land at the edge of a body of water, especially a stream or river'
  • bank (3) 'a bench for rowers in a galley'

These three lexemes were semantically related in Old High German. However, an English speaker today would not consider them to be semantically related at all, even though the words sound the same and are written the same. They are therefore considered to be homographs rather than three senses of the same lexeme.


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Glossary Hierarchy