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The semantic extensions of kill and killer in magazine and newspaper corpora

In: International Review of Pragmatics
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The occurrences of kill and killer are often understood as negative; however, evidence suggests that these words also have positive meanings. To many people, the use of kill and killer indicates physical death, but we found other meanings of these words. First, death is the worst possible outcome, but it is not necessarily a consequence of kill and killer. Second, killer, in particular, has a strong positive meaning that is extended from the ‘deadly’ meaning of kill. Third, we found that the figurative use of killer appeared more often in magazines and newspapers, as well as in fiction but with different purposes, when we compared the data from magazines and newspapers with those from different genres. The results obtained by analysing magazine and newspaper corpora in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) showed the importance of pragmatic interpretation in understanding meanings.

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