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Semantic typology
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, General Linguistics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9592-5780
2015 (English)In: Handbook of cognitive linguistics / [ed] Ewa Dąbrowska, Dagmar Divjak, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2015, 453-472 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2015. 453-472 p.
, Handbooks of linguistics and communication science, ISSN 1861-5090 ; 39
Keyword [en]
semantic typology, cross-linguistic research, lexicon, cognitive linguistics
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-123595DOI: 10.1515/9783110292022-022ISBN: 9783110291841ISBN: 9783110292022OAI: diva2:874865

Definitions of cognitive linguistics normally emphasize the interaction of language and cognition, cf. “[c]ognitive linguistics is the study of how language relates to the human mind” (Kibrik 2011a: 15). As is customary, such programmatic statements operate with generic nouns, in this case “language” and “mind”, and abstract away from the concrete manifestations of human languages and human minds. This is certainly justified for a research agenda, but it is important not to overlook the reality behind it. Leaving the issue of the diversity of minds to cognitive scientists, as a typologist I will here focus on language diversity: there are between 6 000 and 8 000 languages currently spoken in the world, and “[t]he crucial fact for understanding the place of language in human cognition is its diversity” (Evans and Levinson 2009: 431).

Linguistic diversity does not imply that any generalizations over language properties and the language-mind relations are meaningless or premature before these have been studied for all the world’s languages, the majority of which still lack any decent description. It does imply, though, that such generalizations gain a lot from careful systematic cross-linguistic studies that may unveil cross-linguistic regularities behind diversity. This chapter focuses on the discipline for which cross-linguistic comparison is foundational, namely linguistic typology, and in particular on its semantically oriented direction, semantic typology. Section 1 introduces semantic typology, Section 2 gives examples of central research within semantic typology. Section 3 discusses the major methodological challenges that semantic typologists face, Section 4 summarizes the lessons to be drawn, and Section 5 points out a few directions for further research. The chapter’s overarching goal is to show the value of bringing linguistic diversity and semantic typology into research on “how language relates to mind.”

Available from: 2015-11-29 Created: 2015-11-29 Last updated: 2016-03-22Bibliographically approved

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