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Temperature terms across languages: derivation, lexical stability and lexical universals
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, General Linguistics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9592-5780
2015 (English)In: Abstracts, 2015, 28-28 p.Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this talk I will focus on the cross-linguistic regularities in the origin and development of temperature terms, such as ‘warm’ or ‘cold’, based on the data from about 40 languages in Koptjevskaja-Tamm (ed. 2015). The first question concerns motivational patterns typical for temperature terms, i.e., to what extent and by which word-formation strategies temperature terms are derived from expressions with other meanings. To give a few examples, some of the most frequent sources for ‘hot’ include, not surprisingly, such concepts as ‘burn’, ‘fire’, ‘boil’, ‘cook’, ‘sweat’, while those for ‘cold’ include ‘ice’, ‘shade’, ‘winter’, ‘brr’, ‘to become stiff’. In fact, the close relation between the conventionalised expressions for ‘warm/hot’ and those for ‘fire’ or ‘sweat’ in some languages raises the issue of whether the former do indeed belong to the basic or central temperature terms. In addition, there are many other sources for temperature terms. A fascinating group of questions related to the origin and development of temperature terms concerns their stability. For instance, do genetically related languages share temperature cognates? If they do, do the cognates have the same or similar meanings? What is the role of language contact in shaping the temperature term systems? It has been suggested in earlier research that central temperature terms are unusually stable, i.e. that they are typically «passed on essentially unchanged and with essentially no vocabulary turn-over across hundreds of generations of grammar&lexicon acquirers for thousands of years» (Plank 2010). However, the answers to the above listed questions differ for different languages, or for groups of languages. For instance, some of the central temperature terms across Indo-European turn out to be extremely stable, but these languages also testify to numerous instances of lexical replacement or addition of new temperature terms. The temperature terms in the two closely related Timor-Alor-Pantar languages Abui and Kamang and across the Nyulnyulan family are, on the contrary, strikingly dissimilar. Significantly, in all these cases, the meanings of cognates and their place in the overall temperature system of a language may be subject to significant variation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. 28-28 p.
Keyword [en]
temperature, lexical typology, cross-linguistic comparison
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-128119OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-128119DiVA: diva2:913092
Conference
Word formation theories II: Typology and universals in word formation III Conference, Košice, Slovakia, June 26–28, 2015
Available from: 2016-03-19 Created: 2016-03-19 Last updated: 2016-12-05Bibliographically approved

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