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Introducing the panel: what can be meant by areal semantics?
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics, General Linguistics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9592-5780
2015 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The aim of the panel is to initiate a discussion on which lexico-semantic phenomena show parallells across the (West-)African languages and how these similarities may be described and accounted for – by universal tendencies, genetic relations among the languages, their contacts and/or their common extra-linguistic surrounding. Areal semantics (Ameka & Wilkins 1996, Koptjevskaja-Tamm & Liljegren forthc.), in its concern with the diffusion of semantic features across language boundaries in a geographical area, is a potentially vast field, spanning the convergence of individual lexemes, through the structuring of entire semantic domains to the organization of complete lexicons. It has a great potential for historical and areal linguistics, but is still awaiting systematic research. Lexical phenomena have a long standing record in research on language contact and linguistic areas. However, the recent developments in areal linguistics and areal typology have, with a few exceptions, mainly concerned grammatical phenomena. This is not at all surprising given the central place of this research in modern linguistics of all denominations, including typology, where the rapidly developing field of areal typology has encouraged and facilitated serious research on the relative role of universal, genetic and areal factors for many grammatical and phonetic phenomena. The two traditionally distinguished groups of contact phenomena in the lexicon are loanwords and calques, or semantic loans – the distinction paralleled by contact phenomena at other levels (‘replication of matter’ vs. ‘pattern replication’ in Matras and Sakel 2007, also Croft's 2000 distinction between ‘substance linguemes’ and ‘schematic linguemes’ and Heine and Kuteva's 2005 ‘polysemy copying’). Loanwords have been studied from a more systematic cross-linguistic perspective, where the core issue has been the varying borrowability of various words, seen as belonging to different parts of speech and/or coming from different semantic domains (cf. Haspelmath and Tadmor eds. 2009, Wohlgemuth 2009). The interesting research angles here, as elsewhere in research on contact phenomena and in (areal-)typological research (cf. Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2011) are possible outcomes of language contact in the realm of the lexicon, on the one hand, and a possibility of using lexical phenomena for reconstructing contact, on the other. But a lexical-typological contribution to areal linguistics has an even greater potential when it comes to pattern replication rather than to replication of matter. To give one example, Hayward (1991, 2000, also Treis 2010) points out many shared lexicalization patterns in the three Ethiopian languages Amharic (Semitic), Oromo (Cushitic) and Gamo (Omotic), which add to the cumulative evidence in favour of the Ethio-Erithrean linguistic area and fall into four categories: (i) shared semantic specializations, e.g. ‘die without ritual slaughter (of cattle)’;  (ii) shared polysemy, e.g. ‘draw water’ – ‘copy’; (iii) shared derivational pathways, e.g. ‘need’ = causative of ‘want’: (iv) shared ideophones and idioms, e.g., ‘I caught a cold’ expressed via ‘a cold caught me’. Matisoff (2004), Vanhove (ed. 2008), Zalizniak et al. (2012) and Urban (2012) give numerous examples of cross-linguistically recurrent patterns of polysemy (e.g., ‘eat’ –> ‘suffer’), some of which are clearly areally restricted and witness of language contact, whereas others rather reflect universal tendencies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
Keyword [en]
areal semantics, lexical typology, language contact, pattern replication
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-128125OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-128125DiVA: diva2:913113
Conference
1st School of Languages Conference, SOLCON 1: "Multilingualism in the African Context: Resource or Challenge", Ghana, Africa, October 27-29, 2015
Available from: 2016-03-19 Created: 2016-03-19 Last updated: 2016-12-16Bibliographically approved

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