Semantic fieldwork and lexical universals
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The main goal of paper is to show how NSM findings about lexical universals (semantic primes) can be applied to semantic analysis in little-described languages. It is argued that using lexical universals as a vocabulary for semantic analysis allows one to formulate meaning descriptions that are rigorous, cognitively authentic, maximally translatable, and free from Anglocentrism. A second goal is to shed light on methodological issues in semantic fieldwork by interrogating some controversial claims about the Dalabon and Pirah㠬anguages. We argue that reductive paraphrase into lexical universals provides a practical procedure for arriving at coherent interpretations of unfamiliar lexical meanings. Other indigenous/endangered languages from which examples are drawn include East Cree, Arrernte, Kayardild, Karuk, and Maori. We urge field linguists to take the NSM metalanguage, based on lexical universals, into the field with them, both as an aid to lexicogrammatical documentation and analysis and as a way to improve semantic communication with consultants.
Studies in Language
© 2014 John Benjamins Publishing Co. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal website for access to the definitive, published version.
Linguistic Structures (incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)