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Conference Paper

The semantic structure of sensory vocabulary in an African language

MPS-Authors
http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons42

Dingemanse,  Mark
Human Sociality and Systems of Language Use, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

http://pubman.mpdl.mpg.de/cone/persons/resource/persons119

Majid,  Asifa
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, External Organizations;

Fulltext (public)

paper0064.pdf
(Publisher version), 169KB

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Citation

Dingemanse, M., & Majid, A. (2012). The semantic structure of sensory vocabulary in an African language. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2012) (pp. 300-305). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-47A6-B
Abstract
The widespread occurrence of ideophones, large classes of words specialized in evoking sensory imagery, is little known outside linguistics and anthropology. Ideophones are a common feature in many of the world’s languages but are underdeveloped in English and other Indo-European languages. Here we study the meanings of ideophones in Siwu (a Kwa language from Ghana) using a pile-sorting task. The goal was to uncover the underlying structure of the lexical space and to examine the claimed link between ideophones and perception. We found that Siwu ideophones are principally organized around fine-grained aspects of sensory perception, and map onto salient psychophysical dimensions identified in sensory science. The results ratify ideophones as dedicated sensory vocabulary and underline the relevance of ideophones for research on language and perception.