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  Home > Research at the Lacito > Lexical typology across time and space

Current research programs


Lexical structure: Typology and dynamics,
Lacito seminar until end 2019,
Labex EFL project since January 2020 as
"GL2-Lexical typology across time and space" (2020-2024)

Coordination: Lameen Souag and Antoinette Schapper (until end 2019)


Lexicology is the study of the lexicon and of how it is structured within a language. It can be studied synchronically in a single language – for example, when putting together a dictionary, or when describing a particular semantic field in the language. It can also be studied from a typological perspective through the comparison of a specific semantic domain across many different languages' lexicons. For example, how do languages structure the domain of kinship? magic? emotions? speech and thought? Do we find the same concepts and the same semantic distinctions everywhere? Lexical typology allows us to identify recurrent patterns of polysemy, zones of stability and variation, even lexical universals.

Such lexical structures can also be studied dynamically, across time and space. Certain polysemies, certain semantic associations, have appeared historically, or on the contrary have disappeared - whether through internal developments or under the influence of contact with other languages. Bilinguals' tendency to match up semantic structures across the languages they speak has encouraged the diffusion of certain lexical categorisations across vast linguistic and cultural areas. Through this process, certain ways of carving up semantic fields, certain polysemies or figures of speech, have become characteristic of particular areas. In some cases, it is possible to explain these areal phenomena by the links between linguistic practices and social practices spread within the region in question; certain family structures, for example, are correlated with particular lexical structures in the domain of kinship, or in the vocabulary of marriage and interpersonal relations.

Over the next few years, this seminar will seek to put to good use a substantial and often underused data set: field data collected by our researchers on every continent. Existing dictionaries, in printed or electronic form, can also serve our purposes; so can our text corpora, though in this case our methods do not require frequent recourse to them. We will also seek to feed our theoretical and methodogical understanding from a variety of publications in the domain of lexical semantics, which are more and more numerous – see the references below.

A variety of approaches are possible, and LaCiTO may end up going for more than one of them. Depending on the participants' interests, we may opt to examine the typology of a particular semantic domain, or of a selection of different domains, through parallel studies. We can focus on the search for universals, on cases of areal convergence, on etymological developments, or on the theorisation of semantic change. We can consider a variety of methodological approaches: databases, questionnaires, statistics, semantic maps…


References :
-- François, Alexandre. 2008. Semantic maps and the typology of colexification: Intertwining polysemous networks across languages. In Martine Vanhove (ed.), From Polysemy to Semantic Change, Studies in Language Companion Series, vol. 106, 163–215. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. [accès en ligne]
-- François, Alexandre. 2013. Shadows of bygone lives: The histories of spiritual words in northern Vanuatu. In Robert Mailhammer (ed.), Lexical and Structural Etymology. Beyond Word Histories. Studies in Language Change 11. Boston/Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 185-244.
-- Juvonen, Päivi & Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm (eds.). 2016. The Lexical Typlogy of Semantic Shifts. Cognitive Linguistics Research 58. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
-- Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria, Ekaterina Rakhilina & Martine Vanhove. 2015. The semantics of lexical typology. In Nick Riemer (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Semantics. London: Routledge.
-- Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria, Martine Vanhove, & Peter Koch. 2007. Typological approaches to lexical semantics. Linguistic Typology 11.1, 159-185.
-- Mahieu, Marc-Antoine & Nicole Tersis (eds.) 2016. Questions de sémantique inuit / Topics in Inuit Semantics. Amerindia 38. 274 pp.
-- Mailhammer, Robert (ed.). 2013. Lexical and structural etymology: Beyond word histories. Studies in Language Change, 11. Berlin: DeGruyter Mouton.
-- Moyse, Claire & Volker Gast & Ekkehard Koenig. 2014. Comparative lexicology and the typology of event descriptions : A programmatic study. In Doris Gerland, Christian Horn, Anja Latrouite, Albert Ortmann (eds), Meaning and Grammar of Nouns and Verbs. Studies in Language and Cognition, 1. Düsseldorf : Düsseldorf University Press, 145-183.
-- Tersis, Nicole & Pascal Boyeldieu (eds.). 2017. Le langage de l'émotion : Variations linguistiques et culturelles. (Société d'Études Linguistiques et Anthropologiques de France, 469). Paris–Leuven: Peeters.
-- Urban, Matthias. 2011. Asymmetries in overt marking and directionality in semantic change. Journal of Historical Linguistics 1(1). 3–47​.
-- Vanhove, Martine (ed.) 2008. From Polysemy to Semantic Change. Studies in Language Companion Series, vol. 106. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


Place where takes place talks for Labex EFL project :
Maison de La Recherche of Paris 3, 4 rue des Irlandais, 75005 Paris


Upcoming Seminars (as Labex EFL project)

  • Wednesday 4 November 2020 (=> with Zoom (to be downloaded if necessary - ID and code: to be asked to L. Souag)
    Talk by Thanasis Georgakopolous on Mapping semantic change: Methodological, representational and theoretical challenges
    A semantic map is a method for visually representing the relationships between meanings based on patterns of co-expression across languages (Haspelmath, 2003; Georgakopoulos & Polis, 2018). This method has proved attractive to typologists because it provides a convenient graphical display of the interrelationships between meanings or functions across languages, while (at the same time) differentiating what is universal from what is language-specific. The semantic map model was initially conceived to describe patterns of co-expression in grammatical categories. However, several studies have shown that it can be fruitfully extended to lexical items (e.g. François, 2008) and even constructions (e.g. Koptjevskaja‐Tamm, under revision), suggesting that any type of meaning can be integrated in a map. Notably, semantic maps can also incorporate information about directionality of change (e.g. van der Auwera & Plungian, 1998).
    In this talk, I address one of main pending methodological issues within the semantic map tradition, namely the integration of the diachronic dimension into lexical semantic maps (Georgakopoulos & Polis, to appear-2021; cf. François, under revision). Combining a quantitative approach to large-scale synchronic polysemy data with a qualitative evaluation of the diachronic material in two text languages, ancient Egyptian and ancient Greek, it will be shown that weighted diachronic semantic maps can capture informative generalizations about the organization of the lexicon and its reshaping over time. From a more practical point of view, it will be argued that the use of complex multi-edge graphs can capture directionalities in semantic change as well as diverse types of relationships between meanings (e.g. metonymy and metaphor).
    -- François, A. (2008). Semantic maps and the typology of colexification: Intertwining polysemous networks acrosslanguages. In M. Vanhove (Ed.), From polysemy to semantic change. Towards a typology of lexical semantic associations (pp. 163–215). John Benjamins: Amsterdam/Philadelphia.
    -- François, A. (under revision). Lexical tectonics: Mapping structural change in patterns of lexification. In T. Georgakopoulos & S. Polis (Eds.), The future of mapping: new avenues for semantic maps research. Special issue in Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft.
    -- Georgakopoulos, T., & Polis, S. (2018). The semantic map model. State of the art and future avenues for linguistic research. Language and Linguistic Compass, 12(2),1-33. https://doi.org/10.1111/lnc3.12270
    -- Georgakopoulos, T., & Polis, S. (to appear-2021). Lexical diachronic semantic maps. The diachrony of time-related lexemes. Journal of Historical Linguistics.
    -- Haspelmath, M. (2003). The geometry of grammatical meaning: Semantic maps and cross-linguistic comparison. In M. Tomasello (Ed.), The new psychology of language (Vol. 2) (pp. 211–243). New York: Erlbaum.
    -- Koptjevskaja‐Tamm, M. (under revision). Semantic maps and Temperature: capturing the lexicon grammar interface across languages. In T. Georgakopoulos & S. Polis (Eds.), The future of mapping: new avenues for semantic maps research. Special issue in Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft.
    -- van der Auwera J., & Plungian, V. A. (1998). Modality's semantic map. Linguistic Typology, 2(1), 79–124. https://doi.org/10.1515/lity.1998.2.1.79

  • Wednesday 25 November 2020
    Talk by Ekaterina Rakhilina (with Tatiana Reznikova and Daria Ryzhova) on To strive for lexical typology: to seek, to find (and not to yield).


Latest Seminars (as Labex EFL project)

  • 21 October 2020 14.30-16.30
    Talk by Maïa Ponsonnet (University of Western Australia) on Une typologie préliminaire des interjections dans les langues australiennes : résultats et questions de méthode
    Abstract in French:
    Cet exposé rend compte d'une première étude typologique des interjections dans les langues australiennes, basée sur les données disponibles pour un échantillon équilibré de 37 langues. Après avoir énoncé les résultats principaux de cette recherche, je soumettrai pour discussion un certain nombre de questions méthodologiques et théoriques relatives à l'exploration des propriétés universelles des interjections dans les langues du monde.
         Une première observation concerne les 'classes' d'interjections. Une proportion significative des interjections documentées pour les langues de l'échantillon s'inscrit naturellement dans l'une des trois classes identifiées par Ameka (1992) : interjections conatives, phatiques and expressives. Deux classes supplémentaires s'imposent toutefois, à savoir les interjections 'constatives' et 'sociales'.
         D'autres résultats de cette première étude concernent la récurrence de 'types' d'interjections d'une langue à l'autre. C'est dans la classe des interjections conatives que la documentation permet de définir les types les plus clairs et les plus uniformes. Les interjections destinées à attirer l'attention, notamment, représentent le type le plus fréquent dans l'ensemble de notre échantillon. Les interjections phatiques, au contraire, présentent une documentation très irrégulière qui – à part pour 'oui' et 'non' – rend difficile l'identification de profils-types. Les interjections expressives sont plus difficiles à organiser que les interjections conatives, mais certaines régularités émergent néanmois. Les interjections exprimant la douleur, la surprise et la compassion semblent les plus répandues dans l'échantillon. La douleur et la surprise sont souvent exprimées par les mêmes interjections, et en particulier par la forme [jagaji], remarquablement répandue sur l'ensemble du continent.
         D'un point de vue méthodologique, cette étude soulève deux questions majeures : a/ celle d'une définition non-ambigüe des interjections opérationnalisable dans le cadre d'une étude typologique ; b/ celle du regroupement d'interjections sous des 'types', surtout sur la base de données lexicographiques souvent très partielles. Après avoir expliqué comment ces difficultés se sont traduites en pratique au cours de cette étude préliminaire, je proposerai une définition plus restrictive des interjections 'primaires' applicable à des études translinguistiques (Ameka 1992; Goddard 2014; Bednarek submitted). Je montrerai également comment le problème de l'extraction du sens et des types peut être surmonté grâce aux bénéfices cumulés de travaux descriptifs et typologiques autour des interjections.
    -- Ameka, Felix. 1992. Interjections: The universal yet neglected part of speech. Journal of Pragmatics 18(2–3). 101–118.
    -- Bednarek, Monika. 2019. The multifunctionality of swear/taboo words in television series. In J Lachlan Mackenzie & Laura Alba-Juez (eds.), Emotion in discourse, 31–58. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    -- Goddard, Clifford. 2014. Interjection and emotion (with special reference to "surprise" and "digust." Emotion Review 6(1). 53–63.
    Dr Maïa Ponsonnet (PhD ANU, 2014, Canberra) est actuellement Senior Lecturer et Coordinatrice au département Linguistique l'Université d'Australie de l'Ouest (University of Western Australia) à Perth. Précédemment, elle a été membre du laboratoire Dynamique du Langage (CNRS, Lyon) de 2013 à 2015, puis de l'Université de Sydney (2016-2017). Sur la base de ses recherches de terrain auprès de plusieurs communautés de la Terre d'Arnhem (Dalabon, Bininj Kunwok, Rembarrnga, Kriol), dans le Nord de l'Australie, Maïa Ponsonnet étudie notamment l'encodage linguistique des émotions, d'un point de vue descriptif et typologique. Elle a notamment publié deux monographies sur cet aspect des langues Dalabon (2014) et Kriol (2019).
    -- Ponsonnet, Maïa. 2014. The language of emotions: The case of Dalabon (Australia). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
    -- Ponsonnet, Maïa. 2019. Difference and repetition in language shift to a creole. The expression of emotions. London: Routledge.

  • 9 March 2020
    Talk by Guillaume Segerer (CNRS-Llacan) on L'utilisation de RefLex pour l'étude de la colexification
    Abstract in French:
    RefLex est d'abord une base de données lexicales consacrée aux langues d'Afrique. A ce jour, elle contient 1424 sources, représentant 867 langues différentes.
    Outre son importance en tant que lexique de référence libre et gratuit (la quasi-totalité des entrées sont liées à l'image de leur source d'origine), Reflex propose nombre d'outils conçus pour aider les linguistes, en particulier dans les domaines de la statistique et de la comparaison. Depuis peu, de nouveaux outils sont en cours de développement, notamment dans le domaine de la typologie lexicale. Il s'agit par exemple d'automatiser la recherche de colexifications au sein du très gros corpus que représente RefLex, afin d'avoir un aperçu quantitatif de la polysémie, ce qui n'a encore jamais pu être réalisé sur un tel volume de données.
    Lors de mon intervention, je présenterai les diverses composantes de RefLex, et nous explorereons ensembles quelques cas de polysémie plus ou moins connues dans les langues africaines.

  • 30 January 2020
    Talk by Lameen Souag (Lacito), on How a West African language becomes North African, and vice versa
    Updating the methodology of Hayward (1991) using the concept of colexification (François 2008), this talk will examine quantitative evidence that the languages of the West African Sahel/Savanna form a lexical-typological language area characterised by shared colexifications absent further north. The comparative method is then used to determine how Songhay, Arabic, and Berber varieties entering or leaving this area, or coming into increasing contact with it at its edges, have converged with their new neighbours within the past millennium. The results indicate sharp differences in the respective roles and rates of borrowing and calquing, with the latter acting almost exclusively to increase shared colexifications.


Latest Seminars (as Lacito seminar)

  • 13 November 2019
    Talk by Arienne M. Dwyer (University of Kansas), on Using network analysis to explore etymological clustering in Chaghatay medicine
    This methodological evaluation of ongoing research combines lexicography with the digital humanities, using network analysis to discover semantic and etymological clusters in the domain of healing and medicine in Central Eurasia. The source data are late Chaghatay (ISO 639-3: chg) manuscripts copied in late-19th c. Chinese Turkestan (Xinjiang), largely based on earlier Greco-Islamic humoral medical handbooks transmitted across Eurasia. We use etymologies as a rough proxy for the origin of medical ideas, healing substances (such as "manna" and "Chinese" cinnamon), and human anatomy. Network analysis (the algorithmic visualization of interconnected elements) has largely been used to analyze social networks. In the current project (Dwyer et al. 2018-2020), our team is experimenting with network analysis to visualize the semantic clustering and Perso-Arabic/Turkic synonymy of medical terms. These methods could aid the study of colexification and other areas of lexical semantics by visualizing correlations beyond simple frequencies for large data sets.
    -- Dwyer, Arienne M. (PI), Jeff Rydberg-Cox & Sandra Kübler (co-Is). 2018-2020. Analyzing Turki Manuscripts from the Jarring Collection Online (ATMO-2). Sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation. Online: https://uyghur.ittc.ku.edu/atmo.html.

  • 3 October 2019 11.00
    Room Claude Simon, Maison de La Recherche, 4 rue des Irlandais, 75005 Paris
    Talk by Tatiana Nikitina (LLACAN), on Amphichronic semantic maps for closely related languages: Singulatives in Southeastern Mande
    This study relies on an extended Radial Category approach to explore a network of meanings associated with singulative markers in four closely related Mande languages: Dan, Tura, Mwan, and Wan. The proposed model captures similarities and variation observed across these languages without making assumptions about the synchronic status of semantic relations between different uses. The amphichronic approach to micro-scale variation is shown to shed light on the history of individual languages and the ways in which semantic networks develop over time. The model's strengths and weaknesses are discussed.
    The reconstructed semantic network is argued to have fallen apart in Wan, while it is still preserved in Dan and Tura, and only partially lost in Mwan. Comparison with earlier results based on a study of diminutive markers helps identify two different types of change involved in the disintegration of semantic networks: renewal of the expression associated with a particular use, and loss of the use without replacement. While the former type is at the center of classical studies in lexical typology, the latter raises issues for the universalist assumption that underlies the semantic map approach and is too often taken for granted in current typological research.

  • 23 July 2019
    Talk by Rachel Hendery on Colexification of meat and fish: Diachronic dimensions of semantic maps
    A method of ‘semantic mapping’ has been developed in recent years with some variants (Haspelmath 2003, François 2008, Van der Auwera 2013, 2017). An example of such a semantic map is shown in fig. 1 (from François 2008: figure 4). Most semantic maps do not distinguish between historical and synchronic processes. For example, François (2008: 178) explicitly states that an advantage is that colexification is ‘neutral’ about historical or semantic interpretation, although he proposes that future research could investigate incorporating a diachronic dimension and using three dimensions instead of two. Several other authors (e.g. Narrog 2011; Van der Auwera 2013) encode directionality explicitly by connecting terms with arrows, but this still does not represent changes in the semantic distribution of terms over time. In this paper I build on these ideas to explore how adding dimensionality to semantic maps could allow for encoding of diachronic information. I test some solutions with examples of changes in colexification in Australia and the surrounding region.
    One possibility is to use a third dimension. I propose that a semantic map could be displayed as layers or slices of time along a y axis, with connections between the planes showing the relationship of terms across time. This is similar to the standard practice of viewing high-dimensional data in scatterplot matrices instead of individual scatterplots. An example is shown in figure 2. The example I use for this and the following diagram is the change from ‘fish’ to ‘meat’ in parts of Australia (see fig. 3, from McConvell 1997), which I will discuss further during our paper.
    A disadvantage of such a representation is that it is relatively difficult to see what is happening at the “back” of the diagram. In a digital space, the map could of course be rotated, zoomed, or explored in a virtual walk-through, ameliorating this difficulty. Nevertheless it is worth considering whether three dimensions could be better represented in a flat structure. The key to doing so is in recognising that the information to be represented consists of two network graphs with a mapping between the two that is itself a third network. Network 1 is lexical forms, among which diachronic relationships can exist. Network 2 is semantic terms, among which relationships can also exist (such as ‘x is a kind of y’). Network 3 is the way in which the lexical items map onto the semantic terms in different languages and/or at different times. In fig 4 I show how these three networks could be represented using two arc diagrams for the lexical forms and the semantic concepts, and a matrix for the mapping between the two.
    Our presentation will discuss these and other approaches for representing the diachronic (and geographic) dimensions in semantic maps, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as other complexities we have found when trying to account for change in colexification patterns in Australia and the surrounding region.
    -- François, A. (2008). Semantic maps and the typology of colexification. From polysemy to semantic change. In: Towards a typology of lexical semantic associations. Vanhove, M. (ed). John Benjamins. 163-235.
    -- Haspelmath, M. (2003). The geometry of grammatical meaning: Semantic maps and cross-linguistic comparison. In: The new psychology of language. Psychology Press. 217-248.
    -- McConvell, P. (1997). Semantic shifts between fish and meat and the prehistory of Pama-Nyungan. In: Boundary rider: essays in honour of Geoffrey O’Grady. Tryon & Walsh (eds), Pacific Linguistics. 303-25.
    -- Narrog, H. (2010). A diachronic dimension in maps of case functions. Linguistic Discovery, 8(1), 233-254.
    -- Van der Auwera, J. (2013). Semantic maps, for synchronic and diachronic typology. In Synchrony and Diachrony. A dynamic interface Ramat, A et al (eds). John Benjamins. 153-176.

  • 5 June 2019, INALCO, PLC (65, rue des Grands-Moulins, Paris 13e), room 5.08
    Talk by David Gil (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany), on Who is your name?
    Why does Indonesian ask Nama siapa? (name who), rather than What is your name? as in English? English speakers are often puzzled by the Indonesian construction, believing that since names are inanimate, WHAT should be used. Conversely, Indonesian speakers are often surprised to learn that English uses WHAT, arguing that since names refer to people, it should be WHO. This paper poses the question whether the different choice of WH words in Indonesian and English reflects some more fundamental property distinguishing between the two languages, or whether it is a superficial feature without deeper typological ramifications. The answer that is provided is: a combination of both.
    The first part of this paper presents the results of an ongoing world-wide cross-linguistic survey examining the choice of WH word in "What is your name?" questions, covering close to 800 languages. The results show that the Indonesian WHO construction represents a cross-linguistically widespread option, spanning a wide rage of seemingly typologically diverse languages, including, among others, Zulu, Amharic, Tsez, Mongolian, Dani, Tahitian and Squamish. Moreover the presence of areal patterning evident in the map shows that the choice of WH word is a feature that is readily borrowed across languages of different genealogical and typological groups. Thus, in large part, Indonesian uses WHO because it is a typical Insular Southeast Asian language, while English uses "What is your name?" because it is a run-of-the-mill Western European language.
    However, the second part of this paper shows that in spite of such areal patterning, the choice of WH word does indeed also reflect deeper aspects of morphosyntactic organization. The choice between WHO and WHAT is shown to correlate with the results of an in-progress cross-linguistic experiment on over 60 languages world-wide measuring the extent to which the assignment of thematic roles are grammaticalized. Specifically WHAT languages tend to exhibit more grammaticalization of thematic role assignment than WHO languages. Thus while in English, what and your name are related via thematic role assignment, in Indonesian, nama and siapa are connected through a looser relationship of association.
    The choice of WH word in "What are your name?" questions is thus partly arbitrary, reflecting the outcome of diachronic processes of language contact and borrowing, and partly principled, reflecting the degree of grammaticalization of thematic role assignment in the grammar. This case study underscores the way in a single linguistic phenomenon may simultaneously reflect an ontologically heterogeneous potpourri of factors, some diachronic, others synchronic — there can be no one single story explaining everything.

  • 27 February 2019
    Talk by Guillaume Segerer & Martine Vanhove (Llacan) on Areal patterns of colour naming in the languages of Africa
    In an article (Segerer & Vanhove in press) we investigated lexicalization patterns in colour naming among languages of Africa in a balanced sample of 350 languages based on lexical data (mainly from the RefLex database (Segerer & Flavier 2011-2018) concerning the eleven "basic" color terms of Berlin and Kay's (1969) hierarchy. Based on the same sample, this presentation will address methodological issues concerning the way to discover colexification patterns with the tools provided in this large searchable database (over 1,200,000 entries), to differentiate between genetic similarities and areal patterns, between universal and accidental ones, and between significant and trivial similarities. It will be demonstrated that
         (i) there are very few areal patterns for color naming in Africa;
         (ii) some of them are trivial in the sense that (a) widespread lexicalizations in one particular area are linked to naturally and culturally salient objects (e.g. the widespread lexicalization of 'yellow' from 'locust bean' in western and central Africa which corresponds to the geographical distribution of the plant itself), or (b) they don't pattern geographically but are widespread crosslinguistically (e.g. the colexification of 'red' and 'ripe');
         (iii) contact induced areal patterns concern a word class that has been long believed not to be borrowable, namely ideophones (e.g. borrowings from Fula in related and unrelated neighbouring languages for 'black' and 'white'), challenging established borrowability scales. The scarcity of areal or genetic patterns in the domain of the colexifications of colour terms brings some support to Wierzbicka's (2005: 239) claim (in reaction to Berlin and Kay) that "[t]here are no 'color universals'" but our data does not seem to support the reason for this claim, namely that "'color' itself is not a universal concept".
    — Berlin, B. and P. Kay. 1969. Basic Color Terms. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    — Segerer, Guillaume and Sébastien Flavier. 2011-2018. RefLex: Reference Lexicon of Africa, Version 1.1. Paris, Lyon. http://reflex.cnrs.fr/.
    — Segerer, Guillaume and Martine Vanhove. In press. Color Naming in Africa. In Lexicalization Patterns in Colour Naming: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective, Ida Raffaelli, Daniela Katunar & Barbara Kerovec (eds.). Amsterdam, Philadelphia: Benjamins.
    — Wierzbicka, Anna. 2005. There are no "color universals" but there are universals of visual semantics. Anthropological Linguistics 47/2: 217-244.

  • 30 January 2019
    Talk by Anne-Laure Dotte (ERALO, UNC) & Claire Moyse-Faurie (Lacito), on Approche typologique de « manger » dans les langues kanak et polynésiennes [Toward a cross-linguistic typology of 'eating' in Kanak languages]
    Abstrac in French:
    Cette présentation vise à explorer la diversité des expressions décrivant l'ingestion des aliments dans les langues océaniennes (kanak et polynésiennes principalement), et tente de dresser un portrait des convergences et des divergences attestées dans ces langues. Dans les langues kanak, par exemple, le champ lexical des expressions pour « manger » ne renvoie pas à un domaine homogène ou consistant : plusieurs sous-groupes de langues sont identifiables en fonction des catégories d'aliments qu'elles distinguent, à partir de critères physiques, nutritifs ou symboliques (culturels), à partir du mode de préparation, ou de la combinaison possible entre différents types d'aliments, et ces catégories se distinguent sur la base du verbe avec lequel elles se combinent.

  • 10 October 2018
    Talk by Antoinette Schapper on Baring the bones: the metaphorical association of bone and strength in New Guinea and the limits of colexification
    The talk will be an exploration of some issues around comparing lexical meaning across languages. Metaphor-driven lexical associations are often only present in languages in conventionalised expressions, but we may wonder whether such limited associations still count as colexification. In this talk I will present a range of data from the languages of New Guinea, showing there is a scale of lexical-to-conventional-association of bone and strength. Capturing the range of manifestations of this metaphorical association is unlikely to be possible using CLICS or similar databases. Warning: This talk is meant to be a discussion piece, rather than a worked out thing.

  • 25 May 2018
    Talk by Masha Koptjevskaja-Tamm (Stockholm University) on Hot as fire
    My currents research interests are in cross-linguistic variability in semantic systems and its limits, both in space and time, approached through empirical cross-linguistic research with a special focus on the interaction between language structures, culture and cognition. Is linguistic categorization universal or language/culture-specific, how do semantic systems emerge and develop, where do words for categories in one semantic domain come from and how can they be used for others?
         My talk will revolve around two very basic and important semantic domains – TEMPERATURE and FIRE.
         TEMPERATURE is something I have been engaged in for quite a few years, as partly witnessed by the (huge) edited volume The linguistics of temperature (Koptjevskaja-Tamm, ed. 2015, John Benjamins). I am right now working on its sequel, the book "Temperature in language: typology, evolution and extended uses", which is also the main reason for my present stay at Llacan/Lacito. In my talk I will first present a general overview of the ways in which languages of the world carve up the temperature domain among their expressions. I will then focus on two particular issues:
         -- How (dis-)similar can closely related languages be in their semantic systems, with lexicalization of the temperature domain across Slavic as case study, and
         -- Co-lexification patterns of temperature expressions, with the metaphor "AFFECTION IS WARMTH" (cf. warm words, warm heart) as a case study
    The other semantic domain, fire, is obviously related to temperature, among other things, because 'fire' is one of the cross-linguistically recurrent sources for temperature expressions. I present a few ideas and illustrations on how this domain can be approached cross-linguistically

  • 31 January 2018
    Talk by Alexandre François on Typologie de la colexification : Une base de données
    Abstract in French:
    La ​​colexification est la propriété structurale par laquelle une langue peut utiliser la même forme lexicale pour exprimer deux significations S1 et S2 (François 2008). Ainsi, certaines langues colexifient "pays" avec "village", ou "tête" avec "chef", ou "devant" avec "avant"… Comme toute propriété typologique, la colexification peut être étudiée sous divers angles : description d'un domaine sémantique particulier; identification de tendances typologiques; reconstruction historique; études aréales, etc. Parmi les travaux que notre opération de lexique pourrait aborder en commun, figurerait CoLex, une base de données de colexifications – base générique (ouverte à tous les domaines du lexique) et collaborative.
          L'unité d'observation ne serait pas le sens unique, mais un couple de sens S1-S2. Chaque couple (en abscisse) serait croisé avec diverses langues (en ordonnée), afin d'observer dans quelles langues il est colexifié. Cet exposé présentera un échantillon de 165 couples de sens, croisés avec 5 langues de Mélanésie et d'ailleurs. Mais cette base accroîtra son intérêt à mesure qu'y seront ajoutés plus de couples lexicaux, et surtout plus de langues de familles diverses — en profitant de la variété des langues qui sont représentées au LaCiTO.
          Au travers de quelques exemples, l'exposé illustrera l'intérêt d'une telle base comparative, notamment dans la réflexion sur la dimension aréale des structures lexicales (cf. Juvonen & Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2016). Nous discuterons ensemble des choix présidant à la constitution d'une telle base, des écueils possibles, des décisions à prendre, et des perspectives de développement et d'exploitation de nos futures observations.
    -- François, Alexandre. 2008. Semantic maps and the typology of colexification: Intertwining polysemous networks across languages. In Martine Vanhove (ed.), From Polysemy to Semantic Change, Studies in Language Companion Series, vol. 106, 163–215. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    -- Juvonen, Päivi & Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm (eds.). 2016. The Lexical Typology of Semantic Shifts. Cognitive Linguistics Research 58. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

  • 29 November 2017
    Talk by Lameen Souag on Kinship terms in proto-Berber: Using colexification patterns in reconstruction
    The reconstruction of kinship terminology in Berber presents a number of difficulties. Northern Berber kinship systems are profoundly influenced by Arabic at the level of lexicon as well as structure. Saharan ones paint a different picture, broadly reflecting an Iroquoian system rather than the Sudanese one characteristic of Arabic and Northern Berber; in this respect, they match several neighbouring languages of the Sahel. To determine the original situation, it is necessary to examine the history of colexification patterns. Colexification patterns shared across distantly related branches are likely to be original, while more localized ones are likely to be innovative. Innovative lexicalizations, expressing meanings not originally independently lexicalized, tend to be formed through loanwords, transparent compounding, or metaphorical extensions from other domains. A further aid to reconstruction is the fact that particular family residence patterns promote particular colexicalization patterns. Taking all of this data into account, it appears that proto-Berber kinship terminology reflected a bilateral Hawaiian system unlike any Berber group today, and that Tuareg kinship systems have been profoundly influenced by Sahelian ones just as Northern Berber ones have by Arab ones…

  • 1st June 2017
    Exposé d'Alexandre François visant à présenter le domaine – avec une attention particulière portée aux phénomènes de colexification (François 2008), et la possibilité de créer des cartes sémantiques en typologie lexicale.
    ​L'exposé sera suivi d'une discussion collective pour réfléchir à la manière dont nous voudrions mener ce groupe de recherche au cours des prochaines années.

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