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Parts of the body in languages

Bodyparts posterAccording to embodiment theories, the body is considered the source of all categories and concepts, yet little consideration is spent on how we conceptualize the body itself. For example, did you know that nearly a third of the world’s languages do not have a separate word for hand and arm? In this project, we examine how body parts are categorized in different languages, and how body part terms are acquired by children.

Previous research on body part terms has depended on secondary sources (e.g. dictionaries), and has lacked sufficient detail or clarity for a thorough understanding of these terms’ semantics. We aim to provide a more comprehensive account of how the body is categorised in language by conducting original fieldwork using standardised methodology.


Representative publications

  • Majid, A., Enfield, N. J. & van Staden, M. (2006). Parts of the body: Cross-linguistic categorisation. Special issue of Language Sciences, 28(2-3). more >

Contact person

Asifa Majid

Last checked 2013-11-04 by Mark Dingemanse


Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

Street address

Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:  +31-24-3521911
Fax:      +31-24-3521213