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Cross-linguistic categorisation of the body: Introduction

Enfield, N. J., Majid, A., & Van Staden, M. (2006). Cross-linguistic categorisation of the body: Introduction. Language Sciences, 28(2-3), 137-147. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2005.11.001.
The domain of the human body is an ideal focus for semantic typology, since the body is a physical universal and all languages have terms referring to its parts. 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. The present special issue is the outcome of a collaborative project aimed at improving approaches to investigating the semantics of body part terms, by developing materials to elicit information that provides for cross-linguistic comparison. The articles in this volume are original fieldwork-based descriptions of terminology for parts of the body in ten languages. Also included are an elicitation guide and experimental protocol used in gathering data. The contributions provide inventories of body part terms in each language, with analysis of both intensional and extensional aspects of meaning, differences in morphological complexity, semantic relations among terms, and discussion of partonomic structure within the domain.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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