The selective advantage of body-part terms

Dingemanse, M. (2009). The selective advantage of body-part terms. Journal of Pragmatics, 41(10), 2130-2136. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2008.11.008.
This paper addresses the question why body-part terms are so often used to talk about other things than body parts. It is argued that the strategy of falling back on stable common ground to maximize the chances of successful communication is the driving force behind the selective advantage of body-part terms. The many different ways in which languages may implement this universal strategy suggest that, in order to properly understand the privileged role of the body in the evolution of linguistic signs, we have to look beyond the body to language in its socio-cultural context. A theory which acknowledges the interacting influences of stable common ground and diversified cultural practices on the evolution of linguistic signs will offer the most explanatory power for both universal patterns and language-specific variation.
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