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All people eat and drink. Does this mean that 'eat' and 'drink' are universal human concepts?

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Abstract

Eating and drinking are, one might say, human universals. Or so it may seem to speakers of English, and other European languages. But what would a Kalam, or a Warlpiri linguist say about it, given that Kalam and Warlpiri have no word meaning ‘eat’ and no word meaning ‘drink’? No doubt, he/she would say that <i>ñb</i>- (Kalam, roughly ‘eat/drink’) or <i>ngarni </i>(Warlpiri, roughly ‘eat/drink’) is a human universal. This paper argues that describing languages like Kalam and Warlpiri through the prism of the English words <i>eat </i>and <i>drink </i>is Eurocentric and it proposes to complement such an Eurocentric approach with a more neutral one, based on empirically established conceptual universals such as <i>body, part, do, </i>and <i>inside</i> (cf. Goddard &#38; Wierzbicka eds 2002; Wierzbicka 2007)

References

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