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Semantic maps and the typology of colexification: Intertwining polysemous networks across languages

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Abstract

Building upon the model of Semantic Maps (Haspelmath 2003), which typologists have designed mainly for grammatical semantics, this chapter discusses methodological issues for a model in lexical typology. By breaking up polysemous lexemes of various languages into their semantic “atoms” or senses, one defines an etic grid against which cross-linguistic comparison can be undertaken. Languages differ as to which senses they<i>colexify</i>, i.e., lexify identically. But while each polysemous lexeme as a whole is language-specific, individual pairings of colexified senses can be compared across languages. Our model, understood as an empirical, atomistic approach to lexical typology, is finally exemplified with the rich polysemies associated with the notion “breathe”. Intertwined together, they compose a single, universal network of potential semantic extensions.

References

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