Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2214-3157
  • E-ISSN: 2214-3165
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In English, the lexicon is one of the many areas affected by the asymmetry in the treatment of humans and inanimates. The study focuses on compounds. We compare compounds denoting human animates to those denoting inanimates. We find that there are proportionately few compounds for humans, and that this small proportion reveals a tendency for human animate nouns to be more opaque than nouns for inanimates. We propose that this is due to the way we conceptualize humans, i.e. as more than the sum of their parts. Humans resist transparent denominations because reducing a person to one characteristic amounts to ignoring his or her essential complexity. We take this to be a manifestation of in language. Moreover, when human animate nouns compounds (in spite of their tendency to be opaque), they exhibit two semantic characteristics that are not shared by inanimate nouns. The first one is that they tend to be derogatory. This again indicates that humans cannot easily be reduced to one characteristic. If they are, denominations tend to be negatively loaded. The second one is that they often involve the representation of a (for example, a delivers newspapers, i.e. comes to someone’s place). Transparency is therefore meaningful.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): anthropocentrism; compounds; human nouns; opacity; transparency
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