image of Lexico-semantic stability in the anatomical domain in the Mayan language family
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This paper deals with lexico-semantic stability, specifically in the anatomical domain. The main goal is to develop a method for measuring semantic polysemy and shift, in order to address: (1) the validity of standardized vocabulary lists (e.g., ) for investigating cross-linguistic stability; and (2) the difference between basic and stable vocabulary ( ), and its implications for studying remote relationships between language families, on the one hand, and subgroup differentiation within language families, on the other. To study these problems, a total of 50 etyma from the anatomical domain were selected from the Preliminary Etymological Mayan Database ( ), and these were then classified employing the novel metric, and further analyzed by means of statistical methods. The results point to: (1) no specific correlation with the stability rankings of the Swadesh and Leipzig-Jakarta lists; (2) support for the “basicness” of etyma from the anatomical domain; (3) several significant relationships between stability and polysemy scores and independent variables relevant to the anatomical domain; (4) evidence of lexico-semantic stability score affinities between Mayan subgroups; and (5) evidence supporting the utility of polysemies to investigate subgrouping and language contact. The paper also offers conclusions and areas for further research.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keywords: anatomical domain ; polysemy ; semantic change ; Mayan languages
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