lexical semantics                                                                                       back to home page

In addition to dictionaries and lexical databases, I have done several papers on cultural aspects of lexical and grammatical semantics, mainly on kinship. The Heath & McPherson paper on action verbs shows that languages can lexicalize these verbs either on the basis of function/result (English) or manner/process (Dogon).

The kinship work was mostly based on Australian languages. In addition to the complex calculation of “classificatory” kin (e.g. MMBDD folded into MBD in some languages), Australian kin terms are linguistically complex. They often have dedicated morphology for pronominal person of “possessor” (i.e. propositus), special dyadic forms (‘mother-Dyad’ = ‘a mother and her child’), special vocative forms, and in some languages triangular kin terms that specify the relationship of two proposituses to the referent. Special linguistic registers (affinal respect, ritual clowning) simplify the kin-category system in interesting ways. My grammars of Australian languages (e.g. Nunggubuyu) typically include chapters or long sections on the morphosyntax and semantics of kin terms. For the Dhuwal volume, the main focus was kinship texts. I organized, co-edited, and contributed to a collective volume on Australian kinship linguistics.

      1980a          Dhuwal (Arnhem Land) texts on kinship and other subjects, with grammatical sketch and dictionary. (Oceania Linguistic Monographs, 23.) Sydney: Univ. of Sydney.

co-edited book
      1982            J. Heath, F. Merlan & A. Rumsey, eds. Languages of kinship in Aboriginal Australia. (Oceania Linguistic Monographs, 24.) Sydney: Univ. of Sydney.

articles on kinship
      2006            Kinship expressions and terms. In: Encyclopedia of languages and linguistics, 2nd ed., pp. 214-7. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
      1982a          Introduction. In: J. Heath et al. (eds.), Languages of kinship in Aboriginal Australia,1‑18.
      1982b         [Francesca Merlan and J. Heath] Dyadic kinship terms. In: J. Heath et al. (eds.), Languages of kinship in Aboriginal Australia, 107‑24.
      1982c          "Where is that (knee)?": Basic and supplementary kin terms in Dhuwal  (Yuulngu/Murngin). In: J. Heath et al. (eds.), Languages of kinship in Aboriginal Australia, 40‑63.

      1984            von Brandenstein, Carl G. Names and substance of the Australian subsection system. Language 60(2):466‑67. [book notice]
                                    DOI: 10.2307/413679

Articles on non-kinship semantic issues are these:

      *2009          (J. Heath & Laura McPherson) Cognitive set and lexicalization strategy in Dogon action verbs. Anthropological Linguistics 51(1):38-63.
      2005            Person. In: Geert Booij, Christian Lehmann & Joachim Mugdan (eds.), Morphology: An international handbook on inflection and word-formation, Vol. II, 198-1015. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter (Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science, 17).
      1988            Lexicon. In: Ulrich Ammon et al. (eds.), Sociolinguistics: An international handbook/ Soziolinguistik: Ein internationales Handbuch, 1153‑63. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter.
      1980c          Nunggubuyu deixis, anaphora, and culture. In: J. Kreiman & A. Ojeda (eds.), Papers from the Parasession on Pronouns and Anaphora, 151‑65. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
      1978d         Linguistic approaches to Nunggubuyu ethnobotany and ethnozoology. In: L. Hiatt, ed., Australian Aboriginal concepts, 40‑55. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

      2015            Ponsonnet, Maia. The language of emotions: The case of Dalabon (Australia). Anthropological Linguistics 57(2):225-228.
      2010            Newman, John, ed. The linguistics of eating and drinking. Linguistic Typology 14(1):153-55.
      1991            Grossmann, Maria. Colori e lessico: Studi sulla struttura semantica degli aggettivi di colore in catalano, castigliano, italiano, romeno, latino e ungherese. Language 66(4):868-69. [book notice]
                                    DOI: 10.2307/414752


[last updated Oct 2017]

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