A Semantic Menagerie: The Conceptual Semantics of Ethnozoological Categories

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Abstract


Following the seminal work of Wierzbicka (1985, 2013), this paper proposes and discusses a set of semantic analyses of words from three different levels of the English ethnozoological taxonomic hierarchy (Berlin 1992): creature (unique beginner), bird, fish, snake, and animal (life-form level), dog and kangaroo (generic level). The analytical framework is the Natural Semantic Metalanguage approach (Wierzbicka 1996, 2014, Goddard and Wierzbicka 2014). Though ultimately resting on the foundational elements of the NSM system, i.e. 65 semantic primes and their inherent grammar of combination, the analysis relies on the analytical concepts of semantic molecules and semantic templates (Goddard 2012, 2016). These provide mechanisms for encapsulating semantic complexity and for modelling relations between successive layers of the hierarchy. Other issues considered include the extent to which cultural components feature in the semantics of ethnozoological categories, and the extent to which semantic knowledge may vary across different speech communities.

About the authors

Cliff Goddard

Griffith University

Email: c.goddard@griffith.edu.au
170 Kessels Road, Nathan, Queensland 4111 Australia
Professor of Linguistics at Griffith University. He is a leading proponent of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage approach to semantics and its sister theory, the cultural scripts approach to pragmatics, also known as ethnopragmatics. His recent publications include the edited volume Minimal English for a Global World (2018 Palgrave), Words and Meanings: Lexical Semantics Across Domains, Languages and Cultures (co-authored with Anna Wierzbicka; 2014 OUP), the textbook Semantic Analysis (2nd ed., 2011 OUP) and Ten Lectures on Natural Semantic Metalanguage (2018 Brill).

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