LINGUIST List 5.25

Wed 05 Jan 1994

Sum: Polysemy

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , meat/fish polysemy - summary

Message 1: meat/fish polysemy - summary

Date: Wed, 5 Jan 1994 10:23:54 +meat/fish polysemy - summary
From: <>
Subject: meat/fish polysemy - summary

Just before Christmas I posted a query asking if there were any parallel
polysemies or semantic changes between "meat" and "fish" as found in
Australian Aboriginal languages in some areas, elsewhere in the world.
I mentioned also seeing fish(generic) or fish(species)=food in general
referred to for North America.

Only three replies were received -from Steve Macrakis, Anne Gilman, and
Amy Auhrbach. The familiar narrowing of English "meat" from food to meat
was mentioned (French "viande" went the same way). The use of "bread" for
"food" in general was noted for Europe (where is this standard rather
than stylistically marked?); and parallel use of "rice" for "food" in general
in Chinese and elsewhere in Asia; "pork" was said to be polysemous with
generic "meat" also in Chinese languages.

The closest to a reply to my central query was Amy Auhrbach's reporting of
the fact that "ikan" (generally "fish" in Indonesian) is used in some areas
also to mean chicken meat (apparently not for "red" meat though). Whether
there are more general reflections of this polysemy in Austronesian languages
and whether its appearance correlates with a high-fish diet, I do not know.

Patrick McConvell
Northern Territory University
PO BOx 40146
Casuarina NT 0811
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