LINGUIST List 9.622

Tue Apr 28 1998

Sum: Taste Words

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  1. bingfu, Taste Words

Message 1: Taste Words

Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 06:27:03 -0700 (PDT)
From: bingfu <bingfuusc.edu>
Subject: Taste Words




	Several days ago, I posted the following query:

 English seems to have the following
basic words for taste:
sweet, bitter, sour, salty, hot (chilli).

Chinese has one more basic taste word:
Xian (with first tone), which describes
the taste of monosodium glutamate or
simple protein molecules. And 'xian' is
regarded the primary criterion for tasty
foods by Chinese.
I would like to know how many basic taste words
do you have in your language.
I will make a summary later.

	Bingfu Lu
	USC

			
I got a lot of responses far beyond my expectation. However,
The discussion had gone way beyond my original question as well.
It turns now to include "differences of culinary cultures" 
or something else, that
really excites people, especially in the fanyi-l list (for Chinese-English
translation). The following is my summary. I will be no longer responsible
for further summary if the discussion keeps going on.
	I should say sorry for this and to those people who happen to
subscribe more than one list that I posted to and therefore
got lot of duplicate messsages.


		SUMMARY OF THE QUERY FORBASIC TASTE WORD


1. CLOSE COUNTERPARTS IN OTHER LANGUAGES

The closest words in other languages include:
Japanese 'umami' (Dominic Beecher <dbeechererols.com>
), perhaps as well English 'savory'. 

However, both these words seems ambiguous with
'tasty' and xian1. 
Further, 'umami' is a noun, not an adjective. Its adjectival form 'umai'
seems to be similarly ambiguous as 'umami'.

Olli Salmi <olli.salmiutu.fi> proposes that:
Does "savoury" mean the same to all? The Longman Dictionary of English
Language and Culture has two meanings for this adjective: "pleasant or
attractive in taste" (xian1mei3?), and the Briish English "(of a dish)
having the taste of meat, cheese, vegetables, salt, etc., without sugar -
opposite sweet". This meaning can not be found in Merriam-Webster's
unabridged, except as a British English noun for salty dianin at the end
of a meal.

San Duanmu <duanmuumich.edu> suggests a counterpart for xian1 as 'meaty
taste', which seems rather close as well.

2. Conclusion

Anyhow, my suspicion that most languages lack
a comparable term to Chnese xian1 has been basically confirmed.

Though xian1 is basic in contemporary Chinese basic taste words, it was
not long time ago. As Shiangtai Tuan <shiangtaiacpub.duke.edu> points
out:

The order of wu3 wei4 (five basic tstes, as in Dao De Jing, the Spring and
Autumn period) is, usually, sweet, sour, bitter, chilli-hot and salty
(tien2, suan1, ku3, la4, xien2). Therefore, it seems universal that xian1
is less likely to be lexicalized in humanlanguages than other basic taste
terms. 

However, along with the development of culinary culture, we really need
this word.
Why not let us use xian1 as an loan word in other languages when we need
to describe this taste? It my preferably written as shien or xian. 

3. SOME RESPONSES

Unfortunately,
Few responses tell me the basic taste terms in other languages. However, I
paste the following responses that may serve as references for some
netters.

	Best
	Bngfu LU
	USC

*****
Richard Cook <rscookworld.std.com>
monosodium glutamate, (MSG) n.
A white crystalline compound, COOH(CH2)2CH(NH2)COONa, used as a flavor
enhancer in foods.

glutamic acid n.
A nonessential amino acid, C5H9NO4, occurring widely in plant and animal
tissue and having a salt, sodium glutamate, that is used as a
flavor-intensifying seasoning.


*****
DAVID GIL <dgilUDEL.EDU>
Having just come back from dinner, I am reminded that
Malay / Indonesian has a basic taste term "pahit"
which has no equivalents in any other languages I am
familiar with. Dictionaries usually gloss it as
"bitter", and that's as close as an dictionary can
reasonably be expected to get -- but it's not simply
bitter.

Some examples of things that are "pahit" but not
"bitter":

 A cup of tea that has less than an inch of sugar
 stirred into it
A glass of fruit uice with less than two inches
 of sugar

 Many fresh vegetables

The connotation of the term is generally negative.


DAVID GIL <dgilUDEL.EDU>
Indeed it would be, but I don't know how to go about figuring it out.
(I havea recollection -- but I don't remember any of the references --
of some work in cognitive psychology which posits a hierarchy of senses:
touch < taste/smell < sound < vision, with a variety of empirical
consequences, one of whch being that metaphorical extensions generally go
*upwards* not *downwards* on the hierarchy. So for example you get "hot
colours", going from touch at bottom to vision at top, but not, say, the
mirror image "green textures" Using this as a basis, it would suggest
that "feel" would be more basic than "taste" for Malay / Indonesian
_rasa_. Oddly, however, I have an unsubstantiated gut feeling that the
opposite is actually the case.)


*****
Nigel Greenwood <ngreenmail.btinternet.com>
but in Persian, a
language I know better than Chinese , the equivalent of Se\, which
is "gass", is quite commonly used abt the taste of such fruits.

Middle Eastern languages also have a taste word (Meykhosh)
conventionally translated as "subacid", as of certain sherbets & a
drin called oxymel (diluted vinegar & honey). It's not really the
same as Chinese sweet-and-sour, tho. In Turkish it's used
metaphorically to describe lukewarm relations.

****
Paul J Hopper <ph1u+ANDREW.CMU.EDU>
I read somewhere that physiologically there are only three basic tastes,
taste being a quite primitive sense: sweet, bitter/sour, and salt -
other tastes are perceived by the olfactory sense.
It occurs to me (perhaps Frans has some thoughts on this) that taste
words in languages center around typical things that have that taste and
are described by analogy to them. David Gil gave us some examples of
foods that would be described by Malay pait, which was very helpful,
but translating such words into English, even periphrastically, doesn't
capture it for us. And of course there are tastes of characteristic
local foods (like, say, durian) that can't be described in another
language except very indirectly (Raffles said of the durian: the taste
of heaven and the stench of hell). It would be useful if people who give
examples of tase words could suggest at the same time some typical
things that are agreed to have that taste.

****
anfred Krifka <krifkaMAIL.UTEXAS.EDU>
Bingfu's question about basic taste words reminded me of the following
asymmetry between the uses of the basic predicates for tasting and
smelling
that can be illustrated with English an German:

German:
"Das schmeckt", lit. 'This tastes', i.e. this tastes good.
"Das riecht", lit. 'This smells', i.e. this smells bad.

English:
"This is tasty", i.e. it tastes good.
"This is smelly", i.e. it smells bad.
There s a ready explanation for this asymmetry: We have more control over
things that we put in our mouth than over the gaseous substances that
enter
our nose. And we typically put good things into our mouth, hence the
tendency for the unmodified use of tasting predicates to denote something
good. I'm curious whether the same type of asymmetry manifests itself
cross-linguistically.

****
Hyo Sang Lee <hyosleeindiana.edu>
Korean has five basic taste words. Besides the four you mentioned for
English, Korean has for 'to taste bland/flat' singkep-ta (in Yale
Romanization --/s/ is pronounced as [sh] before /i/, ng is for velar
nasal,
/k/ here is pronounced as [g] between voiced sounds, the romanized e in
Yale system represents mid-low back unrounded vowel which sounds between
[o] and the vowel in English word 'caught', and -ta is a
citation/dictionary ending which is also used for declaative ending in the
Neutral Speech style). Let me list the five basic taste words in Korean:
 tal-ta 'to taste sweet'
 ssu-ta 'to taste bitter'
 si-ta 'to taste sour'
 cca-ta 'to taste salty'
 map-ta 'to taste hot/chilli/spicy'
 singkep-ta 'to taste bland/flat'
[Pronunication notes: double consonants [/ss/ and /cc/ above] represent
glottalized tense consonants (/cc/ is alveolar-palatal africate) and /ss/
is ental fricative); /u/ represents high central-back unrounded vowel]

It is interesting that four are shared among all three languages so far,
and the fifth one in Korean is different from Chinese. Hope this would
help.

****
Onederra Olaizola L." <fvponollvc.ehu.es>
Basque has the following:
gozo (sweet), geza (unsalted), gazi (salty), mikatza (quite general:bitter
and also sour), mina (hot as for chilli)

goXo ('X' stands for palatoalveolar voiceless fricative), the palatalized
counterpart of gozo (swet) may mean 'tasty, good', (and also 'warm',
'tender, lovely', etc.).
Spanish:
dulce (sweet), agrio,amargo (sour), acido (bitter), salado (salty),
picante
(hot).

In Spanish "Esto huele" (This smells) has a clear negative meaning
(basically 'this is suspicious')' but "Esto sabe" is more ambiguous in
the sense that it may have either a positive or a negative value.


****
Frans Plank <Frans.PlankUNI-KONSTANZ.DE>

Arguably STALE is a basic taste term in English.

My associates and I have been working on taste and other perceptual
terminology for the last three or so years; we'll keep you informed about
our findings when they are in publishable form. Much has already been
written on this subject, though rarely from a serious crosslinguistic
perspective.

***
Wolfgang Raible <raiblewruf.uni-freiburg.de>
All this stuff has been treatd in extenso for instance in Renate
Steinitz, Adverbialsyntax, Berlin (Akademie-Verlag) 1971, (Studia
Grammatica X).

***
Ljuba Veselinova <ljubaling.su.se>
there is an artilcle called "Verbs of perception" by Aake Viberg in
inguistics 21, 1 (1984). It does a typological study of perception
verbs in about 50 or so languages and it might be of interest to you.





***********************************************************

Thanks for the following netters who response to my query.

Maurer Annette <maurerafh-konstanz.de>
Tanja Anstatt <tanja.anstattuni-tuebingen.de>
JIANHUA BAI <baikenyon.edu>
David Prager Branner <yrsnetcom.com>
Dominic Beecher <dbeechererols.com>
David Prager Branner <yrsnetcom.com>
Richard Cook <rscookworld.std.com>
Daniel Bryan <MENGUVVM.UVic.CA>
Danielle Cyr <dcyrYorkU.CA>
David W. Chapmon" <daveivory.plala.or.jp>
Scott DeLancey <delanceyDARKWING.UOREGON.EDU>
Ronald O Dempsey <RODEMPSEYprodigy.net>
San Duanmu <duanmuumich.edu>
Jane A. Edwards <edwardscogsci.Berkeley.EDU>
Danielle Cyr <dcyrYORKU.CA>
Rob Freeman <rjfreemanusa.net>
Pascale Fung <pascaleee.ust.hk>
DAVID GIL <dgilUDEL.EDU>
Nigel Greenwood <ngreenmail.btinternet.com>
Yangsheng Guo <yguogpu.srv.ualberta.ca>
Charles Hammond <chammondsiu.edu>
David Hargreaves <dhargreaveFACULTYPO.CSUCHICO.EDU>
Beverly Hong <Beverly.Honganu.edu.au>
Paul J Hopper <ph1u+ANDREW.CMU.EDU>
Wenze Hu whufas.harvard.edu
Esther Hyunzee Kim <yunomimailhost.net>
Bella Kotik <mskotikmscc.huji.ac.il>
Carlos Inchaurralde
Seth Jerchower <sejerchowerJTSA.EDU> Italian words
Manfred Krifka <krifkaMAIL.UTEXAS.EDU>
Hyo Sang Lee <hyosleeindiana.edu>
William C. Mann" <wcmannjuno.com>
Elena Maslova <LenaLH.BICOS.DE>
James D. McCawley" <jmccawleMIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU>
<Nadejda.MoiseevaUNI-KONSTANZ.DE
Patrick Moran <moranwfu.edu>
Onederra Olaizola L." <fvponollvc.ehu.es>
Miren Lourdes Oinederra
Julie Olenn " <jjolennacsu.buffalo.edu
Douglas S. Oliver" <dsoliverearthlink.net>
Frans Plank <Frans.PlankUNI-KONSTANZ.DE>
Randy Rightmire <randyvowel.ucsb.edu>
K. Sappington" <sandalwdsirius.com
Shiangtai Tuan <shiangtaiacpub.duke.edu>
Wolfgang Raible <raiblewruf.uni-freiburg.de>
Olli Salmi <olli.salmiutu.fi>
Steen Schaufele <fcosw5MBM1.SCU.EDU.TW>
Hideaki Sugai <jpshsNUS.EDU.SG>
Kuo-ming.Sunglawrence.edu
Ljuba Veselinova <ljubaling.su.se>
Max Wheeler <maxwCOGS.SUSX.AC.UK>
Rick Yuan <gsrfyntx.city.unisa.edu.au> 
Zheng-sheng Zhang <zzhangmail.sdsu.edu> 
Mingliang Zhuang <zmlgeocities.com>
Peter.Zohrabcorrespondence.school.nz



 Jane,
	Thanks for your informative message!
	'Ajinomoto' is the first word that 
is corresponding to Chinese xian1.
	However, my impression is that it is
not basic in terms of morpheme. it is a compound 
composed of 'origin/basis of taste'.
In addition, it is not an adjecitve.

	Best
	Bingfu

On Thu, 23 Apr 1998, Jane A. Edwards wrote:

> 
> 
> I wanted to mention the following also:
> 
> 5. O'Mahony, Michael; Ishii, Rie.
> A comparison of English and Japanese taste languages: Taste descriptive
> methodology, codability and the umami taste.
> British Journal of Psychology, 1986 May, v77 (n2):161-174.
> 
> Abstract: In 3 studies, everyday taste descriptions for a range of stimuli were
> obtained from 118 Americans (aged 18-62 yrs) and 222 Japanese (aged 18-70
> yrs), using a variety of stimuli, stimulus presentation procedures, and
> response conditions. In English there was a tendency to use a
> quadrapartite classification system: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The
> Japanese had a different strategy, adding a 5th label: "Ajinomoto,"
> referring to the taste of monosodium glutamate. Stimulus presentation by
> filter-paper or aqueous solution elicited the same response trends.
> Language codability was only an indicator of degree of taste
> mixedness/singularity if used statistically with samples of sufficient
> size; it had little value as an indicator for individual Subjects.
> 
> Best Wishes,
> 
> -Jane Edwards
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