LINGUIST List 12.1320

Mon May 14 2001

Qs: Ape/Lexical Creation, Proper Name/Cog Semantics

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  1. Celso �lvarez C�ccamo, Lexical creation by signing apes
  2. Zouhair Maalej, Cognitive Semantics of Proper Names

Message 1: Lexical creation by signing apes

Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 17:09:33 +0200
From: Celso �lvarez C�ccamo <>
Subject: Lexical creation by signing apes


I've just watched a documentary on Koko, the signing gorilla. In it, it is
reported that Koko once transferred the sign for "eyebrow" for a type of
lettuce called "browse" (spelling?) for which researchers didn't have yet a
specific sign. Koko would move her thumb(s) across her eyebrow(s) to
request browse -- not any lettuce. So, Koko seemed to be able to dettach
the iconic component of the ASL sign and thus to create a pure symbol.

If this is so (that is, if this was an innotative creation by Koko, not
prompted by the researchers' own use of the sign, my questions are,

(1) How would we better characterize this procedure? Lexical creation based
on partial homophony? But, since the sign is not vocal-aural, what is the
term commonly used for homophony for visual signs?

(2) Has this phenomenon been observed in other signing apes? I am not
referring, obviously, to lexical creation by composition (e.g. Koko's 'hole
+ hat' for 'mask', or 'ring + wrist' for 'bracelet'), or to the use of
preestablished symbols by apes, but to a type of creative symbolization
similar (I would say) to the transfer of ideographs for indicating phonetic
component of other signs, or to the use of originally ideographic symbols
in Japanese kanji.

(3) What can be said about the implications of this procedure in signing
apes with regards to their linguistic capabilities? Does this imply
linguistic analysis and reflexivity beyond what is commonly assumed?

Thank you,

Celso �lvarez C�ccamo Tel. +34 981 167000 ext. 1888
Lingu�stica Geral, Faculdade de Filologia FAX +34 981 167151
Universidade da Corunha
15071 A Corunha, Galiza (Espanha)
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Message 2: Cognitive Semantics of Proper Names

Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 16:30:27 +0200
From: Zouhair Maalej <>
Subject: Cognitive Semantics of Proper Names

Dear List Members,
I am looking for studies about the significance of proper names for a paper
I am writing on what proper names reveal about the mind. I am familiar with
Carroll (1983), Allerton (1987), and Marmaridou (1989), but I am not
interested in the functional/pragmatic perspective. Does anyone out there
know of any cognitive semantic studies of proper names?

Your help will be greatly appreciated. If enough messages are received, I
will post a summary as soon as I receive contributions.
Kind regards
Dr Zouhair Maalej,
Department of English, Chair,
Faculty of Letters,
University of Manouba,
Tunis-Manouba, 2010, Tunis, Tunisia.
Office phone: (+216) 1 600 700 Ext. 174
Office Fax: (+216) 1 600 910
Home Telefax: (+216) 1 362 871
URL: http//:
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