LINGUIST List 31.1585

Tue May 12 2020

Qs: Seeking superordinate nouns not present in English

Editor for this issue: Lauren Perkins <>

Date: 11-May-2020
From: Lilia Rissman <>
Subject: Seeking superordinate nouns not present in English
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Hello LinguistList!

I'm researching superordinate nouns (e.g., fruit, mammal, food) and how they vary cross-linguistically. I am looking for examples of superordinate nouns that don't have a close translational equivalent in English. For example, Jahai has been argued to have a term meaning 'edible thing found in a forest' but not terms corresponding to English 'plant' or 'animal' (Levinson & Burenhult, 2009). Does anyone know of other examples? Pointers to the literature are also welcome – so far I have only seen this type of variability discussed in a piecemeal way. I am interested in superordinates from any semantic domain (e.g., natural kind terms such as 'animal,' artifact terms such as 'tool,' etc.).

Many thanks,
Lilia Rissman

Levinson, S. C., & Burenhult, N. (2009). Semplates: A new concept in lexical semantics? Language, 85(1), 153-174.

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics
                            Cognitive Science
                            General Linguistics
                            Language Documentation

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