Being able to talk about what humans perceive with their senses is one of the fundamental capacities of language. But how do languages encode perceptual information? In this paper, we analyze how experiences from different senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) are encoded differentially across lexical categories (nouns, verbs, adjectives) in the English language. Three independently collected lists of perception-related words show that sound concepts are more prone to being expressed as verbs. Additional data show that nouns rated to strongly relate to motion are also rated to strongly relate to sound, more so than is the case for color-related nouns. We argue that the association of sound with verbs is due to sound concepts being inherently more dynamic, motion-related and event-based, in contrast to other sensory perceptions which are phenomenologically less strongly associated with motion and change. Overall, our results are the first to show differential encoding of perception-related concepts across different lexical categories. Our analyses of lexical patterns furthermore provide empirical evidence for the interconnection between semantics and grammar.

Sensory language across lexical categories

Strik Lievers, Francesca;
2018

Abstract

Being able to talk about what humans perceive with their senses is one of the fundamental capacities of language. But how do languages encode perceptual information? In this paper, we analyze how experiences from different senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) are encoded differentially across lexical categories (nouns, verbs, adjectives) in the English language. Three independently collected lists of perception-related words show that sound concepts are more prone to being expressed as verbs. Additional data show that nouns rated to strongly relate to motion are also rated to strongly relate to sound, more so than is the case for color-related nouns. We argue that the association of sound with verbs is due to sound concepts being inherently more dynamic, motion-related and event-based, in contrast to other sensory perceptions which are phenomenologically less strongly associated with motion and change. Overall, our results are the first to show differential encoding of perception-related concepts across different lexical categories. Our analyses of lexical patterns furthermore provide empirical evidence for the interconnection between semantics and grammar.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11567/895269
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