Semantic Typology

Nicholas Evans

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199281251
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Semantic Typology

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  • Linguistics
  • Linguistic Typology
  • Semantics


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This article shows the advantages that result from integrating the various linguistic approaches into a broad and coherent research programme. The three main issues (granularity, boundary location, and grouping and dissection) are encountered in comparing the denotational range of signs across languages. These three types of issue are described. Some of the most important work in semantic typology has involved the study of subsystems, such as colour and ethnobiological taxonomies. Furthermore, three important issues for semantic typology that go beyond the mere range of the signified, or sets thereof, are explored: iconicity; polysemy and heterosemy; and covert semantic categories. The findings presented should show how rich and varied the field is, how much it has to tell about how humans think in language, and how the forces shaping language structure are tugged between the universal and the culturally specific.

Keywords: semantic typology; granularity; boundary location; grouping; dissection; iconicity; polysemy; heterosemy; covert semantic categories

Article.  11578 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Linguistic Typology ; Semantics

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