Personhood constructs in language and thought

Carsten Levisen

in The Semantics of Nouns

Published in print May 2017 | ISBN: 9780198736721
Published online June 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780191800382 | DOI:
Personhood constructs in language and thought

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This chapter analyses personhood constructs, a particular type of noun whose meanings conceptualize invisible parts of a person. The meaning of personhood constructs originates in cultural discourses, and they can vary considerably across linguistic communities. They are reflective of society’s dominant ethnopsychological ideas, and they co-develop with historical changes in discourse. Drawing on insights from previous studies, a semantic template is developed in order to account for the differences but also the similarities in personhood constructs. With a detailed case study on Danish personhood constructs, the chapter tests the template on the translation-resistant Danish concept of sind, along with two other Danish nouns: sjæl ‘soul’ and ånd ‘spirit’. The case study provides a model for how personhood constructs can be empirically explored with tools from linguistic semantics.

Keywords: personhood constructs; ethnopsychology; cross-linguistic semantics; cognitive semantics; Danish; sind; sjæl; ånd

Chapter.  9878 words. 

Subjects: Semantics ; Psycholinguistics

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