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Smell terms are not rara: A semantic investigation of odor vocabulary in Thai

Wnuk, E; Laophairoj, R; Majid, A; (2020) Smell terms are not rara: A semantic investigation of odor vocabulary in Thai. Linguistics , 58 (4) pp. 937-966. 10.1515/ling-2020-0009. Green open access

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Abstract

Large lexica of basic smell terms are considered to be restricted to a handful of small languages of non-industrialized societies. Accordingly, they are thought to belong to the sphere of rara within lexical typology (Plank 2001. Das grammatische Raritätenkabinett. Konstanz: University of Konstanz. https://typo.uni-konstanz.de/rara/intro/index.php (accessed 3 October 2017)). However, smell lexica might in fact be more common than previously suggested. In this article, we discuss the case of Thai – a language with a population of tens of millions of speakers – which defies this assumption. We show Thai has a sizeable lexicon of terms for olfactory qualities, and investigate their semantics using a multi-method approach. In particular, we demonstrate a novel use of exemplar listing where – in addition to giving insights into the terms’ extensions – exemplar data is used to reveal the structure of the lexicon. Additionally, we use corpus data to provide complementary information on meaning and usage, thereby showing the advantage of multi-method approaches. Overall, the findings suggest smell lexica are not rara, and their distribution in the world’s languages goes beyond the stereotypical cases of languages spoken by small-scale societies.

Type: Article
Title: Smell terms are not rara: A semantic investigation of odor vocabulary in Thai
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1515/ling-2020-0009
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2020-0009
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: smell term, linguistic rarum, semantics, exemplar listing, Thai
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10070235
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