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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 10.1515/ling-2020-0009. (In press).

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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). 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
DOI: 10.1515/ling-2020-0009
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2020-0009
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. 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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