Folk-taxonomies in Early English

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Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 587 pages
A folk-taxonomy is a semantic field that represents the particular way in which a language imposes structure and order upon the myriad impressions of human experience and perception. Thus, for example, the experience of color in modem English is structured around an inventory of twelve "basic" color terms; but languages vary in the number of basic color terms used, from thirteen or fourteen terms to as few as two or three. Anthropological linguists have been interested in the comparative study of folk-taxonomies across contemporary languages, and in their studies they have sometimes proposed evolutionary models for the development and elaboration of these taxonomies. The evolutionary models have implications for historical linguistics, but there have been very few studies of the historical development of a folk-taxonomy within a language or within a language family. Folk-Taxonomies in Early English undertakes this task for English, and to some extent for the Germanic and Indo-European language families. The semantic fields studied are basic color terms, seasons of the year, geometric shapes, the five senses, the folk-psychology of mind and soul, and basic plant and animal life-forms. Anderson's emphasis is on folk-taxonomies in Old and Middle English, and also on the implications of semantic analysis for our reading of early English literary texts.

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The Study of Color Terms across Languages

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About the author (2003)

Earl R. Anderson is Professor of English and Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Cleveland State University.

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