Can Nomenclature for the Body be Explained by Embodiment Theories?
Majid A., van Staden M.
According to widespread opinion, the meaning of body part terms is determined by salient discontinuities in the visual image; such that hands, feet, arms, and legs, are natural parts. If so, one would expect these parts to have distinct names which correspond in meaning across languages. To test this proposal, we compared three unrelated languages-Dutch, Japanese, and Indonesian-and found both naming systems and boundaries of even basic body part terms display variation across languages. Bottom-up cues alone cannot explain natural language semantic systems; there simply is not a one-to-one mapping of the body semantic system to the body structural description. Although body parts are flexibly construed across languages, body parts semantics are, nevertheless, constrained by non-linguistic representations in the body structural description, suggesting these are necessary, although not sufficient, in accounting for aspects of the body lexicon. Copyright