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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. (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.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





937 - 966