[Lexicog] What is considered "meat"? and semantic extension of meaning

David Foris david_foris at WYCLIFFE.ORG
Sun May 23 21:51:39 UTC 2004

In Sochiapan Chinantec (Oaxaca, Mexico), there is no word distinction
between the meat of quadrupeds, fowl or fish. 


SC has both an alienable and inalienable form of many nouns, including the
word 'meat'.  

The inalienable construction tends to imply a deeper sense of belonging, a
permanency.  The alienable form often carries with it a sense of temporary
or transient possession.  However, in certain contexts it is difficult to
determine any difference in nuance.  (A hat I made and wore would likely use
the inalienable construction; a hat I bought and wore would use either.  In
a contrastive situation "his hat vs. my hat", the speaker would probably
choose the inalienable form to underscore ownership.)


With "meat" the two constructions would be translatable as:

inalienable: 'his/her/their meat' (with the marking of 3rd person being on
the noun)

alienable: "meat belong him/her/them' (with the marking of 3rd person being
on the verb)


The inalienable noun for 'meat', however, has the semantic extension to mean
'female genitals'.  This is not a euphemism, but the primary word; there are
other euphemistic expressions for both male and female 'private parts'.  The
inalienable noun for 'meat' is not spoken in "polite company".


Undoubtedly there are cultures which might object to having certain words in
a published book.  If a distinct word exists which is considered "rude", or
only spoken within an acceptable context, it could perhaps be omitted
(presumably one's target audience for the publication would dictate this
decision to some extent). But would it be appropriate for a dictionary to
omit the semantic extension?  I get the feeling that, if the semantic
extension for 'meat' is omitted, people might be baffled that it isn't
there, but on the other hand, if it is there, some people might be offended.


David Foris



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