'Hear'/'understand' in lexical databases

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at EVA.MPG.DE
Wed Feb 3 06:21:59 UTC 2010

I look forward to seeing the Moscow "Database of semantic shifts in the 
languages of the world" mentioned by Dmitry Ganenko.

Meanwhile, it is possible to get some insight into such polysemies using 
the World Loanword Database, which has about 1500 words (corresponding 
to 1460 predefined meanings) for each of 41 languages. Here are the 
words for 'hear': http://wold.livingsources.org/meaning/15.41, and here 
are the words for 'understand': 
http://wold.livingsources.org/meaning/17.16. It can be readily seen that 
there is some overlap, e.g. Mapudungun allkün 

Other polysemies are just as common in this database, however ('listen', 
'obey', 'feel', 'smell'). And as Ekkehard König points out, 'understand' 
and 'hear' are very rough categories that need to be differentiated further.

Another cross-linguistic lexical database that has the counterparts of 
'hear' and 'understand' in many languages is the Intercontinental 
Dictionary Series (http://lingweb.eva.mpg.de/ids/); this database does 
not explicitly distinguish polysemy from homonymy, but when one form 
corresponds to 'hear' and 'understand', we can of course assume polysemy.

Martin Haspelmath

Dmitry Ganenkov schrieb:
> Dear Nino,
> "The Database of semantic shifts in the languages of the world" 
> (currently developed at the Institute of Linguistics, Moscow) contains 
> a number of examples showing relation between 'hear' and 'understand'. 
> Some of these have already been mentioned in this thread. Others 
> include the following (all data are extracted from dictionaries or 
> other primary sources):
> Koryak valomək - polysemy 'hear'-'understand'
> Even dolǯ- - polysemy 'hear'-'understand'
> Yakut isit- - polysemy 'hear'-'understand'
> Itelmen elfses - polysemy 'hear'-'understand'
> (some of the transcriptions may be not fully adequate, because they 
> are in fact transliterations from the Cyrillic orthography of languages)
> Kolyma Yukaghir möd - polysemy 'hear'-'understand'
> Amharic sämma - polysemy 'hear'-'understand'
> Tigrinya sämʕe - polysemy 'hear'-'understand'
> Best regards,
> Dima

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