smell and taste

Onederra Olaizola L. fvponoll at VC.EHU.ES
Thu Apr 23 15:52:07 UTC 1998

On Thu, 23 Apr 1998, Manfred Krifka wrote:

> Dear all,
> Bingfu's question about basic taste words reminded me of the following
> asymmetry between the uses of the basic predicates for tasting and smelling
> that can be illustrated with English and German:
> German:
> "Das schmeckt",  lit. 'This tastes', i.e. this tastes good.
> "Das riecht", lit. 'This smells', i.e. this smells bad.
> English:
> "This is tasty", i.e. it tastes good.
> "This is smelly", i.e. it smells bad.
> There is a ready explanation for this asymmetry: We have more control over
> things that we put in our mouth than over the gaseous substances that enter
> our nose. And we typically put good things into our mouth, hence the
> tendency for the unmodified use of tasting predicates to denote something
> good. I'm curious whether the same type of asymmetry manifests itself
> cross-linguistically.
In Spanish "Esto huele" (This smells) has a clear negative meaning
(basically 'this is suspicious')' but "Esto sabe" is more ambiguous in
the sense that it may have either a positive or a negative value.


Miren Lourdes Oinederra
Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea           tel.: + 34 45 18 30 00
Euskal Filologia Saila                  fax: + 34 45 14 42 94
2111 P.K.                               e-mail:fvponoll at
E-01080 Vitoria-Gasteiz.

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list