smell and taste

Paul J Hopper ph1u+ at ANDREW.CMU.EDU
Thu Apr 23 15:52:40 UTC 1998

Dear Altnetters,

I read somewhere that physiologically there are only three basic tastes,
taste being a quite primitive sense: sweet, bitter/sour, and salt -
other tastes are perceived by the olfactory sense.
It occurs to me (perhaps Frans has some thoughts on this) that taste
words in languages center around typical things that have that taste and
are described by analogy to them. David Gil gave us some examples of
foods that would be described by Malay pahit, which was very helpful,
but translating such words into English, even periphrastically, doesn't
capture it for us. And of course there are tastes of characteristic
local foods (like, say, durian) that can't be described in another
language except very indirectly (Raffles said of the durian: the taste
of heaven and the stench of hell). It would be useful if people who give
examples of tase words could suggest at the same time some typical
things that are agreed to have that taste.

Paul Hopper

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