Taste words

Edward Blansitt blansitt at UTEP.EDU
Mon Apr 27 20:48:08 UTC 1998

     I believe the question of basic taste (or taste and smell) words was
raised by Bingfu Lu on April 23.
     There is a taste word, adjective and verb, in Spanish which is
different from any I have seen in this exchange of information so far.  It
is the adjective "empalagoso" (masc. sg.) and verb "empalagar" (infinitive).
I would  definitely classify it as a basic lexical item; I can certainly not
imagine any speaker of Mexican Spanish who would not have these items in
his/her lexicon.  A bilingual dictionary gives "cloy" (verb) as the English
equivalent of "empalaga-(r)" and "cloying" or "sickly sweet" for
"empalagoso."  Certainly, the central meaning is "so horribly sweet it makes
you feel sick and desirous of no more sweets."  The Spanish verb is often
used in the reflexive: "Ya se empalagaron," which means something like
'they've (already) eaten something so "yucky" sweet that they feel sick, and
they certainly would not care for any more sweets'.
     Contrary to the usage of the Spanish translation equivalents, "cloy"
and "cloying" are unknown to most speakers of my native variety of English,
I'm wondering whether or not there could be some other variety of English in
which "cloy" and its derivatives are in common usage.
     Synchronically at least, the stem "empalag-" seems to be monomorphemic;
diachronically, it shows signs of having been polymorphemic.
     I wonder if there are other such seemingly semantically complex but
lexically basic terms in other languages.  Another question: Are there other
dialects of Spanish in which "empalag-" is not a part of the core lexicon?
If so, has it been replaced by some other term?

Edward Blansitt
<blansitt at utep.edu>

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