Tactile vs. non-tactile temperature terms

Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm tamm at LING.SU.SE
Sat Sep 22 22:01:04 UTC 2001

Dear colleagues,
Ekaterina Rakhilina and I are working on a paper on the semantics of
temperature adjectives, primarily in Russian and Swedish, but with
some data from other languages. The Russian system shows interesting
contrasts in the adjectives referring to the highest temperatures
('hot'), and we wonder if the parameters involve find parallels in
other languages.
	The adjectives under consideration are "gorjachij", "zharkij"
and "znojnyj".
	The main difference between "gorjachij", on the one hand, and
"zharkij" and "znojnyj", on the other hand, has to do with the way in
which temperature sensation is arrived at - directly, in a tactile
way, that is, by touching objects, or indirectly, in a non-tactile
way, that is mediated through the air. Thus, hot water, teapots,
stones and other surfaces will be described by "gorjachij", whereas
hot air, wind, weather (and a hot day) will be "zharkij" or
"znojnyj". Some entities can qualify both as "gorjachij" and
"zharkij", but in these cases the meaning will differ. Thus, the
combinations gorjachij vozdux  and zharkij vozdux, both translatable
as 'hot air' into English and applying to the same extralinguistic
situation, describe partly different experiences and give rise to
different pictures: in the former case one easily imagines the
"burning" effect the air has on your skin (e.g., on the cheeks and
the nose), while in latter case one imagines the effect the air has
on you as a whole  (e.g., how difficult it might be to breath, to
move and to feel generally at ease, or how wonderful it might be to
skip heavy clothes and feel the heat in your whole body).  Also with
sources of heat both types of adjectives are allowed, e.g. for
describing radiators; however, gorjachaja batareja describes the
temperature properties of the radiator's surface, perceivable by
touching  it, whereas zharkaja  batareja ' a hot radiator, battery'
refers to its properties of keeping people warm. Curiously, the
distinction between tactile and non-tactile temperature terms is
found only in the highest part of the temperature scale: 'warm',
'cool' etc are indifferent to this distinction.
  	In addition, "znojnyj" is used only when the source of heat
is the sun - thus, a hot sauna can only be "zharkaja", because it is
not heated by the sun.
	Our questions are thus:
1. is the opposition between "tactile" and "non-tactile" temperature
terms known in other languages, and if yes, in what parts of the
temperature scale it occurs?
2. is it usual for languages to have a special temperature term for
reference to the heat coming from the sun?
	Needless to say, we will be most grateful for any information.

Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm
Dept. of linguistiscs, Stockholm university		Vaesterled 166
106 91 Stockholm, Sweden				167 72, Bromma, Sweden
Tel.: +46-8-16 26 20				Tel.: +46-8-26 90 91

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