First call – "Linguistics of temperature"

Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm tamm at LING.SU.SE
Fri Aug 1 13:22:44 UTC 2008

  First call for the theme session "Linguistics of temperature" at  
the International Cognitive Linguistics Conference 2009 (Berkeley,  
U.S.A., July 28-August 3)
Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm (Stockholm university)

### CONTENTS ###

Temperature phenomena are universal, relatively easily perceptible by  
humans and crucial for them, but their conceptualisation involves a  
complex interplay between external reality, bodily experience and  
evaluation of the relevant properties with regard to their functions  
in the human life. The meanings of temperature terms are, thus, both  
embodied and perspectival. Rather than reflecting the external world  
objectively, they offer a naïve picture of it, permeated with folk  
theories that are based on people’s experience and rooted in their  
culture (cultural models).
Languages differ as to how many temperature terms they have and how  
these categorize the temperature domain in general. Closely related  
languages can show remarkable differences in their uses of  
temperature adjectives, even when these are cognates to each other;  
conversely, temperature systems can show remarkable areal patterns.  
Temperature terms can belong to different word classes, even within  
one and the same language (adjectives – ”cold”, verbs – ”to freeze”,  
nouns – ”coldness”). Languages vary in their word-class attribution  
of temperature concepts: thus, for instance, many languages lack  
temperature adjectives. Word-class attribution and, further,  
lexicalization of temperature expressions and the possible syntactic  
constructions in which they can be used are sensitive to their  

Temperature meanings are often semantically related to other  
meanings, either synchronically (within a polysemantic lexeme) or  
diachronically. Thus, temperature concepts often serve as source  
domains for various metaphors (‘warm feelings’, ‘hot news’) and are  
extended to other perceptional modalities (‘hot spices’, ‘warm  
colour’). Temperature meanings can also develop from others, e.g.,  
“prototypical” entities or activities with certain temperature  
characteristics (e.g., ‘burn, fire’ >’hot’, or ’ice’ > ’cold’).  
Finally, the meanings of temperature terms can also change within the  
temperature domain itself, e.g. ‘warm, hot’ > ‘lukewarm’, as in Lat.  
tep- ‘warm’ vs. English tepid ‘lukewarm’. While some languages show  
extensive semantic derivation from the temperature domain, others  
lack it or use it to a limited degree (e.g., the Oceanic languages).  
Languages vary as to which temperature term has predominantly  
positive associations in its extended use (cf. ‘cold’ in Wolof vs.  
‘warm’ in the European languages), partly due to the different  
climatic conditions.

Temperature terms have, on the whole, received relatively little  
attention. Cross-linguistic research on temperature is mainly  
restricted to Sutrop (1998, 1999) and Plank (2003), which focus on  
how many basic temperature terms there are in a language and how they  
carve up the domain among themselves. There has been no cross- 
linguistic research on the grammatical behaviour of temperature  
expressions, apart from a few mentions.

In theoretical semantics, temperature adjectives have mainly figured  
in discussions of lexical fields, antonymy and linguistic scales (cf.  
Lehrer 1970, Cruse & Togia 1995, Sutrop 1998, cf. also Clausner &  
Croft 1999). Koptjevskaja-Tamm & Rakhilina 2006 suggest that  
linguistic categorization of the temperature domain is sensitive to  
several parameters, that are important and salient for humans, can be  
distinguishable by simple procedures relating to the human body and  
have only very approximate physical correlates. Within the Natural- 
Semantic Metalanguage, Goddard & Wierzbicka (2006) propose the  
general formula for describing the language-specific meanings of  
temperature terms via reference to fire.

Extended uses of temperature words have been studied indirectly in  
cognitive linguistics, primarily in research on the metaphors  
underlying emotions, e.g. affection is warmth (Lakoff & Johnson  
1997:50) and anger is heat (Kövecses 1995, also Goossens 1998; cf.  
also Shindo 1998-99). An important question raised in Geeraerts &  
Grondelaers (1995) is to what degree such extensions reflect  
universal metaphorical patterns or are based on common cultural  
traditions. In any case, the current empirical evidence for the  
suggested metaphors is still relatively meagre.

For this workshop we invite contributions that discuss the  
linguistics of  temperature in particular languages and across  
languages from various angles, e.g.:

– Lexicalization of temperature concepts, categorization within the  
temperature domain: What temperature concepts are encoded as words  
across languages, what distinctions are made in the systems of  
temperature terms and what factors underlie them? Are there universal  
temperature concepts? Can temperature terms and temperature term  
systems completely free to vary across languages, or are there limits  
to this? How can the meanings of temperature terms be described  
(e.g., via reference to the objective temperature scale, to the human  
body and human perception or to typical entities, like fire or ice)?
– Lexicon-grammar interaction within the temperature domain: How are  
temperature concepts lexicalized across languages in terms of word  
classes?  What syntactic constructions are used for talking about  
temperature perception?
– Semantic extensions and motivation (patterns of polysemy and  
semantic change) relevant for the temperature domain:  What are the  
possible semantic extensions of the temperature meanings to other  
domains and how can these be related to their concrete meanings?  
Where from do the temperature terms come? How can the meaning of the  
temperature terms change within the temperature domain itself? What  
general metaphorical and metonymical models underlie the semantic  
evolution of the expressions related to the temperature domain?

For collecting linguistic data it might be helpful to make use of  
“Guidelines for collecting linguistic expressions for temperature  
concepts” downloadable from

Particularly welcomed are contributions that attempt at linking the  
linguistic issues to a broader anthropological and psychological  
context and offer discussions of methodological and theretical  
problems in dealing with the linguistic domain of temperature.


Please submit

WHAT: your 500-word abstract (1" margins, Times New Roman, size 12  
font) as .rtf, or .doc file

WHEN: by September 5, 2008

TO WHOM: <tamm at>

in an email with the subject heading "ICLC 2009 theme session  
(temperature)"; the

body of your e-mail should include

- title of paper

- name(s) of author(s)

- affiliation

- contact e-mail address.


Clausner, T.C. & W. Croft. 1999. Domains and image schemas. Cognitive  
Linguistics, 10, 1:1 –31.
Cruse, D.A. & P. Togia 1995. Towards a cognitive model of antonymy.  
Lexicology, 1.113–41.
Geeraerts, D. & S. Grondelaers 1995. Looking back at anger: Cultural  
traditions and metaphorical  patterns. In Taylor & MacLaury (eds.),  
Goddard, C. & A. Wierzbicka 2006. NSM analyses of the semantics of  
physical qualities: sweet, hot, hard, heavy, rough, sharp in cross- 
linguistic perspective. Studies in Language, 34(1):  675 – 800.
Goossens, L. 1998. Meaning extensions and text type. English Studies,  
Koptjevskaja-Tamm, M. & E. Rakhilina 2006. "Some like it hot": on  
semantics of temperature adjectives in Russian and Swedish. STUF  
(Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung), a special issue on  
Lexicon in a Typological and Contrastiv Perspective, ed. by  
Leuschner, T. & G. Giannoulopoulou, 59 (2).
Kövecses, Z. 1996.  Anger: Its language, conceptualization, and  
physiology in the light of cross-cultural evidence. In Taylor &  
MacLaury (eds.), 181-196.
Lakoff, G. & M. Johnson 1999. Philosophy in the flesh. New York:  
Basic books.Lehrer, A. 1970. Static and dynamic elements in  
semantics: hot, warm, cool, cold.
Plank, F. 2003. Temperature Talk:  The Basics. A talk presented at  
the Workshop on Lexical Typology at the ALT conference in Cagliari,  
Sept. 2003.
Shindo, Mika. 1998-9. An analysis of metaphorically extended concepts  
based on bodily experience. A case study of temperature expressions.  
Papers in linguistic science, 4:29–54, 5: 57–73.
Sutrop, U. 1998. Basic temperature terms and subjective temperature  
scale. Lexicology, 4.60–104.
Sutrop, U. 1999. Temperature terms in the Baltic Area. Estonian:  
Typological studies, ed. by Mati Erelt, 185–203. Tartu: University of  

Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm
Dept. of linguistics, Stockholm University
106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
tel.: +46-8-16 26 20
tamm at

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