[Lingtyp] query: "animal"

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Sat Oct 13 16:33:49 UTC 2018

Dear all,

I am interested in exploring, cross-linguistically, the semantic range 
of words that correspond more or less to the English word "animal".

Here are examples of the things that English "animal" refers to:

1. dog, kangaroo, lizard, frog ...

2. eagle, sparrow, chicken, bat ...

3. bee, scorpion, spider, centipede ...

4. crab, shrimp ...

5. worm, leech ...

6. starfish, jellyfish, squid, octopus ...

7. oyster, clam ...

8. sponge (?) ...

I am looking for examples of languages in which the basic word closest 
to English "animal" is nevertheless different in its coverage.In 
particular, I would like to find instances — if such exist — of 
languages in which there is a basic word that covers the examples in 1-4 
(or maybe 1-5) to the exclusion of those in 5-8 (or maybe 6-8).(Note 
that the question concerns every-day words that reflect our naive folk 
biological knowledge, not with scientific terms in those few languages 
that have such terminology.)

Some words of background:A colleague and I working in experimental 
cognitive science have found (non-linguistic) empirical evidence for the 
psychological reality of an ontological category that consists roughly 
of animals of the kind exemplified in 1-4 (and possibly also 5).We are 
calling this category "higher animals".The characteristic prototypical 
features of higher animals include a single axis of symmetry, the 
existence of head, torso and limbs, a face in the front of the head that 
includes sensory organs such as eyes, and a mouth for eating, and the 
ability to move forward in the direction that the head is facing. A 
challenge that we face is that, in the (few) languages that we are 
familiar with, there is no simple word for higher animals.But we are 
hoping that other languages might have such a word.in addition, we would 
also welcome grammatical evidence for the category of higher animals, 
for example in the form of grammatical rules that are sensitive to the 
animacy hierarchy by making reference to a cut-off point between higher 
and other animals.

I look forward to your responses.Thanks,


David Gil

Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History
Kahlaische Strasse 10, 07745 Jena, Germany

Email: gil at shh.mpg.de
Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lingtyp/attachments/20181013/1ec7f218/attachment.htm>

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list