[Lingtyp] query: "animal"

David Gil gil at shh.mpg.de
Sat Oct 13 18:17:18 UTC 2018

So from the comments by Hartmut (below) and Östen a short while ago, it 
is becoming clear that I was a little cavalier in my initial statement 
to the effect than English "animal" refers to 1-7 and maybe 8.  
Interestingly, though, German "Tier" apparently does.  Also, there may 
possibly be a split between Hartmut's Danish "dyr" (1-7) and Östen's 
Swedish "djur" (1 only) — though I now see some further discussion that 
calls this into question.

The observations that have been offered about the semantic range of 
English "animal" have already provided me with a solution to the problem 
that motivated my original posting.  Under the (apparently) false 
assumption that English has a single word for 1-7/8, it was a problem 
for the proposed notion of higher animal (covering 1-4/5) that there 
seemed to be no simple word for it. But if indeed ontological categories 
such as living creature (covering 1-7/8) can exist without a simple word 
to designate them, then it is not a problem for the proposed notion of 
higher animal that there would seem not to be a single word for that 
category — at least from what I have been able to gather so far.

Still, it would be nice if somebody came through with a language that 
had a simple basic word for higher animals (1-4/5), so I welcome further 
comments and discussion on this thread!

On 13/10/2018 20:00, Hartmut Haberland wrote:
> Three comments:
> In German, 1.-7. would work.
> Where are fish like plaice, turbot, or eel? Category 2a?
> My wife, L1 speaker of English, often commented on my typical German 
> concept of Tier (1.-7.), when I referred to birds, fish and insects as 
> animals which I stopped doing now.
> Turbots have more axes of symmetry than anyone who ever filleted one 
> for sushi will agree with me are convenient.
> In my opinion, the cut-off point for English is after 1.
> I use Danish dyr like German Tier and nobody ever commented on it in 
> 40+ years.
> What about bacteria (6a)? At least they move.
> Hartmut
> Den 13. okt. 2018 kl. 18.35 skrev David Gil <gil at shh.mpg.de 
> <mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>>:
>> 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
>> -- 
>> 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
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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

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