[Lingtyp] query: "animal"
ianm at berkeley.edu
Sat Oct 13 22:23:41 UTC 2018
As already mentioned, English usage is variable; for this native (British) English speaker ‘animal’ in non-scientific discourse
applies almost exclusively to mammals, and definitely does not include birds, fish, insects, etc.
In several West African languages the word for ‘animal’ also means ‘meat’, e.g. Yoruba ẹran /ɛɾɑ̃/ which applies
primarily but not exclusively to domesticated animals, like goats and cattle, and also to meat and also human muscle.
> On Oct 13, 2018, at 12:50 PM, Daniel Ross <djross3 at gmail.com> wrote:
> David (and others),
> As already indicated by some replies, English is not that simple. In fact, there is a huge amount of variation between speakers. As a child I was interested in reading about animals (encyclopedias, etc.) and going to zoos, and for me personally the wide, encompassing definition (all the way through sponges!) would apply. But I remember being in disagreements with other speakers who don't find insects (or 'lower' groups) to count, and some don't even count fish. It seems that the definition operates as a prototype, with some speakers accepting a wider group (in effect radiating down the hierarchy) and others keeping the narrower prototypical group, maybe even just synonymous with "mammals" for some. Some survey research on the exact distribution (with a very large sample, including different education levels, etc.) would be warranted here to make any strong generalizations. There's also a puzzle at the other end of the hierarchy, where humans are technically animals but many are reluctant to mention or even accept that. At the same time, many or most speakers probably recognize that there is a technical definition, so this is also a question of register/context, and it might be variable within speakers. It would also be worth looking at other similar terms like "bug" in English, which to me is essentially synonymous with "insect" (and I guess including other land-arthorpods), but for some speakers I think would extend further. As you asked, David, trying to find terms for other parts of the hierarchy is relevant.
> Thanks for sharing an interesting question!
> On Sat, Oct 13, 2018 at 11:43 AM Peter Arkadiev <peterarkadiev at yandex.ru <mailto:peterarkadiev at yandex.ru>> wrote:
> Dear All,
> I'm afraid that the "animals, birds and fish" test does not really work, because one easily finds apparently contradicting examples "birds, snakes and other animals" suggesting that "birds" and "snakes" are "animals".
> (I am not claiming that I know how to interpret this discrepancy, I only point out the potential difficulty, which, I am sure, will pop up in other languages as well.)
> Best regards,
> Peter Arkadiev, PhD
> Institute of Slavic Studies
> Russian Academy of Sciences
> Leninsky prospekt 32-A 119991 Moscow
> peterarkadiev at yandex.ru <mailto:peterarkadiev at yandex.ru>
> http://inslav.ru/people/arkadev-petr-mihaylovich-peter-arkadiev <http://inslav.ru/people/arkadev-petr-mihaylovich-peter-arkadiev>
> 13.10.2018, 21:17, "David Gil" <gil at shh.mpg.de <mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>>:
>> 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.
>>> 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 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 <mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>
>>>> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
>>>> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816
>>>> Lingtyp mailing list
>>>> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org <mailto:Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
>>>> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp>
>> 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 <mailto:gil at shh.mpg.de>
>> Office Phone (Germany): +49-3641686834
>> Mobile Phone (Indonesia): +62-81281162816
>> Lingtyp mailing list
>> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org <mailto:Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
>> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp>_______________________________________________
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org <mailto:Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/mailman/listinfo/lingtyp>
> Lingtyp mailing list
> Lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Department of Linguistics
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Lingtyp