Idioma: Español
Fecha: Subida: 2021-04-13T00:00:00+02:00
Duración: 21m 36s
Lugar: Conferencia
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Identifying Old English Semantic Primes: the case of LIVE

Raquel Mateo (Universidad de La Rioja)


The aim of this presentation is to conduct an analysis based on the methodology
established in previous research to identify the Old English exponent for the semantic
prime LIVE. The theory of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage was proposed by Anna
Wierzbicka (1996) some decades ago. She claimed that there was a set of core words that
could be used to describe complex concepts in terms of more simple ones. These words
are called semantic primes and, as Wierzbicka states, they can be found in every natural
language, so these primes are also considered universal. This theory has also been
developed during the last years by Cliff Goddard (2008, 2015) and other NSM
researchers. They have identified semantic primes exponents in several living languages,
but the identification of primes in historical languages is a more complex issue as the
study of each exponent must be done by means of indirect methods. First studies on
historical primes were conducted in terms of the semantic and syntactic properties of the
candidate words (Martin Arista and Martin de la Rosa 2006) and considering the
frequency of words within a corpus (de la Cruz Cabanillas 2007). More recent research
has been conducted on the category Actions, events, movement, contact taking into
account an array of different criteria based on lexicographical and textual sources to
establish the Old English exponents of the primes TOUCH, HAPPEN, MOVE and DO
(Author 2013, 2016a, 2016b, 2020). These criteria included the study of candidate words
in terms of their morphology, text frequency, semantic and syntax to determine which
word satisfied the requirements proposed by the semantic prime under analysis. With this
background, this research aims at enlarging the inventory of semantic primes in Old
English by identifying the exponent of LIVE, included in the category Life and Death.
This study calls for the following steps of analysis. First, a full meaning description of
the semantic prime at stake is required. Then, the candidate words conveying the meaning
of LIVE are retrieved from the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary
(Kay et al. 2009). All these words are then checked against the different criteria
previously proposed. In this respect, the data on the inheritance relations of these words
is taken from the database of Old English Nerthus (
Information on textual frequency is taken from the Dictionary of Old English Corpus
(Healey et at. 2009), whereas the Dictionary of Old English (Healey et al. 2018) has been
accessed to look up the semantics and the syntactic behaviour of each word. After this
analysis, the verb (ge)libban stands out from the rest of the candidates. Finally, to check
the appropriateness of this word as prime exponent, the corpus is used to search for
examples of (ge)libban within the alternative syntactic configurations – valency optionsassociated to LIVE. The conclusion is drawn that, according to all the requirements
proposed by each criterion and the uses of this word within the corpus, the verb (ge)libban
is established as the Old English exponent of the semantic prime LIVE.


Congreso Cilc 2021


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Serie: CILC2021: Lexicología y lexicografía basadas en corpus / Corpus-based lexicology and lexicography (+información)