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Words and MeaningsLexical Semantics Across Domains, Languages, and Cultures$
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Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199668434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199668434.001.0001

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Men, women, and children

Men, women, and children

The semantics of basic social categories

(p.22) 2 Men, women, and children
Words and Meanings

Cliff Goddard

Anna Wierzbicka

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins by arguing that the old-style componential analysis of words like men, women, boys, and girls in terms of ±male and ±adult is profoundly misguided, despite remaining to this day a staple part of the linguistics curriculum. It then develops richer semantic explications for these, and a suite of related, social category words, showing that this approach provides much improved descriptive adequacy and cognitive plausibility. Taking a cross-linguistic perspective, it argues that although many social category meanings are language-specific (including English boys and girls), a small number – including meanings comparable to English men, women and children – are lexical universals. The chapter includes a comparison with prototype analysis in cognitive linguistics, as well as demonstrating the new NSM theory of semantic molecules.

Keywords:   lexical semantics, social categories, componential analysis, cognitive linguistics, semantic universals

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