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The Semantics of Nouns$
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Zhengdao Ye

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198736721

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198736721.001.0001

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Personhood constructs in language and thought

Personhood constructs in language and thought

New evidence from Danish

(p.120) 5 Personhood constructs in language and thought
The Semantics of Nouns

Carsten Levisen

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyses personhood constructs, a particular type of noun whose meanings conceptualize invisible parts of a person. The meaning of personhood constructs originates in cultural discourses, and they can vary considerably across linguistic communities. They are reflective of society’s dominant ethnopsychological ideas, and they co-develop with historical changes in discourse. Drawing on insights from previous studies, a semantic template is developed in order to account for the differences but also the similarities in personhood constructs. With a detailed case study on Danish personhood constructs, the chapter tests the template on the translation-resistant Danish concept of sind, along with two other Danish nouns: sjæl ‘soul’ and ånd ‘spirit’. The case study provides a model for how personhood constructs can be empirically explored with tools from linguistic semantics.

Keywords:   personhood constructs, ethnopsychology, cross-linguistic semantics, cognitive semantics, Danish, sind, sjæl, ånd

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