Universiteit Leiden

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Lecture | Studium Generale

What is in a word?

Tuesday 7 March 2017
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

All languages have WORDS and each word in any language is an entire world in itself as it represents a categorisation of the lived experience of its speakers. Speakers use words of their languages to represent reality and their understanding of reality is shaped by the words they use to characterise it. We use words to think together and to bring about change in the world. Words are culturally motivated and provide clues to history, modes of thinking, and patterns of interaction in a society. When linguists document languages, they systematically investigate the meanings of words to expose the worlds contained in them. In this lecture we will explore the ways in which one can discover the meanings of words of a language. We will examine words for everyday objects such as kist or doos (Dutch); words for head pad in various African languages, as well as words for everyday events such as carrying (English) or dragen, sjouwen, vervoeren etc.(Dutch) and their equivalents in some other languages. We will show how word meanings vary across languages and reflect values and preoccupations and how they code culture specific logics.

What is in a word?

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