The Non-Universality of Metaphorical Extensions of smell: Lexical Semantics and Cultural Values

Professor Katarzyna Dziwirek
Flyer about Prof. Katarzyna Dziwirek's talk
The Non-Universality of Metaphorical Extensions of smell: Lexical Semantics and Cultural Values
Friday, October 16, 2015 - 3:30pm
301 Miller Hall

Verbs of perception have been typically classified into three semantic groups. Gisborne (2010) calls the three categories agentive (listen class), experiencer (hear class) and percept (sound class). Examples pertaining to the sense of smell in English use the same lexical item (smell), while in Polish, the three senses of smell are expressed with different verbs. I examine data from several languages and conclude that the “English pattern” (one verb for the 3 senses) seems prevalent. .

In metaphorical extensions of the verbs of sensory perception these verbs often stand for mental states. Concerning the metaphors of smell Sweetser (1991) says: “The sense of smell has few abstract or mental connotations, although bad smell is used in English to indicate bad character or dislikeable mental characteristics (“he is a stinker” or “that idea stinks”, while the active verb of smell may indicate detection of such characteristics (“I smell something fishy about this deal.”).

I show that the metaphorical extensions of the pachnieć and percept to smell are quite different. Not only does pachnieć not suggest bad character or dislikeable characteristics, it actually conveys the opposite, as in the expression coś komuś pachnie‘something is attractive to someone’, or when used without a modifier. These differences stem from the positive meaning ofpachnieć and the negative meaning of to smell. Since the percept verbs of smell seem to be intrinsically positively or negatively valued they do not lend themselves to universal Mind-as-Body extensions.

I also consider some of the dramatic frequency contrasts between Polish and English smell constructions and show can have their root in different cultural scripts underlying modes of speaking (pachnieć jak vs. smell like), framing of experiences (czuć zapach vs. experiencer to smell), polysemy and different constructional capabilities (wąchać vs. to sniff).

Finally, I propose a syntactic analysis to account for the case marking of the percept verb of smell in Polish.

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