Article published in:The Linguistics of Temperature
Edited by Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm
[Typological Studies in Language 107] 2015
► pp. 73–106
The semantics and metaphorical extensions of temperature terms in Gurenɛ
Temperature phenomena are universal, and languages show diversity in the ways in which they express the experience of temperature linguistically (Sutrop 1998; Plank 2003; Koptjevskaja-Tamm & Rakhilina 2006; Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2011). I explore these phenomena in Gurenɛ, a Gur language of the Niger-Congo family, using both elicited and spontaneously occurring data, to discuss the semantics of temperature terms such as ma’ɛ ‘be cold’ and tulegɛ ‘be hot’. The speakers employ a range of linguistic terms to describe, evaluate and categorise temperature phenomena based on touching objects, personal-feeling and ambient experience. To a large extent, speakers’ use of these terms and evaluation of temperature is influenced by their experience of the tropical weather which categorises their social and cultural activities. The terms cut across three word classes: verbs, adjectives, and nouns, and are used to describe both tactile and non-tactile temperature. Of particular interest in the Gurenɛ data are the metaphorical extensions of concepts from the temperature domain to describe human emotions and social situations. A unique feature of these metaphorical expressions is that the use of the same temperature term to predicate a different part of the human body may bring about different semantic interpretations. Thus, when ma’ɛ ‘be cold’ is predicated of a person’s head it denotes absence of illness but when it is predicated of a person’s stomach it implies an illness.
Published online: 11 February 2015
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