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Review article

Daniela Katunar, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zagreb



The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of semantic typology as a separate discipline with an interdisciplinary background. Semantic typology is presented as a novel emerging field in linguistic typology that combines semantic theory with typological methodology for a systematic cross–linguistic investigation of meaning. We present and discuss theoretical and methodological precursors to the development of semantic typology as an independent field at the crossroads of several traditions – typological, semantic and anthropological. We discuss the influence that kinship studies, color research, morphosyntactic typology and structuralist semantic traditions had on the development of semantic typology, as well as the limitations current methodological approaches based on these studies may encounter. We point out two main ways in which the term semantic typology is used in extant literature: a) synonymous with lexical typology and b) synonymous with semantically based typological classification of grammatical categories. Furthermore, we point out two main approaches to defining lexical typology. One is concerned with the demarcation of categories in various languages, while the other focuses only on those lexical features which are grammatically relevant. Finally, we argue for a broad conception of semantic typology that unifies the two uses of the term. Semantic typology under this view has the following goals: a) to make generalizations and classifications about “semantic types”, especially with regard to grammatical categories, b) to seek out potential universal semantic features and the way that they are coded in the languages of the world, c) to investigate potential universal semantic relations (e.g. polysemy, synonymy) and the way they operate upon language structures synchronically and diachronically, d) to investigate regularities in the formation of lexical and grammatical structures and e) to investigate the lexicon–grammar continuum and the way meanings are distributed across this continuum, with special attention to regularities across languages.



semantic typology,

lexical typology, semantics

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