The semantic domain of pain seems to be unique in that, crosslinguistically, it includes few predicates that are specifically dedicated to pain (like hurt or ache); instead, the major part of the field is constituted by lexical units drawn from other semantic domains, which are applied to pain through processes of semantic derivation (like my eyes are burning, my throat is scratching). After discussing methodological considerations concerning data collection, the article first analyzes the semantic sources for pain predicates and addresses the issue of their typological consistency, based on data from over 20 languages. It is then demonstrated that the evolution of a pain meaning cannot be reduced to a merely semantic process, since the meaning shift may be accompanied by changes in the morphological, morphosyntactic and/or syntactic properties of the source verb. We suggest the term “re-branding” for the complex meaning changes of this kind and discuss their theoretical relation to the well-established notions of metaphor and metonymy.
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