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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 26, 2008

Servant of two masters? NSM and semantic explanation

  • Nick Riemer
From the journal


1. Introduction

Uwe Durst opens his helpful précis with the claims that NSM ‘has turned out to be a most useful theoretical and methodological framework for semantic analysis’, and that it ‘is free from various shortcomings of other semantic frameworks.’ Since the insights of NSM scholars into the details of many semantic domains have frequently been acknowledged, the theory's usefulness for semantic description need scarcely be doubted. I would like to suggest, however, that Durst's second claim is more questionable. Not only is NSM subject to shortcomings of its own distinctive stripe, but it inherits others from the approach to semantic analysis characteristic of linguistics generally, of which, in the last analysis, it is only a particularly forthright exemplar. NSM's most significant problems, then, are just the problems of semantics in general, seen as part of the would-be scientific project of linguistics. These problems are not always obvious from Durst's survey, and in this commentary I will indicate some of the most interesting. Given the space available, I will not discuss the universality of NSM's proposed primitives, perhaps the issue which has most often stimulated discussion. I will also only address the lexical semantics aspects of NSM. These are, in any case, at the theory's core, and since analogous issues arise in its treatment of other topics, the omission from this commentary of any discussion of the NSM approach to morphology, cultural scripts, pragmatics, and the like is, I trust, appropriate.

Published Online: 2008-02-26
Published in Print: 2004-05-25

© Walter de Gruyter

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