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Altorientalische Forschungen

Ed. by Novák, Mirko / Hazenbos, Joost / Mittermayer, Catherine / Suter, Claudia E.

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Volume 46, Issue 1


Polysemy Revisited

Metaphor and Descriptiveness in Folk Animal Naming

Andrea Guasparri
Published Online: 2019-07-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/aofo-2019-0006


This paper addresses the cognitive models that frame our understanding of what is traditionally called “metaphoric polysemy”, a well-established principle at work when it comes to naming the animals around us. In particular, taking the Roman nomenclature of aquatic animals as a case study, polysemy is redefined according to some basic cognitive principles of ethnobiological classification such as analogical similarity, biological essentialism and the role of simultaneous metaphoric and metonymic associations to the perceptual/cultural constraints targeted on the biological referent for naming it – the result is at least two kinds of metaphoric polysemy, to be called “external” (or exo-polysemy) and “internal” (or endo-polysemy), respectively. The idea is that the naming patterns that emerge from the ethnozoological nomenclature under examination may not only provide a better understanding of an ancient people’s zooanthropology but a paradigm for analysing descriptive ethnobiological naming in general.

Keywords: Ancient Ethnozoological Nomenclature; Metaphoric Polysemy; Linguistic Ethnobiology


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Published Online: 2019-07-11

Published in Print: 2019-07-10

Citation Information: Altorientalische Forschungen, Volume 46, Issue 1, Pages 61–87, ISSN (Online) 2196-6761, ISSN (Print) 0232-8461, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/aofo-2019-0006.

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