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Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Newman, John

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Volume 18, Issue 2 (Sep 2007)


The semantic categories of cutting and breaking events: A crosslinguistic perspective

Asifa Majid
  • Corresponding author
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, The Netherlands.
  • Email:
/ Melissa Bowerman
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, The Netherlands.
/ Miriam van Staden
  • University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
/ James S Boster
  • University of Connecticut, USA.
Published Online: 2007-09-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/COG.2007.005


This special issue of Cognitive Linguistics explores the linguistic encoding of events of cutting and breaking. In this article we first introduce the project on which it is based by motivating the selection of this conceptual domain, presenting the methods of data collection used by all the investigators, and characterizing the language sample. We then present a new approach to examining crosslinguistic similarities and differences in semantic categorization. Applying statistical modeling to the descriptions of cutting and breaking events elicited from speakers of all the languages, we show that although there is crosslinguistic variation in the number of distinctions made and in the placement of category boundaries, these differences take place within a strongly constrained semantic space: across languages, there is a surprising degree of consensus on the partitioning of events in this domain. In closing, we compare our statistical approach with more conventional semantic analyses, and show how an extensional semantic typological approach like the one illustrated here can help illuminate the intensional distinctions made by languages.

Keywords: cut and break; separation events; verb semantics; categorization; extension; intension; typology; semantic map

About the article

*Any correspondence should be addressed to Asifa Majid, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Postbus 310, Nijmegen, 6525XD, The Netherlands

Received: 2006-02-17

Revised: 2006-12-08

Published Online: 2007-09-25

Published in Print: 2007-09-19

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/COG.2007.005. Export Citation

Citing Articles

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Journal of Physiology-Paris, 2008, Volume 102, Number 1-3, Page 80
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Asifa Majid, James S. Boster, and Melissa Bowerman
Cognition, 2008, Volume 109, Number 2, Page 235
David Kemmerer, Javier Gonzalez Castillo, Thomas Talavage, Stephanie Patterson, and Cynthia Wiley
Brain and Language, 2008, Volume 107, Number 1, Page 16
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Cognitive Linguistics, 2007, Volume 18, Number 2
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Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2008, Volume 31, Number 06, Page 720
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Psychological Science, 2008, Volume 19, Number 3, Page 232

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