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Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Newman, John / Divjak, Dagmar

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Volume 18, Issue 2


How similar are semantic categories in closely related languages? A comparison of cutting and breaking in four Germanic languages

Asifa Majid / Marianne Gullberg / Miriam van Staden / Melissa Bowerman
Published Online: 2007-09-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/COG.2007.007


Are the semantic categories of very closely related languages the same? We present a new methodology for addressing this question. Speakers of English, German, Dutch and Swedish described a set of video clips depicting cutting and breaking events. The verbs elicited were then subjected to cluster analysis, which groups scenes together based on similarity (determined by shared verbs). Using this technique, we find that there are surprising differences among the languages in the number of categories, their exact boundaries, and the relationship of the terms to one another—all of which is circumscribed by a common semantic space.

Keywords: cut and break; separation events; Germanic languages; English; German; Dutch; Swedish; verb semantics, categorization; cluster analysis; 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: 2005-06-24

Revised: 2006-12-08

Published Online: 2007-09-25

Published in Print: 2007-09-19

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 18, Issue 2, Pages 179–194, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/COG.2007.007.

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