Maria Chiara

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Brown, Cecil H., 1944-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Anthropological linguistics; Atmosphere--Terminology; Polysemy


This thesis documents regularities in human classification and naming behavior involving atmospheric features» Polysemy is a common strategy of lexical development involving labeling of two or more semantically related referents with a single term. Wind/air and wind/breeze polysemy occur relatively frequently on a worldwide basis. Breeze/air and wind/breeze/air polysemy occur less frequently. Polysemy development typically proceeds from unmarked to marked. That is, an unmarked term for a highly salient referent expands its designative range to incorporate a less salient referent. This study utilizes linguistic marking principles and historicalcomparative evidence to determine the dominant directions of polysemy development for atmospheric terms. Languages usually encode wind/air polysemy by extending a term for highly salient wind to encompass air. Similarly, the development of wind/breeze polysemy typically involves extension from wind to breeze. This thesis also delineates processes and mechanisms that contribute to loss of polysemy in this domain. One mechanism is overt marking: this involves the addition of a modifier (overt mark) to a base term such as wind, producing a complex expression e.g., "soft wind" as a label for breeze. In some cases, lexical separation of polysemous referents accompanies increase in societal complexity. Languages having wind/air polysemy, for instance, are usually spoken in small-scale societies. Languages spoken in large, urban societies tend to have separate, unrelated terms for wind and air. This pattern may be attributed to scientific and architectural advances associated with increase in societal scale. The conclusion summarizes the findings of this' research and relates them to study of the cognitive capacities underlying perception and classification. Two problems for subsequent research are also presented. One entails investigation of additional referential associations of wind, breeze, and air. The second problem involves determination of the lexical and psychological salience of terms for specific types of atmospheric features, e.g., "north wind".


Bibliography: pages [46]-51.


vii, 81 pages




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