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Title: The Search for the Shared Semantic Core of All Languages
Contributor(s): Goddard, Cliff (author)
Publication Date: 2002
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Abstract: Every theory starts with certain assumptions. The initial assumption of the natural semantic metalanguage theory is that the meanings expressible in any language can be adequately described within the resources of that language, i.e. that any natural language is adequate as its own semantic metalanguage. The theory began as a method of lexical semantic analysis based on reductive paraphrase; that is, on the idea that the meaning of any semantically complex word can be explicated by means of an exact paraphrase composed of simpler, more intelligible words than the original (Wierzbicka 1972). The reductive paraphrase method enables one to avoid getting tangled up in circularity and terminological obscurity, two problems which dog most other semantic methods. Simplicity and clarity are the watchwords, and to this end no technical terms, neologisms, logical symbols, or abbreviations are allowed in reductive paraphrase explications - only plain words from ordinary natural language. If it is possible to do semantic analysis using reductive paraphrase and at the same time avoid circularity, then it follows that every natural language must contain a non-arbitrary and irreducible semantic core which would be left after all the decomposable expressions had been dealt with. This semantic core must have a language-like structure, with a lexicon of indefinable expressions (semantic primes) and a grammar, i.e. some principles governing how the lexical elements can be combined. The semantic primes and their principles of combination would constitute a kind of mini-language with the same expressive power as a full natural language; hence the term "natural semantic metalanguage".
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Meaning and Universal Grammar: Theory and Empirical Findings, v.1, p. 5-40
Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company
Place of Publication: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
ISBN: 9027230633
Field of Research (FOR): 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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Series Name: Studies in Language Companion Series (SLCS)
Series Number : 60
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