Lexicalization patterns in core vocabulary
A cross-creole study of semantic molecules
The study of semantic domains is important for creolistics, given the complex label-meaning configuration in creoles vis-à-vis the European lexifiers. Due to the lexical semantic creativity in the creolization process as well as the subsequent developments and contacts with lexifiers, substrates, and other contact varieties, each domain seems to have its own history, its own configuration. Comparing words in four different semantic domains, we contrast the labels and lexicalizations of social concepts, body-part terms, environmental concepts, and abstract categories, with an anchor in core categories in conceptual semantics. Based on findings from cross-linguistic investigations into core vocabularies: semantic molecules and semantic primes, we study the lexicalizations of the following meanings in creoles: ‘children’, ‘women’, ‘men’, ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘wife’, ‘husband’ (social molecules), ‘head’, ‘eyes’, ‘ears’, ‘mouth’, ‘nose’, ‘hands’, ‘legs’ (body-part molecules), ‘sun’, ‘sky’, ‘ground, ‘water’, ‘fire’, ‘day’, ‘night’ (environmental molecules), and ‘not’, ‘maybe’, ‘can’, ‘because’, ‘if’, ‘very’ and ‘more’ (semantic primes – abstract concepts). We utilize phylogenetic networks to compare and contrast lexicalization patterns between domains. Our study suggests that these core semantic-conceptual constructs tend to cluster with their lexifiers, but that there are important differences across domains – the label-meaning configurations of the social domain stand out as the most diverse, and the environmental domain as the most homogenous.
Keywords: Semantic domains, semantic molecules, cross-creole comparison, creole-lexifier relations
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