Accepted Paper:

Linguistic typology and anthropology: towards a unified account  


Elena Musi (Università della Svizzera italiana )

Paper short abstract:

This contribution is meant to show the advantage that a systematic typological linguistic approach would provide for future research in anthropology. In order to support this view, I present a crosslinguistic survey on the expression of desires, which are highly cultural-bounded notions.

Paper long abstract:

In this contribution I will address the role that linguistic typology can play for the study of anthropological issues. Even if the importance of language as a means for understanding how culture shapes conceptualizations and social habits has been widely recognized in literature, I claim that a systematic interlinguistic approach would help in strengthening the explanatory power of interdisciplinarity.

In order to show that, I will present the results of a study on the encoding of desiderative notions , such as "wanting", "desire", "wish" and "hope", in a sample of 40 languages, and I will explain in which sense language offers a privileged perspective for the investigation of cultural diversity as far as how the concepts of desires are expressed.

The analysis is organized in two main parts. In the first section, I provide a general overview of the different ways of expression of desiderative notions found crosslinguistically in order to highlight their cultural links:

e.g. Ewe (Niger- Congo)

Me-kpɔ mɔ be â-va

1SG-see path COMP 3SG.OPT-come

"I hope/expect that she comes" = "I see she comes"

In the second part, I focus on crosslinguistic multifunctionality patterns which go over language-specific configurations: the notions of "want" is, for example, used to express also future and necessity, while the notion of "hope" has come to be associated to the notion of "waiting".

This interlinguistic survey on the expression of desire in different cultural settings is meant to show the need to foster the interconnections between linguistics and anthropology.

Panel P072
Linguistic anthropology: contributions to the future (Commission on Linguistic Anthropology)