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Title: 'Want' is a lexical and conceptual universal: Reply to Khanina
Contributor(s): Goddard, Cliff  (author); Wierzbicka, Anna (author)
Publication Date: 2010
DOI: 10.1075/sl.34.1.04god
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Abstract: The question of whether or not all languages have a word for 'want' (as in 'I know what you want, I want the same') is far more important than many linguists appear to realize. Having studied and debated this question for many years, we welcome Olesya Khanina's (2008) paper "How universal is 'wanting'?", which, we believe, addresses a question of fundamental importance. Our own view - which we have sought to substantiate in a large number of publications, over many years (cf. Wierzbicka 1972, 1996; Goddard 1991, 2001; Goddard and Wierzbicka eds. 1994, 2002; Peeters ed. 2006) - is that WANT is a universal semantic prime, i.e. an indivisible unit of meaning with a lexical exponent in all languages. In the present article, we argue that although Khanina has produced valuable results about cross-linguistic patterns in the polysemy of exponents of WANT, she has failed to demonstrate her concluding point, namely, "that 'want' is not a universal semantic prime in the sense of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage ... [and] that the inclusion of WANT in this list [of semantic primes] is indeed false" (p. 848). Briefly, we will argue that Khanina's conclusion depends, first, on an a priori decision not to recognise the existence of polysemy; and second, on a misunderstanding of the NSM position on what it means to be a lexical exponent of a semantic prime. We will also argue that 'wanting' constitutes an indispensable conceptual building block in human communication and cognition, and in linguistic and psychological theorizing about communication and cognition.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Studies in Language, 34(1), p. 108-123
Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company
Place of Publication: Netherlands
ISSN: 0167-7373
Field of Research (FOR): 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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