12/10 Nominal Classification
Prof. Senft’s second lecture explores the problem of nominal classification. The main question is to determine how humans use language to organize, categorize and communicate about the perceived word.
In order to understand the relation between language and world, Prof. Senft will discuss different typologies of nominal classification found in natural languages. Then, by studying the Kilivila language of the Trobriand Islands, he will raise some questions that are relevant to Cognitive Linguistics: Are the systems of nominal classification universal or culture-related? What do linguistic categories classify: extralinguistic referents or intralinguistic categories such as ‘nouns’? Also, given that classifiers also carry their own meaning, does their meaning influence what is classified or does the meaning of their objects influence them?
Although many of the classifiers in the Kilivila language seem to rely on universal categories, Prof. Senft will show that these categories are always expressed in a cultural-specific way and that, from this perspective, language influences thought.