Article

Smell in Polish: Lexical Semantics and Cultural Values

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Abstract

Verbs of perception have been typically classified into three semantic groups. Gisborne (2010) calls the three categories agentive (listen class), experiencer (hear class), and percept (sound class). Examples pertaining to the sense of smell in English use the same lexical item (smell), while in Polish, the three senses of smell are expressed with different verbs: wąchać (agentive), czuć zapach (experiencer), and pachnieć (percept). In metaphorical extensions of the verbs of sensory perception these verbs often stand for mental states, as meaning shifts typically involve the transfer from concrete to abstract domains. I show that the metaphorical extensions of pachnieć and percept to smell are quite different. Not only does pachnieć not suggest bad character or dislikeable characteristics, it actually conveys the opposite, as in the expression coś komuś pachnie ‘something is attractive to someone’ or when used without a modifier. These differences stem from the positive meaning of pachnieć and the negative meaning of to smell. Since the percept verbs of smell seem to be intrinsically positively or negatively valued, they do not lend themselves to universal Mind-as-Body extensions. I also consider some of the dramatic frequency contrasts between Polish and English smell constructions and show they can have their root in different cultural scripts underlying modes of speaking (pachnieć jak vs. smell like), framing of experiences (czuć zapach vs. experiencer to smell), polysemy, and different constructional capabilities (wąchać vs. to sniff). Abstract Verbs of perception have been typically classified into three semantic groups. Gisborne (2010) calls the three categories agentive (listen class), experiencer (hear class), and percept (sound class). Examples pertaining to the sense of smell in English use the same lexical item (smell), while in Polish, the three senses of smell are expressed with different verbs: wąchać (agentive), czuć zapach (experiencer), and pachnieć (percept). In metaphorical extensions of the verbs of sensory perception these verbs often stand for mental states, as meaning shifts typically involve the transfer from concrete to abstract domains. I show that the metaphorical extensions of pachnieć and percept to smell are quite different. Not only does pachnieć not suggest bad character or dislikeable characteristics, it actually conveys the opposite, as in the expression coś komuś pachnie ‘something is attractive to someone’ or when used without a modifier. These differences stem from the positive meaning of pachnieć and the negative meaning of to smell. Since the percept verbs of smell seem to be intrinsically positively or negatively valued, they do not lend themselves to universal Mind-as-Body extensions. I also consider some of the dramatic frequency contrasts between Polish and English smell constructions and show they can have their root in different cultural scripts underlying modes of speaking (pachnieć jak vs. smell like), framing of experiences (czuć zapach vs. experiencer to smell), polysemy, and different constructional capabilities (wąchać vs. to sniff).

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... A potential concern with Experiment 1 arises from the polysemy of the transitive verb smell in English (and many other languages): When used in a transitive sentence, as in the clause Eliza smelled the muffin, the verb to smell can have an agentive interpretation (e.g., a person sniffs the muffin on purpose) or an experiencer interpretation (e.g., a person simply breathes the air and thereby becomes aware of a smell), e.g., Kopytko (1990), Gisborne (2010), and Dziwirek (2016). Gisborne (2010) describes two meanings in terms of the agent vs. experiencer distinction; similarly, Kopytko (1990) uses the labels [+active, + intent] and [-active, -intent] for these two meanings (To taste is semantically ambiguous in the same way, but in the contexts tested in this paper, the agentive interpretation is more salient. ...
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Perspective-taking is fundamental for language comprehension, including the interpretation of subjective adjectives (e.g., fun, tasty , and amazing ). To understand these adjectives, one needs to know whose opinion is being conveyed—in other words, who is the attitude-holder or perspectival center. Although the perspective-sensitivity of subjective adjectives has received considerable attention in prior work in formal semantics, potential effects of sensory modality (e.g., sight, taste, and smell) on the process of attitude-holder identification have not been systematically investigated. This paper reports a series of studies testing whether interpretation of subjective adjectives depends on whether they refer to the visual, olfactory (smell) vs. gustatory (taste) domains. The results provide evidence that sensory modality has a significant impact on the process of identifying the attitude-holder. This outcome suggests that perspective-sensitivity is highly context-dependent, and the observed modality effects align well with the biological and social properties of sight, taste, and smell.
... (1972), Grzegorczykowa (1990Grzegorczykowa ( , 2012, Bugajski (2004), Dziwirek (2016), Staniewski (2016: 115-156), among many others. ...
Chapter
In this chapter, we briefly overview the typological and diachronic research on olfactory expressions and point out possible further research questions. Essentially, we illustrate how linguistic olfactory terms interact with different areas of grammar, e.g. with morphology, and delineate some striking cross-linguistic patterns calling for a deeper unification of language-internal and language-external factors.
Chapter
The chapter is a study of the system of olfactory expressions in Georgian, Megrelian, and other Kartvelian languages, including questions of etymology and semantic extensions. Olfactory expressions in the Kartvelian languages are explored with Viberg (1984) as a point of departure, making a division into activity, experience and copulative (source-based) expressions. The study largely relies on data from text corpora of Standard Georgian as well as Georgian dialects. The Kartvelian languages are shown to exhibit specific olfactory terminology, but show numerous examples of expressions being used in several perception modalities. Keywords: olfactory perception, etymology, Georgian, Megrelian
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