6 blocks of 2 hours each

In broad outline, the course will deal with how to go from meaning to form and from form to meaning in both the description of single languages and the cross-linguistic comparison of languages. The introductory lectures will focus on what is meant by meaning and form. We will then look at a broad range of case studies that highlight key concepts in the field and advantages and disadvantages of different methodological approaches. Our main interest will be lexical semantics, however, this will be embedded within a holistic approach to language taking into account morpho-syntax, pragmatics, phonology and non-verbal communication. We won’t only be attending to spoken languages, we will also incorporate insights from sign languages. 


Introduction (Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm)

  • Documentation vs. diversity
  • Semantic and lexical typology: a brief overview of the questions, methods, history of research etc.
  • Denotation-based lexical typology: research on colour terms – past, present, future. Guest: Susanne Vejdemo

Denotation-based lexical typology continued (Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm)

  • The Nijmegen method of semantic typology
  • The ‘cut and break’ project – cross-linguistic vs. language-specific features
  • A case study: documenting the ‘cut and break’ events in the Swedish Sign language. Guest: Pia Simper-Allen
  • Language-specific vs. modality-specific: iconicity in sign languages. Guest: Calle Börstell

Documentation of the lexicon in an underdescribed language: the case of Kuot (Papua New Guinea) (Eva Lindström)

Frame-based lexical typology (Ekaterina Rakhilina, Tatiana Reznikova, Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm)

  • Quality concepts. The temperature domain seen from different angles

Frame-based lexical typology continued (Ekaterina Rakhilina)

  • Verbs of rotation

Lexical typology based on parallel texts: motion verbs (Bernhard Wälchli)


A brief introduction to the field is Koptjevskaja-Tamm, Maria, Ekaterina Rakhilina and Martine Vanhove, forth. “The semantics of lexical typology” in Nick Ried (ed.), The Routledge handbook of semantics – downloadable from here


Useful sites:



Lecture presentations, including detailed lists of relevant references, will be published on the course site.