Tid: Torsdag 16 april 2015, kl. 15:00-17:00
Plats: C307, Södra huset, Frescati

Postseminarium följer direkt efter seminariet.


When talking about sensory perceptions, we often hear both from researchers and lay people that it is difficult to put words to our sensory experiences, mainly in the domain of smell, but also in the domains of taste and touch, but we do not fully understand why this is the case (Olofsson et al. 2014). Those experiences are often said to differ from vision and sound in that it is harder for us, or even impossible, to sense or make sense of them when they are not present, and that there is a lack of words or the words for these experiences are words for the source of the experience rather than the experience itself, at least in some cultures (Majid & Burenhult 2014).

The above statements raise a lot of questions, which have not yet been addressed in a principled way by linguists. Some of them are: In comparison to what do smell, taste and
touch differ? In comparison to our ability to talk about emotions, artefacts, or movements? In comparison to how we describe what we see or hear? Is this alleged lack of words universal or are there differences across cultures and language? Clearly, our ability to perceive the world is much better than our ability to describe these experiences (Bushdid et al. 2014). However, like in all other contexts, our performance skills depend on who we are, who we talk to, why we talk and in what cultural context we communicate (e.g. Viberg 1984, Koptjevkaja-Tamm 2006, 2015 Vanhove 2008, Caballero & Díaz 2013, Howes & Classen 2014, Anishchanka 2013, Caballero & Paradis 2015, San Roque et al. 2015).

In this seminar, my point of departure is that the view that language users lack words for the above sensations is due to lack of principled investigations of (i) how we actually talk
about these sensations and (ii) how we construe these meanings in comparison to how meanings are construed more generally in language. This means that a lot of both empirical and theoretical work still has to be carried out to provide a solid foundation for such claims. In this seminar I take a closer look at how visual, olfactory, gustatory and tactile experiences are communicated in a cultural setting where the speaker is a wine connoisseur, a critic, and the addressees may be connoisseurs themselves, interested readers and/or prospective buyers of the products. It is the critic’s task to transform his/her own perceptions into cognition using language resources so that the untellable can be communicated (Paradis 2015). The data consist of wine reviews from the American the Wine Advocate, whose reviews have had an unprecedented impact on wine producers and wine consumers all over the world.

Anishchanka, A. 2013. Seeing it in color: A usage-based perspective on color-naming in advertising. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Leuven.
Bushdid, C., M. O. Magnasco, L. B. Vosshall & A. Keller . 2014. Humans can discriminate more than 1 trillion olfactory stimuli. Science 343. 1370–372.
Caballero, R. & J. E. Díaz-Vera. (eds.). 2013. Sensuous cognition: Explorations into human sentience, imagination, (e)motion and perception. Berlin: Mouton.
Caballero, R. & C. Paradis. 2015. Making sense of sensory perceptions across languages and cultures. Functions of Language 22.1. 1–19.
Howes, D. & C. Classen. 2014. Ways of sensing: understanding the senses in society. Oxford: Routledge.
Koptjevskaja-Tamm, M. (Ed). 2015. The linguistics of temperature. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Koptjevskaja-Tamm, M. & E. Rakhilina. 2006. “Some like it hot”: on the semantics of temperature adjectives in Russian and Swedish. In T. Leuschner 6 G. Giannoulopulou
(eds.), STUF (Sprachtypologie und Universalienforschung), pp 2–59.
Majid, A. & N. Burenhult. 2014. Odors are expressible in language, as long as you speak the right language. Cognition 130. 266–270.
Olofsson, J. K., R. S. Hurley, N. E Bowman, X. Bao, M. Marsel Mesulam & J. E. Gottfried. 2014. A designated odor-language integrated system in the human brain. The Journal
of Neuroscience
34.45. 14864–14873.
Paradis, C. 2015. Conceptual spaces at work in sensuous cognition: Domains, dimensions and distance. In F. Zenker & P. Gärdenfors (eds.) Applications of Conceptual spaces:
Geometric knowledge representation.
Dordrecht: Springer Verlag.
San Roque, L., K. H. Kendrick, E Norcliffe, P. Brown, R. Defina, M. Dingemanse, T. Dirksmeyer, NJ Enfield, S. Floyd, J. Hammond, G. Rossi, S. Tufvesson, S. van Putten
& A. Majid. 2015. Vision verbs dominate in conversation across cultures, but the ranking of non-visual verbs varies. Cognitive Linguistics 26.1. 31–60.
Vanhove, M. 2008. Semantic associations between sensory modalities, prehension and mental perceptions: A crosslinguistic perspective. In Martine Vanhove (ed.), From polysemy
to semantic change. Towards a typology of lexical semantic associations.
Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp 341–370.
Viberg, Åke. 1984. The verbs of perception: A typological study. Linguistics 21.1. 123–62.

Hjärtligt välkomna!
Ljuba Veselinova