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Linguistics lexicon handout

LEL 2E Notes on Vocabulary One of the key facts about the lexicon of any language is that it reflects in various ways the physical and cultural environment in which the language is spoken. A people unfamiliar with, say, horses is unlikely to have a word for `horse'; similarly with ploughs, printing presses, and internet porn sites. For the most part this is trivial ­ it's hard to imagine how it could be otherwise, given the general nature of human language. People tend to make a great deal of the alleged fact (see Pullum 1989) that "the Eskimos have lots of words for snow", but it doesn't take much thought to realise that any language spoken in a given physical and cultural environment is likely to have efficient ways of referring to distinctions that are important in that environment. That doesn't mean that you can read very much into individual words and individual facts about the lexicon of a given language (this topic has already c...

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