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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


BOSMAN, Nerina. EATING and DRINKING in Afrikaans - a lexical semantic study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.1, pp.123-146. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article reports on a cognitive semantic, corpus-based investigation into the semantics of eating and drinking in Afrikaans. It is part of a bigger research project on these concepts and builds on research by Taljard and Bosman (2014) on cross-linguistic variation between Northern Sotho and Afrikaans metaphors for eating, by also including metaphors for drinking in the analysis. The current article has as its focus the semasiological network of verbs in the word fields of eating and drinking and involves more than metaphor identification, although it is undoubtedly the case that metaphor plays an important role in such a network of expanding meanings. The study can broadly be described as Cognitive Semantic and in particular makes use of the insights regarding polysemy whithin this field. Conceptual Metaphor Theory as initially developed by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), Kõvecses (1986) and Lakoff (1987a, 1987b, 1993) provided the heuristic tools for analysing the linguistic metaphors that were identified. Newman's (1997, 2009b) work on what he terms the "linguistics of eating and drinking" served as the stimulus for the research. The methodology chosen to identify the metaphors is empirical and corpus-based. As Stefanowitsch (2007:12) points out, corpus-based research into conceptual metaphors is still relatively new. In the light of Steen et al. 's (2010) plea for more rigorous methods in linguistics in general, and in metaphor research in particular, this study aimed to complement linguistic intuition with data extracted from two Afrikaans corpora, namely the University of Pretoria Afrikaans Corpus (UPAK, 15 million running words) and the corpus of the Language Commission of the South African Academy of Science and Arts (44 million running words). In addition, the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal ("Dictionary of the Afrikaans Language") and De Stadler and De Stadler's Tesourus van Afrikaans ("Thesaurus of Afrikaans") were used. The focus ofthis investigation was not so much the verbs "to eat" and "to drink", signifying the activity of physically eating, as the conceptual notions of eating and drinking. Hence, the search words included not only the lexical items eet ("eat") and drink ("drink") and their derived forms, but also verbs which are semantically related to the notions of eating and drinking, such as vreet ("eating done by animals"), suip ("drinking done by animals"), verteer ("consume") and insluk ("swallow, gulp down"). After identifying possible search words, Wordsmith Tools was used to generate concordances in which the words could be studied in their context. Linguistic metaphors were identified by means of a manual search of the concordance lines. The folk theory of the processes of eating and drinking was used to look for the motivation behind the metaphors. The embodied experience of the two processes and visual images representing the destruction and disappearance of the physical food and fluids clearly play a role in the creation of the metaphors. Moreover, some of the lexical items in the word field of eating and drinking, such as vreet, suip, verteer and verorber, carry additional emotive semantic meanings and associated images which contribute to the motivation underpinning, for example, metaphors of destruction. As in Newman (2009b), the metaphorical expressions were grouped into two main categories: the first was based on the concept of internalisation, the second on that of destruction. Metaphors such as EMOTIONAL OR INTELLECTUAL ACTIVITY IS EATING/DRINKING; EMOTIONAL OR SPIRITUAL PAIN IS DRINKING; INTELLECTUAL ACTIVITY IS EATING and ACCEPTING IDEAS IS EATING/DRINKING were grouped under Internalisation. DIMINISHING IS EATING/ DRINKING, PHYSICAL OR SPIRITUAL TORMENT OR TORTURE IS EATING and DISAPPEARING OR ABSENCE IS EATING/DRINKING were grouped under the metaphors of destruction. Where metaphors showed evidence of both internalisation and destruction, such as ENSLAVEMENT or VICTORY IS EATING, they were discussed in a third group. An analysis of the polysemous structure of some of the verbs showed that conceptual metaphors such as PHYSICAL TORMENT IS EATING are present in the figurative meaning extensions and are fully lexicalised in Afrikaans. Lakoff (1993) suggests that some metaphors are universal, some are widespread and some are culture-specific. It may be argued that most of the Afrikaans metaphors that were identified are universal and not culture-specific, probably because the concepts themselves do not depend on specific cultural codes, but stem from universal embodied experiences. With regard to methodological considerations, it was noted that Stefanowitsch's call for more quantitative research to indicate the relative frequency and salience of certain metaphors still poses a challenge for Afrikaans.

Keywords : Eating; drinking; Afrikaans; cognitive semantics; conceptual metaphor theory; corpus-based research; metaphors; embodied experience; universal metaphors; culture specific metaphors; folk theory; polysemous structure.

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