Chapter 4 The Lexeme ‘Face’ in Languages of Northwestern Papua New Guinea: An Exploratory Study

In: Embodiment in Cross-Linguistic Studies
Jose Antonio Jódar-Sánchez
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The research discussed in this chapter is an exploratory study of lexemes meaning ‘face’ in a set of languages of northwestern Papua New Guinea. This area comprises three main geographical areas, namely those around the Torricelli mountains and the Sepik and Ramu rivers. Data for 62 of the 200 languages spoken in this area, namely 31 %, was collected, stored in a database, and coded according to various criteria. The main criterion was whether those lexemes were monomorphemic, that is, composed of one root, or analyzable, that is, composed of two or more roots. The results show that around two-thirds of languages have monomorphemic ‘face’ lexemes while the remaining third of languages has analyzable ‘face’ lexemes. The pattern is reversed when only Torricelli languages are considered. A geographical rather than a genealogical pattern was found. Languages with analyzable ‘face’ lexemes cluster around three areas, which are the area on the coast to the west of the Torricelli mountains, the central area immediately south of the Torricelli mountains, and an area immediately south of the Sepik River. Toward the end of the chapter, I illustrate the use of analyzable ‘face’ lexemes in Srenge and Walman, two Torricelli languages. Srenge is interesting in its use of two ‘face’ lexemes, one in contexts of physical impact and violence and another one in contexts where the facial expression of the person is crucial to the situation.

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