Chapter 10 Body Part Extensions with mặt ‘Face’ in Vietnamese

In: Embodiment in Cross-Linguistic Studies
Annika Tjuka
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Terms for body parts can denote other referents outside the semantic domain of the human body. Different meanings are connected with the term for the body part ‘face’ in different languages and these semantic extensions provide insight into the principles that lead to the connection of multiple meanings to a single term. The present study investigated the similarity features that facilitate body part extensions. The examination of cross-linguistic patterns revealed that the term for the body part ‘face’ tends to be extended to other body part concepts as well as to spatial concepts. By investigating the semantic extensions of the term mặt ‘face’ in Vietnamese, certain commonalities across languages were apparent. In social contexts, mặt occurred as a representative of an entity and a person’s dignity. However, the detailed study also showed that mặt is used in expressions such as ‘face of the day’ in reference to the sun. The different meanings that are connected to a body part term based on various associations have important implications for how meanings are linked in the mental lexicon. Thus, future experimental studies need to consider the cultural and physiological motivation of body part extensions.

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