Chapter 12 The Affordances of ‘Face’ in Dalabon, Gunwinyguan, Non-Paman-Nyungan, Australia

In: Embodiment in Cross-Linguistic Studies
Maïa Ponsonnet
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This chapter presents the semantic extensions of the word for ‘face’ in Dalabon, a language of the Gunwinyguan family from northern Australia (non-Pama-Nyungan group). As is common in this region, the Dalabon word for ‘face’, dje-, also means ‘nose’ and ‘nostril’. The word has relatively limited semantic extensions as a bare noun but features in a significant number of lexicalized compounds pertaining to the semantic domains of facial appearance and expressions, emotional dispositions, behaviors and states, as well as social interactions. In most of these compounds, the semantic contribution of dje- is tied to its ‘face’ rather than its ‘nose’ or ‘nostrils’ meanings, although the latter senses are more prevalent for the bare noun. In a number of respects, the semantic extensions dje- in Dalabon are reasonably representative of the semantic profiles of words for ‘face’ in this part of Australia, and perhaps in the rest of the continent.

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