Abstract

Amharic (a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia) has two words for ‘head’: ras and qəl. Through Intra-field metonymic transfer, ras has come to refer to the HAIR and BRAIN of humans. It also refers to a PILLOW (or headrest) through Inter-field metonymic transfer. Compound words for headteacher, headwaters, headlines, and head of state are formed with ras as a first member. In əndä-ras-e (like-self-my) ‘regent’ ras is a second member. Ras on its own (as the highest military and civil rank below the crown) was used to refer to the head of an army. This word has also found its way into the English language through Rastafarianism. In some Amharic idioms and proverbs that involve ras, the HEAD is conceived as a servant who thinks rationally and leads carefully. The rest of the BODY (below the HEAD), in turn, is considered as a master (and owner) who supports and controls the HEAD. Moreover, ras has grammaticalized into intensive genitive, intensive reflexive, reflexive, reciprocal, independent and demonstrative pronouns. First through an Inter-field metaphoric transfer (GOURD > SKULL) and then through an Intra-field metonymic transfer (SKULL > HEAD), qəl has come to refer to an individual person (HEAD > PERSON). Moreover, qəl has further grammaticalized into intensive reflexive, concessive, adversative and focus markers.

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