The Lexical Semantics of Athapaskan Anatomical Terms: A Historical-Comparative Study

  • Author / Creator
    Snoek, Conor
  • This dissertation synthesizes theoretical developments in linguistics and anthropology in order to tackle questions in lexical semantics and Athapaskan historical linguistics. This dissertation aims at contributing both to theoretical development of diachronic lexical semantics and to provide solid evidence for the classificatory arrangement of Athapaskan languages. In the case of the former, theoretical work carried out within the school of thought calling itself cognitive linguistics is brought together with an epidemiological approach to mental representations in order to construct a theoretical framework in which semantics can be viewed as a source of information for tracing the historical evolution of languages. The data that are brought to bear on these questions are gathered through the application of the lexicological method known as onomasiology. The method allows for the comparison of a large sample of Athapaskan languages by investigating what semantic, morphological, and phonological means are employed by each language to encode a pre-determined set of onomasiological concepts. The study proceeds by comparing Athapaskan languages on the basis of sets of terms expressing anatomical concepts. These comparisons allow for the construction of etymologies, for the delineation of semantic structures termed lexicalization patterns, and for the characterization of individual languages as aggregates of semantic and phonological data. These aggregate data were evaluated with techniques drawn from dialectometry in order to classify Athapaskan languages. The results of the research add to the the growing body of knowledge on typologies of semantic change and present a dialectometric perspective on grouping among Athapaskan languages.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Linguistics
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Newman, John (Linguistics)
    • Ives, John W. (Anthropology)
    • Rice, Sally (Linguistics)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Gary Holton (Linguistics)
    • Darin Flynn (Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures)