The old english exponent for the semantic prime TOUCH. Descriptive and methodological questions

  1. Mateo Mendaza, R. 1
  1. 1 Universidad de La Rioja

    Universidad de La Rioja

    Logroño, España


Australian Journal of Linguistics

ISSN: 0726-8602

Year of publication: 2013

Volume: 33

Issue: 4

Pages: 449-466

Type: Article

DOI: 10.1080/07268602.2013.857574 SCOPUS: 2-s2.0-84891049830 WoS: WOS:000328466400003 GOOGLE SCHOLAR lock_openOpen access editor
Institutional repository: lock_openOpen access postprint


The aim of the article is to identify the exponent for the semantic prime TOUCH in Old English. Therefore, this research contributes to the frame of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage Research Programme (NSMRP) by applying it to the study of a historical language. Throughout such an application several descriptive and methodological questions arise. On the descriptive side, it is necessary to propose a cluster of semantic, morphological, textual and syntactic criteria that allow for the identification of the prime at stake, given that the nature of the object of study is not compatible with the translation into the native language generally adopted by the NSMRP. The analysis focuses on the category actions, events, movement and contact, and relies on data retrieved from the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, the Dictionary of Old English Corpus and the lexical database of Old English Nerthus. Although the cluster of criteria evinces a clear candidate for semantic prime it also raises the methodological issue of the distinction between the semantic prime and the hyperonym because some of the criteria used in the search for the former also play a role in the process of identification of the latter. The conclusion is reached that the verb hrīnan is the main exponent for the semantic prime TOUCH in Old English because it satisfies the criteria of meaning, word-formation, textual frequency and syntactic complementation. © 2013 The Australian Linguistic Society.