New Study on Body Part Semantics Appeared

Our study on body part semantics by Annika Tjuka, Robert Forkel, and myself has now appeared online with Scientific Reports (URL here).

Every human has a body. Yet, languages differ in how they divide the body into parts to name them. While universal naming strategies exist, there is also variation in the vocabularies of body parts across languages. In this study, we investigate the similarities and differences in naming two separate body parts with one word, i.e., colexifications. We use a computational approach to create networks of body part vocabularies across languages. The analyses focus on body part networks in large language families, on perceptual features that lead to colexifications of body parts, and on a comparison of network structures in different semantic domains. Our results show that adjacent body parts are colexified frequently. However, preferences for perceptual features such as shape and function lead to variations in body part vocabularies. In addition, body part colexification networks are less varied across language families than networks in the semantic domains of emotion and colour. The study presents the first large-scale comparison of body part vocabularies in 1,028 language varieties and provides important insights into the variability of a universal human domain.