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Exploring Word Fields Using the Free-Sorting Method

  • Centering on German self-motion verbs, this paper demonstrates the advantages of free-sorting over creating and delineating word fields with more traditional methods. In particular, I draw a comparison to Snell-Hornby’s (1983) work on German descriptive verbs, which produces lexical fields with the help of dictionary entries, a thesaurus, a small corpus of written text and limited speaker feedback. While these methods have benefits, they are limited in their ability to represent the average organization of semantic fields in the mind of everyday speakers. Freesorting, by contrast, does not rely on academic resources, corpora or singular speaker judgments. In sorting, a group of informants creates visible sets of items according to perceived similarity. Psycholinguists have used the method to quantitatively explore the perception of color terms across cultures (c.f. Roberson et al. 2005). With a sufficiently large number of informants, one can generate lexical sorting data that is apt for cluster analysis, the results of which are represented by dendrograms. The experiment I conducted involved 33 school children from a middle class neighborhood in Braunschweig, Northern Germany. My experiment shows that Snell-Hornby’s (1983) representation of the self-motion field can be improved by integrating further dimensions of meaning, such as body-space relations and sound, that young speakers find salient in the grouping procedure.

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Author:David Hünlich
Parent Title (English):TLS. Proceedings of the 15th Texas Linguistic Society
Publisher:University of Texas
Place of publication:Austin
Editor:Christopher Brown, Qianping Gu, Cornelia Loos, Jason Mielens, Grace Neveu
Document Type:Conference Proceeding
Year of first Publication:2015
Date of Publication (online):2016/03/23
GND Keyword:Deutsch; Emotion; Englisch; Kontrastive Semantik; Verb
First Page:73
Last Page:90
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 410 Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell-Keine Bearbeitung 3.0 Deutschland