Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
 by the ≠Akhoe Project

Encoding Shape: Formal Means and Semantic Distinctions

The basic idea behind this task is to find out how languages encode basic shape distinctions such as dimensionality, axial geometry, relative size, etc. More specifically, we want to find out (i) which formal means are used cross linguistically to encode basic shape distinctions, and (ii) which are the semantic distinctions that are made in this domain. In languages with many shape-classifiers, these distinctions are encoded (at least partially) in classifiers. In other languages, positional verbs, descriptive modifiers, such as “flat”, “round”, or nouns such as “cube”, “ball”, etc. might be the preferred means. In this context, we also want to investigate what other “grammatical work” shapeencoding expressions possibly do in a given language, e.g. unitization of mass nouns, or anaphoric uses of shape-encoding classifiers, etc. This task further seeks to determine the role of shape-related parameters which underlie the design of objects in the semantics of the system under investigation.


This Field Manual entry can be downloaded from the MPG Publication Repository:

How to cite this resource?

Seifart, F. (2003). Encoding shape: Formal means and semantic distinctions. In N. J. Enfield (Ed.), Field research manual 2003, part I: Multimodal interaction, space, event representation (pp. 57-59). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.877660.

Volume 2003 , filed under Space project.