Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
 by Stephen C. Levinson

The Language of Olfaction

What resources do languages have for describing smells? Is there dedicated vocabulary for encoding olfaction, and if so what are the types of distinctions that are encoded? And, finally, how much consistency is there within a community for describing smell experiences? This task is designed to elicit smell vocabulary from speakers using a standardised kit. The goal is to investigate how languages encode olfactory experiences – specifically (1) whether there is dedicated vocabulary for encoding olfaction and (2) how much consistency there is within a community for describing smell experiences.


You must have completed Language of perception (pp. 10-21).
To conduct this task you need – (i) The Brief Smell Identification Test™, (ii) a pencil, (iii) a pencil sharpener, (iv) The Picture Identification Test.


Field Manual entry
The Language Of Olfaction (88.43 kB)

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How to cite this resource?

Majid, Asifa, Gunter Senft & Stephen C. Levinson. 2007. The language of olfaction. In Asifa Majid (ed.), Field Manual Volume 10, 36-41. Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.