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A Thousand Years of «Sweet»

A Semantic and Cultural Study


Joan Tietz

The lexical semantic history of sweet and derivatives from its early stages as evidenced in Old English texts until the present day is the subject of this linguistic study. The lexemes are examined in the four semantic fields in which they occur: taste, smell, sound and, finally, metaphorical extension where they refer to feelings or senses regarded as ‘pleasant’. This pilot study of common usage of one simple adjective and its derivatives shows correlations between intralingual and extralingual language development. The extent of the emotive baggage carried by even a simple lexical unit is revealed, as well as the underlying importance of secondary semantic traits. It is an important addition to the field of linguistic variation and development in a social and cultural context, or cultural etymology.
Contents: Synaesthetic Adjectives – Method and Previous Research – Taste 1000-1500 – Smell 1000-1500 – Sound 1000-1500 – Metaphorical Extension 1000-1500 – Spiritual Comfort 1000-1500 – Taste 1500-1900 – Smell 1500-1900 – Sound 1500-1900 – Metaphorical Extension 1500-1900 – Taste 1900-2000 – Smell 1900-2000 – Sound 1900-2000 – Metaphorical Extension 1900-2000 – Review and Outlook.