Taming the jaguar: on the lexical equivalence of 'jaguar' and 'domestic dog' in Amazonian languages

Overall, Simon (2019) Taming the jaguar: on the lexical equivalence of 'jaguar' and 'domestic dog' in Amazonian languages. The Mouth: critical studies on language, culture and society, 4. pp. 92-105.

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Abstract

This paper takes as its starting point the frequently observed lexicalization pattern in Amazonian languages whereby 'jaguar' (Panthera onca) and 'domestic dog' (Canis famil­iaris) share a root (Schwartz 1997: 164; Adelaar 2013: 124, among others). For an English speaker this lexical overlap is surprising, and likewise from a biological perspective, since it cuts across two sets of carnivores: felids (cat family) and canids (dog family). The discussion seeks to answer the question: "why should jaguars and dogs be lexically linked?" - and the answer proposed is that while the lexical overlap may have found its initial motivation in the simple homology of two carnivorous predators, it is best explained synchronically as maintaining a symbolic link between the two animals. The jaguar is the archetypal wild forest predator, and the domestic dog is the archetype of domestica­tion - the two animals occupy extremes of a scale of wildness/domestication. The symbolic and lexical link functions both as "calling a dog a jaguar" - imbuing it with desirable properties that make it better at hunting - and "calling a jaguar a dog", attenuating its inherent threat by symbolically taming it. The paper does not aim to provide an exhaustive study of the ways of talking about jaguars and dogs throughout the Amazon Basin, and such an undertaking would require much more, and more detailed, data. There remains much work to be done in this area, as the lexical situation tends to be far more complex and nuanced than published dictionaries can do justice to.

Item ID: 59034
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2513-101X
Keywords: lexicalization pattern, Amazonian, lexical equivalence
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2019 23:54
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2004 Linguistics > 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture @ 100%
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