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ThePrimes

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on October 17, 2006 at 2:35:24 am
 

Please refer to http://www.une.edu.au/lcl/nsm/ for the "official" list of primes. The primes have stabilized as a list of some 60 English words with specific senses hypothesized to be universal across all languages, and tested across a wide sample of languages without disconfirmation. However, principal investigators have not called a halt to the search. Further refinements of senses, and the deletion or replacement of recent primes, are still possible -- NSM is an ongoing cross-disciplinary research program, not a de facto standard "controlled English" lexicon.

 

Note that it is the specific senses of the terms that are the key semantic element, not the range of meanings possible in English for a word, with the term being a kind of "container" of them. Many languages lack a single word expressing a given sense, but nevertheless provide other ways of expressing the meaning. For example, some languages seem to lack a word for "think", but permit expressions like, "I feel like this, but my head says that." Other languages might provide several words, each with some additional sense. Japanese, for example, has several different words roughly equivalent to "I" (including what might be called the "first person singular zero pronoun" achieved by ellipsis), but with different senses reflecting status of the speaker vis-a-vis the audience, or different levels of informality, or emphasis on speaker's gender, etc.

 

The categories are rough, and not intended to faithfully reflect some formal semantic taxonomy. Note that there is some apparent overlap: TOUCH appears in "Actions, events, movement, contact" and TOUCHING in "Space"; VERY appears both as an Intensifier (the only one) and an Augmentor.

 

The categories

 

Natural Semantic Primes

Substantives:

I, YOU, SOMEONE, PEOPLE, SOMETHING/THING, BODY

 

Determiners:

THIS, THE SAME, OTHER

 

Quantifiers:

ONE, TWO, SOME, ALL, MANY/MUCH

 

Evaluators:

GOOD, BAD

 

Descriptors:

BIG, SMALL

 

Intensifier:

VERY

 

Mental predicates:

THINK, KNOW, WANT, FEEL, SEE, HEAR

 

Speech:

SAY, WORDS, TRUE

 

Actions, events,

movement, contact:

DO, HAPPEN, MOVE, TOUCH

 

Existence and possession:

THERE IS / EXIST, HAVE

 

Life and death:

LIVE, DIE

 

Time:

WHEN/TIME, NOW, BEFORE, AFTER, A LONG TIME, A SHORT TIME, FOR SOME TIME, MOMENT

 

Space:

WHERE/PLACE, HERE, ABOVE, BELOW; FAR, NEAR; SIDE, INSIDE; TOUCHING

 

"Logical" concepts:

NOT, MAYBE, CAN, BECAUSE, IF

 

Augmentor:

VERY, MORE

 

Taxonomy, partonomy:

KIND OF, PART OF

 

Similarity:

LIKE

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