A Lexical Semantic Study of Dene Suline, an Athabaskan Language

Joshua Holden
Linguistique et Traduction, Universite de Montreal
December, 2010
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This work constitutes a systematic lexical semantic study of Dene Su ?lin an Athabaskan language from northwestern Canada. As such, it presents the lexicographic definitions, syntactic and lexical combinatorial patterns of over 200 lexical units (lexemes and idioms) representing part of the core Dene Su ?lin vocabulary for seven semantic fields: terms to describe emotions, human character, physical description, position of an object, atmospheric conditions and topographical features. The theoretical approach used is Meaning-Text Theory (MTT), a formal linguistic approach with a strong empirical focus on semantics and lexicography. The first two chapters provide the foundation for the present research. The introduction reviews the significance of cross-linguistic semantics for linguistics, and sketches some basic facts about the history and language of the Dene Su ?lin people. Chapter I is a survey of the Athabaskanist literature along with a review and critique of the previous lexicographic tradition for Dene Su ?lin Chapter II is a detailed exposition of the MTT approach to semantics and lexicography, as well as the idea of semantic primitives, and covers MTT's treatment of some major questions in lexical semantics. The second part of the thesis presents the results of the current study. Chapter III describes the semantic and syntactic portions of the lexical entries. Chapter IV contains a discussion of lexical relations found for the lexical units in the sample. The final chapter speculates about the impact of polysynthetic structure and certain sociolinguistic factors on lexical relations in Dene Su ?lin