About the project

The project investigates lexicalization strategies of the quality concept ‘sharp’ (and its antonym ‘blunt’) in various languages. The current sample consists of 20 languages, among which are Caucasian (Kabardian and Aghul), Uralic (Hungarian, Finnish, Komi, Moksha), Austronesian (Malay), Mande (Kla-Dan), Japanese, Chinese and Russian Sign Language.
In its basic physical meaning ‘sharp’ can describe different types of objects: instruments/weapons with a functional edge (knife, sword, saber), instruments/weapons with a functional end-point (needle, arrow, spear), objects with a narrowing form (nose, chin, mast). These objects form a set of binary oppositions on the basis of the following parameters: ‘tactile’ vs. ‘visual perception’ and ‘linear’ vs. ‘pointed operating segment’. These parameters define the main lexicalization strategies of the field, which is covered by two adjectives in most languages of the sample. In case the parameter ‘tactile’ vs. ‘visual perception’ is highlighted in a language, the first adjective describes instruments/weapons (knife, sword, needle, arrow) and the second – objects with a sharp form (nose, chin). This strategy is attested in Japanese (surudoi vs. togatta), German (scharf vs. spitz), Welsh (miniog vs. pigog). In case the parameter ‘linear’ vs. ‘pointed operating segment’ is relevant, the first adjective is used with cutting instruments/weapons (knife, sword) and the second – with piercing instruments/weapons (needle, arrow) and objects with a narrowing end-point (nose, chin). This lexicalization is employed in French (tranchant vs. pointu), Komi (lečyd vs. jues’), Hungarian (éles vs. hegyes), Kabardian (ž’an vs. pamċe), Kla-Dan (li̋e̋ȅ vs. zűɛ̋ɛ̏).
As our data show, metaphorical extensions of the ‘sharp’ adjectives are closely connected with their direct meanings: different metaphors are associated with different frames (e.g. types of objects). For example, the metaphor “clear line, border” is attested only for adjectives describing sharp cutting instruments (English razor-sharp), and the meaning “good eyesight, hearing” – for lexemes covering the frame “sharp piercing instruments” (Chinese jiān, Komi jues’).