The language of eating and drinking: a window on Orang Asli meaning-making

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We make in this chapter a first probe into the lexical domain of eating and drinking as it is construed in the Aslian languages, a branch of the Austroasiatic language family spoken by a majority of the Orang Asli of the Malay Peninsula. Fundamental to human experience and representation, the domain of ingestion has received increased linguistic attention in recent years. Setting out from our own primary field data from several Aslian languages, collected over the past 25 years , we examine the form, meaning, and history of eating and drinking vocabulary and show that Aslian harbours unusual lexical strategies for ingestion. We place particular focus on ingestion events as expressed in the class of verbs. Moreover, in this seemingly restricted and mundane domain, we unpack semantic principles of wider significance to Aslian meaning-making, which speak directly to cultural distinctions within the Orang Asli sphere. In particular, we uncover a clear distinction in semantic categorisation strategies between foragers and non-foragers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMalaysia’s original people
Subtitle of host publicationPast, present and future of the Orang Asli
EditorsKirk Endicott
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherNational University of Singapore Press
ISBN (Print)978-9971-69-861-4
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


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