“Paddling a Canoe and Preparing Rice Balls”

The Semantics of Tafi Cuisine

  • Mercy Bobuafor University of Ghana
Keywords: Food preparation, lexicalisation pattern, polysemy, Tafi and verb semantics, food preparation, lexicalisation pattern, polysemy, tafi and verb semantics

Abstract

 

 

The culinary field is where three of the well-authenticated examples of human universals; tool making, use of fire and cooking of food, come together. Yet in this field, cultures differ in their conceptualisation and linguistic representation of food preparation. In this study, I discuss the language of cooking in Tafi, a Ghana-Togo Mountain Language, focusing on five verbs: tɔ́ “cook, boil”; pʊ́ɩ̄ “bake, roast”, gba “fry, roast; sweep”; ge “cook (e.g. dumpling); drive (e.g. a car)” and “pound”. I investigate the semantic relations among them and explore the cultural logic that unites the interpretations suggested by their translation equivalents. Thus, I show that the contextual interpretation of tɔ́ depends on the classes of nouns it collocates with: With kɩ́dɔ̄ “thing” it signals “prepare a meal”. Where its complement is a specific product, the interpretation is “to make something” e.g., tɔ́ bésh(e)ɔkɔ̃ɛ̃ “prepare local soap”. But if the complement names a food then it means “prepare that particular food” e.g. tɔ́ (elí) oni “prepare (oil-palm) soup”. If the complement is a (raw) foodstuff, it is interpreted as  “boil in water to”, e.g. tɔ́ kdzē “egg” is interpreted as “cook egg” or “boil egg in water”. Furthermore, I argue that the use of the activity verbs gba “sweep”, ge “drive, paddle” (cf. Akan ka) and “pound” in the culinary field is based on the manner of food preparation. The Tafi conceptualisations and lexicalisation patterns will be compared to the vocabulary in Ewe and Akan to discover the similarities and differences.

 

Author Biography

Mercy Bobuafor, University of Ghana

Mercy Bobuafor is a Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics, University of Ghana. Her research interests are in language documentation and language description, especially syntax and semantics, as well as lexicography, and anthropological linguistics. Her regional specialisation is West Africa, focusing on Kwa languages especially, Ewe and Gbe languages, Tafi and other Ghana-Togo-Mountain languages.

References

Bobuafor, Mercy. 2013. A grammar of Tafi. PhD. Dissertation, University of Leiden. (LOT Dissertation Series 327) Utrecht: LOT
Bobuafor, Mercy L. 2009. “Noun classes in Tafi.” In The linguistics of endangered languages: morphology and syntax, edited by M. Leo Wetzels, 267-307 LOT Occasional Papers, Utrecht.
Defina, Rebecca. 2016. Events in language and thought: The case of serial verb constructions in Avatime. Dissertation. Radboud University Nijmegen & Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen.
Essegbey, James. 2010. “Locative constructions in Tutrugbu: Losing typological
characteristics due to contact.” The Journal of West African Languages. 37(1): 93-118.
Fillmore, Charles J. 2006 [1982]. “Frame semantics.” In Cognitive linguistics: Basic readings, edited by Dirk Geeraerts, 373-400. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter
Fillmore Charles & Atkins B. 1992. “Toward a frame-based lexicon: The semantics of RISK and its neighbors.” In Frames, fields, and contrasts: New essays in semantic and lexical organization, edited by Adrienne Lehrer & Eva Feder Kittay, 75-102. Hillsdale, Erlbaum.
Lehrer, Adrienne. 1974. Semantic fields and lexical structure. Amsterdam: North Holland.
Lehrer, Adrienne & Kittay Eva Feder. 1992. “Introduction.” In Frames, fields, and contrasts: New essays in semantic and lexical organization, edited by Adrienne Lehrer & Eva Feder Kittay, 1-18. Hillsdale, Erlbaum.
Lyons, John. 1977. Semantics. Cambridge University Press.
Petruck, M. 1996. “Frame Semantics.” In Handbook of Pragmatics, edited by J-O Östman, J. Blommaert and C. Bulcaen, 1-13. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, Benjamins.
Simons, Gary F. and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2018. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twenty-first edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.
Trier, J. 1931. Der Detsche Wortschatz im Sinnbezirk des Verstandes. Heidelberg: Winter.
van Putten, Saskia. 2014. Information structure in Avatime. Dissertation. Radboud University Nijmegen & Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen.
Published
2018-12-24