On Defining "Imaginary" Beings and Attributes: How Do Lexicographers Cope with Culturally Determined Differences in Beliefs about Cosmology, Ontology and Epistemology? *

  • P Swanepoel


Members of linguistic communities often have opposing beliefs about the existence of beings denoted by lexical items or about the truth of the attributes ascribed to entities. As very little research has been forthcoming in this regard, this article focuses on how people's beliefs about existence and truth are encoded in explanatory dictionaries, and on the kind of semantics that is needed to account for these beliefs. The way in which dictionaries define issues of existence and truth against a default world view is outlined in Section 2. Section 3 indicates what happens if the default world view of lexicographic descriptions changes and how cultural biases operate in the treatment of the meaning of lexical items that denote "imaginary" beings or "imaginary" attributes. Section 4 summarizes the main findings of the article and delimits topics for further research. Keywords: imaginary beings, fabulous creatures, defining attributes, lexicographic definitions, existence, truth, sense, reference, denotation, idealized cognitive models, cognitive semantics, cultural bias, cultural sensitivity

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-0039
print ISSN: 1684-4904