Title page for ETD etd-04102008-122558

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Addison, Elizabeth Neuerburg
URN etd-04102008-122558
Title Getting Warm(er):An Investigation into Linguistic Relativity and Its Significance in the Translation of the English Lexical Term "Warm" into French
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department French Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Nash, Caroline Committee Chair
Peters, Rosemary Committee Member
Brody, M. Jill Committee Member
  • francophone
  • thermal expressions
  • thermal descriptors
Date of Defense 2008-02-13
Availability unrestricted
Students of foreign languages are well aware that every language has its own vocabulary and word-for-word translations are rarely valid. It is therefore unsurprising that identifying literal translations in French for the English lexical term “warm” is problematic. This study demonstrates that not only is there a variety of French lexical terms that can be used to convey the meaning that the English lexical term “warm” conveys, but that certain French lexical terms are more likely to be used only in certain situations. Furthermore, an examination of this phenomenon through the lens of linguistic relativity has revealed differing conceptualizations of temperature for native French versus native English speakers.

Linguistic relativity is the theory that one’s native language can actually affect the way one thinks about the world. In this study, the theory is examined from the points of view of various linguists and translators, including Whorf, Saussure, Wierzbicka, and others. Linguistic relativity is then applied to French and English speakers’ conceptualizations of temperature.

Both oral and written data is collected for this study; participants are both interviewed on tape and fill out a written questionnaire. Native French speakers are from various regions of France, Switzerland, Quebec, Africa, and South Louisiana. This study is limited to the adjectival and non-figurative use of the English lexical term “warm”.

The results of this study reveal that while there are many possible translation into French of the English lexical term “warm” depending on the situation and the speakers’ personal preferences and intents, certain French lexical terms are more likely to be used in particular situations. Based on the results of this study, the preferred French translations of the English lexical term “warm” are: chaud ‘hot’, tiède ‘lukewarm’, and bon ‘good’.

Due to their differing language systems, native French speakers and native English speakers classify temperatures differently, and in doing so, their experiences of temperature are interpreted differently. This difference in interpretation undoubtedly means that linguistic relativity is at play.

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