On cups

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This essay surveys and critically comments upon four lexicographic (semantic) descriptions offered for the English noun cup. Labov (New ways of analyzing variation in English. Georgetown University Press, Washington D.C., pp. 340-73, 1973), Katz (Philos Stud 31: 1-80, 1977), Wierzbicka (Aust J Linguistics 4: 257-281, 1984), Goddard (Semantic analysis: a practical introduction. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011), all restricted themselves to tea/coffee cups. The Oxford English Dictionary allows for other kinds of cups as well, including acorn-cups, and bra-cups. This essay offers an alternative account of what is common to the different denotata for the word cup: all but one kind are hollow hemispheroids. It speculates on the relevance of cupped hands in the sizing of cups, and finally proposes that a proper semantics for cup should be cognisant of the lexical extensions discussed here.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDynamics of Language Changes
Subtitle of host publicationLooking Within and Across Languages
EditorsKeith Allen
Place of PublicationSingapore Singapore
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9789811564307
ISBN (Print)9789811564291
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Breast volume
  • Containers
  • Hemispheroid
  • Lexical extension
  • Lexicography
  • Semantics

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