Cognitive creolistics and semantic primes: A phylogenetic network analysis

Carsten Levisen, Kristoffer Friis Bøegh

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This study presents a semantics-driven lexical comparison of 20 creole languages and five European lexifier languages. Breaking new ground into understanding creole semantics, it utilizes insights from both cognitive semantics (in particular, the Natural Semantic Metalanguage approach) and phylogenetic approaches to linguistics comparisons. We provide an extensive study of label-meaning correlations as a way of exploring the relationship between word labels and word meanings across creoles and lexifiers. We conclude that creoles are not simply “versions” of their lexifier languages, and that it is misleading to say that creoles are “based” on European languages in their basic lexicalsemantic configuration. At the same time, we find that creoles do relate more closely to their historical lexifiers than to other creoles, and that the lexicalsemantic perspective adds a new dimension to the typology of creoles, nuancing the pictures from grammar-based comparisons.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreole Studies : Phylogenetic Approaches
EditorsPeter Bakker, Finn Borchsenius, Carsten Levisen, Eeva Sippola
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Publication date31 May 2017
Pages293 – 313
ISBN (Print)9789027212498
ISBN (Electronic)9789027265739
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2017


  • Semantic Primes
  • Semantics
  • Creole Studies
  • English-related creoles
  • French-related creoles
  • Dutch-related creoles
  • Spanish-related creoles
  • Portuguese-related creoles
  • Afro-Surinamese Creoles
  • Pacific Creoles
  • Phylogenetic Semantics
  • European Languages
  • Colonial Languages

Cite this

Levisen, C., & Bøegh, K. F. (2017). Cognitive creolistics and semantic primes: A phylogenetic network analysis. In P. Bakker, F. Borchsenius, C. Levisen, & E. Sippola (Eds.), Creole Studies: Phylogenetic Approaches (pp. 293 – 313). John Benjamins Publishing Company.