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Title:Reduplication in Sotho Plant Names and the Cognitive Salience of Life Forms
Author:Louwrens, L.J.
Periodical:South African Journal of Ethnology
Geographic term:South Africa
Northern Sotho language
Tswana language
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Abstract:An investigation of Northern Sotho and Tswana plant names reveals that the names of shrubs show a strong tendency to reduplicate, e.g. 'mosÍlÍsÍlÍ' (Dichrostachys cinerea), whereas this phenomeneon is rarely observed in the names of trees. This paper argues that reduplication in shrub names is cognitively motivated by the psychological salience of the life forms 'shrub' and 'tree', and is used to encode linguistically the most obvious difference in growth patterns between these two life forms, namely 'multistemmedness' versus 'single stemmedness'. The cognitive factors which motivate reduplication in language in general and in shrub names in particular are explored, and it is found that the canonical semantic feature of reduplicated structures across languages, namely 'increase in number', can be connected directly to the feature 'multistemmedness' which distinguishes shrubs from trees in Sotho folk taxonomy. Plant names were collected in Mpumalanga and Northern Province, South Africa. A list of Northern Sotho plant names, their scientific names and their equivalents in English and Afrikaans is included. Bibliogr., sum. in English and Afrikaans.