Isara Choosri

Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University, Thailand




Semantic Networks of Mlabri Food Vocabulary


Words exist as network of sense relations. In fact, they are effectively analyzed as semantic fields, sets of related meanings in between lexical elements and the entire vocabulary (Lehrer & Lehrer 1995: 33-36). Analyzing Mlabri food vocabulary in terms of semantic field and network renders the lexical structure not viable when words are studied in isolation. In this paper, the Mlabri food terms are divided as concerning (1) gathering (2) processing (3) consumption, and (4) sensations.

            There are words for gathering in Mlabri, depending on the nature of foods (Sakamoto 2005). Hunting ɟak kwel and simple collection ɟak ʔek are lexically distinct and imply gender roles. Digging food is cuak no matter whether it is a tuber or a mouse. Going fishing is pasəm but catching crabs is mua. Mushroom and vegetable collection is krep het and krep gɯnrɛʔ, a women's task. While collecting honey ʔek wʌk jek is men's role.

Once raw foods collected, there comes food processing and sharing characteristic of the Mlabri. Verbs of eating range from ʔəʔ (rice, tuber), boŋ (fish, meat, egg), pəj (fruit, vegetable, honey), and wʌk 'drink; smoke.’ Words like suʔeʔ 'hungry’ (< ʔeʔ ‘tuber’?) and ɟɔjh ‘delicious’ (= ‘sweet’) are assumed to be derived with the Mlabri basic food culture.



Lehrer, A. & Lehrer, K. (1995) Fields, networks and vectors. In F.R. Palmer (Ed) Grammar and meaning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (26-47)

Sakamoto, H. (Ed). 2005. Mlabri text. Kyoto: Nagamishi Printing. ELPR Publications Series A3-017