Variability in human body vocabularies

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Linguistic analysis provides insight into the vocabularies for body parts in more than a thousand languages

Illustration of the study’s language sample and the words for arm/hand and
Illustration of the study’s language sample and the words for arm/hand and leg/foot in English and Wolof. © Annika Tjuka/MPI-EVA

Human bodies have similar designs. However, languages differ in the way they divide the body into parts and name them. A team of linguists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the University of Passau conducted a comparison of body part vocabularies to shed light on the interplay between language, culture, and perception of the human body. ...

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