Linguistics of temperature

Author : Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm

Publication date : 2007

Questionnaire URL :

Bibliographical references :

Koptjevskaja Tamm, Maria, Sahlgren, Magnus and Vejdemo, Susanne. Linguistics of temperature project. 


The main general issue dealt with in the project is the conceptualisation of temperature in natural languages as reflected in their systems of central temperature terms, such as hot, cold, to freeze, etc. 

Protocol summary

The questionnaire begins with a listing task, where all temperature-related expressions must be listed along with translations.  The user must then describe the properties of each temperature expression for the various subdomains of temperature (tactile, ambient, body, ...), along with the exact semantics and grammatical constructions.  The final section asks the user to generalize on the meanings and properties of the expressions discussed.  An appendix provides examples of English expressions illustrating the different subdomains. 

Development context

The questionnaire was developed within the context of a project focusing on "the conceptualisation of temperature in natural languages as reflected in their systems of central temperature terms (hot, cold, to freeze, etc)" funded by the Swedish Scientific Council 2009-2011.


"The project is envisaged as an integrated lexical-typological study of the temperature domain with the aim of describing and accounting for the cross-linguistic variation within it from three different angles:

  1. Lexicalization of temperature, e.g: What temperature concepts are encoded as words and what distinctions are made in the systems of temperature terms? Are there universal temperature concepts?
  2. Lexicon-grammar interaction, e.g.: How are temperature concepts lexicalized in terms of word classes? In what syntactic constructions are they used?;
  3. Semantic derivation and motivation, e.g.: What are the possible semantic extensions of the temperature meanings to other domains? Where from do the temperature terms come? How can the meaning of the temperature terms change within the temperature domain itself? What general metaphorical and metonymical models underlie the semantic evolution of these expressions?" (from the project's website:
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