Last modified 11 January 2017

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Features of the physical and biological world
Physical attributes and activities of people
Intellectual and emotional expressions and values
People and interpersonal relations

Features of the physical and biological world

A Topography, soil and natural resources
.0 general (not in A.1,.2,.3), place names
 .1 eminences in the landscape
 .2 holes in the earth
 .3 types of landscape differing by growth and/or soil
 .4 soil and natural resources
B Environment
.1 Sky and heavenly bodies
 .2 Temperature
 .3 Wind
C Water
.1 precipitation and attending phenomena
 .2 cultural and natural sources of confined water
 .3 water sources which intermittently flow
 .4 types of immersion and application of water
D Animals and animal products
.0 general terms
 .1 mammals
 .2 large birds (emu, turkeys)
 .3 snakes
 .4 reptiles, amphibians
 .5 birds
 .5.01 owls
 .5.02 terrestrial hawks
 .5.03 ducks, teals and geese
 .5.04 pigeons and doves
 .5.05 parrots
 .5.06 bitterns and night-herons
 .5.07 herons, stilts, waders etc
 .5.08 beach birds
 .5.09 sea birds
 .5.10 quail
 .5.11 other birds
 .6 delicacies
 .7 insects
 .8 fish, shellfish, crustaceans
 .8.00 gropers, codfish
 .8.01 rays
 .8.02 sharks
 .8.03 catfish
 .8.04 mullets
 .8.05 perch
 .8.06 long-toms and garfish
 .8.07 parrotfish and tuskfish
 .8.08 toadfish
 .8.09 emperors, trevallies, darts, sweetlips
 .8.10 rock cods etc
 .8.11 batfish and butterfish
 .8.12 tuna, large jumping fish
 .8.13 gudgeons and muskippers
 .8.14 small freshwater fish
 .8.15 salmon
 .8.16 herring, anchovy, bony bream
 .8.17 other fish
 .9 introduced animals
E Plants and plant products
.0 general terms
 .1 tree parts
 .2 trees & bushes
 .3 plant foods
 .4 tubers
 .5 tobaccos
 .6 grasses
F Locations and Directions
.1 cardinal directions
 .2 demonstratives
 .3 location, distance
G Time
.1 diurnal
 .2 longer than a day, not related to diurnal cycle
H Quantification
.1 exact
 .2 qualitative

 .3 size, weight
 .4 distance
 .5 shape
 .6 arrangement
 .7 surface properties

Physical attributes and activities of people

I Body parts
.1 head
 .2 torso, internal organs
 .3 limbs
 .4 non-localised
 .5 hair
 .6 secretions and substances
J Physiological reactions
.1 semi-voluntary
 .2 sleep
 .3 alimentation
 .4 sex
 .5 fitness
K Disease and bodily afflictions
.1 aging
 .2 physical disability
 .3 mental disability
 .4 sickness
 .5 medicine
 .6 bodily discomfort
L Senses and perception, attention
.1 senses and attention
 .2 colours, light
 .3 Concealment
M Speech acts, vocal sounds, noises
.1 linguistic, speech acts
 .2 non-linguistic
N Stance, change of stance
O Motion
.0 general terms
 .1 horizontal motion
 .2 vertical motion, falling
 .3 walking
P Physical transfer and holding
.1 transfer
 .2 manipulation, induced motion
 .3 holding
Q Impact and concussion (as in Warlpiri roots:)
.1 /pu- ~ pi-/, etc.
 .2 /paka-/ striking, chopping
 .3 /paji-/ cutting
 .4 /panti-/ piercing
 .5 /luwa-/ throwing
 .6 /kati-/ pressing
R Activity tempo, manner

Intellectual and emotional expressions and values

S Mentation (incl. possibility, etc.)

 .1 sorrow
 .2 desire
 .3 hate
 .4 fear
 .5 anxiety
T Values
.1 goodness
 .2 excess

People and interpersonal relations

U Human classification
.1 peoples
 .2.1 age-grade terms
 .2.2 initiation
 .3 terms for females
V Kinship
.1 family
 .2.1 matrilines
 .2.2 /yikirrinji/ respect terms
 .3 subsections
 .4 age-mate terms
 .5.1 Ego's subsection
 .5.2 Fa subsection
 .5.3 Mo subsection
 .5.4 spouse subsection
 .5.5 cross-cousins
 .5.6 MoMo subsection
 .5.7 WiFa subsection
 .5.8 WiMo subsection
 .6 spouse pairs
 .7 father-child pairs
 .8 mother-child pairs
 .9.1 Fa-MoFa pairs
 .9.2 Ego-WiMo pair, Fa-MoMo pair
 .9.3 Ego-MoFa,MoMo pair
 .9.4 semi-patrimoiety terms
W Social satisfactions and displeasures
.1 play
 .2 fighting, bystanders' reactions
 .3 socially prescribed action
X Material culture
.1.1 tools, weapons esp. men's
 .1.2 tools, weapons esp. women's
 .2 clothing, adornments
 .3 shelter, camp
 .4 marine, riverine
Y Cooking, Fire
Z Ritual, Sorcery
.1 Mourning

Elaboration of birds and fish added by Jane Simpson. Slightly adapted by David Nash and Jane Simpson, 1984, from Kenneth L. Hale's typescript Warlpiri 'Introduction to Vocabulary and Domains' (1959), in turn based on Hopi domains; a lexical approach to the problem of selection, by Charles F. Voegelin & Florence M. Voegelin (Baltimore, Waverly Press, 1957. Series title: Indiana University publications in anthropology and linguistics. Memoir 14).

Also available as a FileMaker Pro v.3 file (MacBinary) (by Tony Williams).

Barry Alpher

Semantic domain codes, p.390 of Appendix 5.1, 'Proto-Pama-Nyungan etyma' in Claire Bowern and Harold Koch (eds). 2004. Australian languages: classification and the comparative method. (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, 249)  Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
A animal, fauna
B body part or product
C bugs (“crawlers”): arthropods--insects, arachnids, centipedes, crustaceans)
E earth: including fire, water, sky, geography
F fish
H human, including age categories, languages, dreams, ceremonies, songs
K kin
L location, direction, time
M maritime
O bird
P plant
Q quantifier
S (“shellfish”): molluscs
T (“thing”, “tool”, “technology”): artefact
V vegetable food
Z animal (“zoic”): the minya (“game animal”, excluding birds) and dog categories

March 2006 Revisions to the above list of domains for nouns:
A    animal, fauna (inclusive of birds; exclusive of fish) <<overlap with Z not noticed at time of publication in 2004>>
H    human, including gender categories, age categories, kinship categories, language, dreams, ceremonies, songs
O    bird (including the emu, not normally classed with the birds in the languages themselves)
Z    animal (“zoic”): the minya (‘game animal’, excluding birds) and dog categories <<see note at “A”>>


Semantic domains promoted by AIATSIS (formerly AIAS), and used in the Handbook of Australia Languages volumes (ed. by Dixon & Blake, OUP), and Macquarie Aboriginal Words (ed. by Thieberger & McGregor, paperback published by Macquarie Library, 1994).
Source: Wordlist for Australian languages / compiled by Peter Sutton and Michael Walsh. 2nd ed. Canberra:Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1987.
Note: The 1979 booklet also has numerical marking of individual items, not yet added here.
A: body parts and products
B: human classification
C: language, mythology, ceremony (and associated objects)
D: human artifacts (weapons, tools, clothing, etc.)
E: food, cooking and fire
F: water (fresh, salt, mud, current, etc.)
G: elements (weather, sky, topography, etc.)
H: mammals
I: reptiles (marine and land)
J: birds
K: marine life (except mammals and reptiles)
L: insects and spiders
M: plants

N: physical (bodily states, colours, dimensions, quantity)
O: non-physical (values, emotions, etc.)

P: motion
Q: state
R: vocalising and thought
S: bodily function
T: impact and violence
U: holding and transfer

V: locationals, temporals, directionals
W: interrogatives
X: interjections
Y: particles
Z: pronouns

Kendon sign dictionaries

A=Body Parts
B=Human Classification
D=Camp and Dwellings
E=Artifacts, traditional
F=Artifacts, modern
G=Fire, cooking and consumables (food and tobacco)
H=Celestial bodies, weather, topography
L=Amphibians and reptiles
N=Plants and plant products
Q=General attributes
R=Human attributes

As used by Adam Kendon in his c1995 'Sign dictionaries for NT languages'
AIATSIS Library Call Number AILEC 0675

Picture Dictionary sections

    what skin are you?
    internal organs
country, place
time of day
    introduced animals
    ground birds
    birds that nest in trees
    birds that nest in hollow trees
    birds of prey
    night birds
    water birds
lizards and snakes
vegetable food
sweet things
edible grubs
going hunting
cooking and food preparation
what are you making?
what are you doing?
what's happening?
how are you feeling?
what's it like?

A domain scheme similar to the above is used in:

Central Anmatyerr picture dictionary compiled by Jenny Green with the communities of Ti Tree, Mount Allan and Laramba (Napperby)
Alice Springs, N.T.: IAD Press, 2003. ISBN 1864650524 (IAD Press picture dictionary series)

Kaytetye picture dictionary compiled by Myfany Turpin and Alison Ross with Kaytetye communities.
Alice Springs, N.T. : IAD Press, 2004. ISBN 1864650583 (IAD Press picture dictionary series)


Indo-European Semantic Fields as used in Carl Darling Buck's (1949) Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principle Indo-European Languages (Chicago: Chicago University Press).  These are the basis for the IDS (Intercontinental Dictionary Series) list, and in turn The Loanword Typology Meaning List (LWTML) used by the Loanword Typology project which contains 1460 lexical meanings (in HTML orWord format, around 2MB). 'The words have been divided into 24 "semantic fields" (the 22 domains from Buck, plus a domain called "modern world" and a domain called "function words"). … Some words have been added for particular ecoregions (Africa, Amazonia, Arctic, etc.), to balance the (Indo-)European bias of Buck.'

• Jorge Luis Borges' salutary remarks about any general system for the classification of archival entities (per Mark Liberman).
Levin, Beth. 1993 English Verb Classes and Alternations: A Preliminary Investigation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. (Web-accessible version of the Index)

See also Notes for the computer assisted language worker

Back to Australian languages page

1998  David Nash

Last modified: 11 January 2017