CLICS³ Database of Cross-Linguistic Colexifications
Here’s another fun little linguistics toy to play with, and it’s called CLICS, or CLICS³, CLICS cubed, which is a lot easier to say than the full form of its name, which is the Database of Cross-Linguistic Colexifications.
Just saying that really sounds like some real good technobabble there.
Really it just sounds, you know, so technical and scientific to say that.
Fun to say.
But here’s the idea.
Colexification: lex means word, simply the dictionary.
So these are lexemes, or words, essentially.
And having colexification, that means together, the words that are combined, or in this case, meanings that are combined together into a single word.
And cross-linguistic, meaning across different languages.
So here we have a very interesting window into the way that different languages handle different concepts.
And you can see here, you can look at the list of varieties of languages, and then you can actually get into the actual concepts.
So here we see a map of all the different languages that are involved.
So it really gets a collection from around the world.
And you can imagine all the different range of different human cultures that are involved in this very large number of languages.
I mean, we’re looking at 3000 languages.
That’s really just about half of all the languages in the world.
Of course, there’s no exact numbers on that, depending how you divide languages and so on.
But this is really a very comprehensive picture.
So now we get to the main part of the database, which is the list of concepts.
So here we see just under 3000 different concepts.
So here, each of these terms is a different word, you could say, or a different concept, a different idea, a different meaning.
Now, of course, you see here in English, each of these different meanings is given a different word.
But each language represents these meanings maybe in a slightly different way, and many of these meanings are combined into single words So let’s just pick a word.
How about take the word brave?
OK, so here we see the map of the word brave, and you can see how, in each of the different languages, you can see all the different forms that this word takes.
And so this is kind of more the raw data, just showing like, you know, this sort of database combining all these dictionaries from all these different languages, and showing how these words show up, and really getting into the details.
Here’s the form of the word.
And so really quite a rainbow of different languages here.
But here’s where it gets really interesting is where you get into one of these subgraphs.
So here we can actually see the colexification where different concepts are combined together.
So let’s look at the subgraph for brave.
Now the map appears in the corner, and here we get this computer-generated network here.
And this is where it really gets fun.
So this is a network of concepts, joined by the number of languages that share a word for each of these things.
So for example, you see here you have brave and dare.
And you can see that, you know, because there’s a fairly thick line here, you see that there are, you know, several languages that share this.
They have a single word for both of these concepts.
And then over on the right, you see the list of all the languages where there’s a single word for this concept.
And so you have brave, you know, brave and strong.
OK, so those often share words.
And then strong and hard.
Hard and loud.
Loud and big.
Strong and healthy.
Strong and fast.
Healthy and happy.
So this is almost something that it goes beyond linguistics, because it’s not just about, you know, the form of the language, but really the form of the concept, the way that we think about these different meanings, as expressed in the language.
It really shows us something about the way that these concepts are connected together in our minds, or at least what is a popular way of considering them.
Now here we have, oh, look at this beautiful collection of words here.
So we have the concept of healthy, the concept of good, one of the most basic concepts that we have as humans, this concept of what is good.
And you can see the things that, you know, relate to good and beautiful, good and right, good and sweet, healthy, good, love.
So the stronger, the thicker, the line, the more languages use a single word to express both those concepts.
So you can imagine, you know, in many languages, good and beautiful is simply the same word.
So it really gives us a picture of the way that concepts are laid out in our minds.
It really is a window into how meanings can be structured.
And so this is really a lot of fun to play with, and I think can lead to a lot of interesting insights.
When it comes to linguistics, most of the understanding, the science, you could say, is focused on the formal side, the way language is, the way words sound, the way sentences are made, the structure, the formal aspects.
But when it comes to studying the meaning, this is really much more mysterious.
There is no comprehensive theory of meaning, you know, explaining how meanings are broken down or structured in any way.
This is not something that’s really understood in any clear way.
But this system of networks here, these webs here, give very interesting insight into this area.
So I hope you’ll enjoy playing with this site and seeing some new perspectives on human thought.