Taste, Scent, Sound – Sensory Language

In various situations of use, language confronts serious expressive limitations and runs up against the ineffable, i.e. experiences that cannot easily be verbalized. Interestingly, this is the case with various types of sensory perception, which may seem strange as the sound of music, the scent of a perfume, or the taste of chocolate and wine are after all very tangible, real and concrete things. This summer term, I am teaching a seminar on the linguistic resources used to capture sensorial experiences and to describe objects of sensory perception.

The seminar looks at the lexical resources available in English to talk about sensory perception but also at the strategies texts utilize when language reveals gaps, small and large, in its vocabulary. We will also explore the connections between the systems of perception that are prone to individual sensations and the system of our language that is geared towards generalizing and unifying experi­ence. (Seminar Factfile)

Based on collections of reviews as exemplars of evaluative and argumentative text types, we will devise methods for the study of the lexis, grammar and style that go into the description and assess­ment of sensorial products, such as wine, food, scents, and musical sound. Students will be collecting small corpora from food blogs, wine tasting notes, perfume descriptions and all kinds of reviews etc. and will annotate them for various lexical-semantic and stylistic/grammatical qualities.

Image: Wine labels by Tristan Rossi for The Zoo Winery – 99designs

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