componential analysis

Raul Valdes-Perez (
11 Sep 1995 03:22:20 GMT


I have several questions about research in anthropological linguistics
and/or componential analysis.

About 25 years ago there were articles in the journal American
Anthropologist about inferring the meaning of kinship relations for
exotic languages from instances of these relations. The inference of
kinship relations was carried out with a form of componential
analysis, which is described as a useful tool in various encyclopedias
of linguistics and elsewhere. For example, The Penguin book
"Semantics" by Geoffrey Leech describes on pages 237-247 the
componential analysis of kinship relations within an Amerindian

I have written a prototype computer program that can infer the meaning
of kinship relations from examples, much as described in the pages
from the Leech book.

My questions:

(1) Does the problem of inferring kinship relations from examples have
any currency today, or is this no longer of interest? Currency could
refer either to research or to education.

(2) Has anyone ever written a program to carry out this task?

(3) Can anyone suggest applications of componential analysis within
linguistics that are of current interest, such that it would merit the
effort of writing a computer program?

Thanks for your attention.

Dr. Raul E. Valdes-Perez Research Computer Scientist
Computer Science Department email:
Carnegie Mellon University tel: (412) 268-7127
Pittsburgh, PA 15213 - USA fax: (412) 268-5575