Journal of Universal Language
Sejong University Language Research Institue

Language Universals: Cross-lingual Comparison of Topic Dependent Adjectives

Charith Giragama1, William Martens2, Dishna Wanasinghe1, Michael Cohen1, Chandrajith Marasinghe1
1University of Aizu
2McGill University

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


This study examined the multilingual subjects’ perceptual similarity, and semantic relation in order to find universals of languages. Two Indo-European languages (English and Bengali) and one non-Indo- European language (Japanese) were used. A common perceptual space was obtained through Multidimensional Scaling (MDS) analysis method. In contrast, semantic approach was taken using Semantic Differential Analysis (SDA) method. Apart from these, a least square mapping method, Procrustes analysis, was also employed to determine whether semantic scales relate differently to the dimensions of the common perceptual space that did not differ be- tween these three groups of languages. Breaking the tradition of taking vowel sounds to find relation between languages, however, a sophisticated approach was taken by having six guitar sounds as stimuli, which could be considered as a common parameter for all subjects of different groups of languages. Ten topic-dependent bipolar adjective scales on which responses are taken, were constructed in a preliminary study. The results of the SDA analysis showed that the English, and Japanese semantic scales related differently to the MDS derived common perceptual space, while the Bengali semantic scales related somewhat similarly to the same common perceptual space. And also Procrustes Analysis revealed that the Bengali factor space is closer to the English factor space than to the Japanese factor space. With regard to the potential for generalizing semantic differential ratings obtained in one language to aid in the interpretation of data from listeners speaking a different native language, the results of the current study suggest that caution be exercised. More- over the results of this study suggest that interpreters will have to be cautiously attentive in interpretation of data from Indo-European family of languages (English and Bengali) to non Indo-European family of languages (Japanese).

Keywords: multilingual; automatic translation; semantic differential analysis; natural language processing; multidimensional scaling



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