A Linguistic and Cultural History of the Spleen in the Romanophone Europe

Author Information

Ecaterina Pavel,
Transilvania University of Brașov, Romania

DOI: 10.47298/comela22.4-1
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in the Mediterranean and Europe 2022

Abstract

The history of the words inherited from Latin and Greek shows how various semantic fields and classes of lexemes have ensured the unity of the Romance languages. Among them ​​are the anatomical terms referring to body parts, organs, and functions. However, a “mysterious” organ (Haque, A. 2006) has had separate and sinuous evolutions and a surprising transformation: the spleen. From the theory of humours to Baudelaire’s poetic spleen, the term has known multiple transfigurations both in the linguistic and the cultural fields and has developed additional meanings over time. The present study is a diachronic review of the evolution of the term designating the anatomical spleen in the Romance languages and an incursion into the ancillary traditions and beliefs that have shaped its semantic fluctuations in different regions of Europe. Several concepts from medical anthropology will also be investigated, such as various interpretations of the spleen function and processes over time or medical approaches shaped by the cultural and historical settings.


Keywords: Spleen, melancholy, black bile, humours, Romance languages, linguistic anthropology


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