Kuidas maitseb? Eesti ja saksa aktiivse maitsesõnavara empiiriline uurimus

Karin Zurbuchen



Artiklis võrreldakse ja kirjeldatakse empiirilise uurimuse käigus kogutud eesti ja saksa keele aktiivset maitsesõnavara, selle ulatust ja kultuurilisi erisusi ning analüüsitakse maitsesõnade nimetamisstrateegiaid. Eesti- ja saksakeelseid empiirilisi sõnavaraandmeid ei ole seni võrdlevalt uuritud. Tulemused kinnitavad hüpoteesi ja näitavad, et kahe uuritava mittesugulaskeele aktiivne maitsesõnavara on sarnane nii ulatuselt kui ka sõnastamisstrateegiatelt, mis on tingitud eesti keeles juurdunud saksa keele mallidest ja kultuurilisest lähedusest. Uurimuses ilmnenud kahe keele aktiivse maitsesõnavara viimaste kümnendite muutused osutavad ennekõike kultuurilistele eripäradele, maailmaköökide ja multikultuursetete tavade levimuse mõjule Euroopa läänelikes keelekogukondades.

What does it taste like? A comparative study of taste terms in Estonian and German

This article compares and describes Estonian and German active taste vocabulary on the basis of the empirical data in respect of the salience. Two field experiments were undertaken by interviewing 43 native speakers of both languages. The aim of the study was to determine actively used taste terms, the range of active taste vocabulary and their naming strategies in two, genetically unrelated languages. The author hypothesised that the active vocabularies of the languages would feature many similarities.

The quantitative and qualitative results of the study demonstrate that the range of active taste vocabulary is very similar in both languages: the umbrella term in the taste domain is maitse/Geschmack, and, ahead of other words, the speakers recall basic taste words: magus/sü. ’sweet’, soolane/salzig ’salty’, hapu/sauer ’sour’ and kibe/bitter ’bitter’. 

The word umami has no status as a basic term neither Estonian nor German, although its spread is growing, and regarding the salience it can be considered part of the active taste vocabulary of Estonian and German. 

The results give a basis to infer that the Estonian taste words kibe ’bitter’ and mõru ’bitter’ may have similar basic term potential, and can be considered a cultural phenomenon of the language. To lend further credence to this observation, the subject is worth investigating in greater depth. 

The list task results showed a surprising difference in the associative words linked to taste (armastus ’love’, rahulolu ’satisfaction’ in Estonian, Schmerz ’pain’, Ekel ’disgust’ in German). The salience of the positive emotional words in Estonian seems to confirm the link between taste experience and emotions as demonstrated by Vainik (2017). 

Commonalities are reflected in the similarity of the naming strategies of the taste words, based on the subjective evaluation (hea/gut ’good’, etc.), the intensity of taste experiences (vürtsikas/würzig ’spicy’, etc.), physical qualities of  food (temperature, texture, and consistency), expressed with adjectives of touch domain: soe/warm ’warm’, pehme/weich ’soft’, etc.) in both languages. Words referring to touch (konsistents/Konsistenz ’concistency’, tekstuur/Beschaffenheit ’texture’) and adjectives describing qualities of food (e.g., terav/scharf ’sharp’) reflect the sensory function of the tongue and mouth. Thus, the cognitive categorisation patterns of native speakers of Estonian and German are in large part similar in terms of naming strategies.

The active vocabulary of German includes the adjective fruchtig ’fruity’, which has made its way into everyday language from the wine vocabulary. Estonian equivalent puuviljane ’fruity’ was mentioned only once, by a single respondent. Presumably, the findings demonstrate a difference in the cultural customs of the two language communities.

As the results of this comparative study show, similar patterns exist in the listing and description of words linked to taste in both languages and both tasks. The similarity of the quantitative and qualitative results of research into active taste vocabulary in Estonian and German points to patterns of the German language that are deeply rooted in Estonian, while the cultural proximity of the two language communities is also reflected in their cognitive categorisation and naming strategy choices for taste words. 

The changes over the last couple of decades that have come to light in the comparison of active taste vocabulary in Estonian and German, including the surprising differences revealed in this research, are presumably due first and foremost to cultural peculiarities, the rapid developments in food culture as a result of globalisation and the spread of multicultural norms in Europe’s western language communities.


maitsenimetused; välimeetodid; aktiivne sõnavara; võrdlev analüüs; nimetamisstrateegiad; kultuurilised eripärad; taste terms; field methods; active vocabulary; comparative analysis; naming strategies; cultural factors; Estonian; German

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5128/LV33.09


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Copyright (c) 2023 Karin Zurbuchen

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ISSN 1736-9290 (print)
ISSN 2228-3854 (online)
DOI  https://doi.org/10.5128/LV.1736-9290