Human Olfaction at the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Biology

Asifa Majid in Trends in Cognitive Sciences:

The human sense of smell is far more acute than previously thought, yet it is still commonly believed that there is no language of smell.

In English there are, indeed, few words for smell qualities, smell talk is infrequent, and people find it difficult to name odors in the laboratory. However, the cross-cultural data show a different picture.

There are many languages across the globe that have large smell lexicons (smell can even appear in grammar) in which smell talk is also more frequent and naming odors is easy.

In different cultural and ecological niches odors play a significant role in everyday life.

These differences in smell language can have consequences for how people think about odors.

More here.