Understanding Cultures through Their Key Words: English, Russian, Polish, German, and Japanese

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Oxford University Press, Aug 7, 1997 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 328 pages
This book develops the dual themes that languages can differ widely in their vocabularies, and are also sensitive indices to the cultures to which they belong. Wierzbicka seeks to demonstrate that every language has "key concepts," expressed in "key words," which reflect the core values of a given culture. She shows that cultures can be revealingly studied, compared, and explained to outsiders through their key concepts, and that the analytical framework necessary for this purpose is provided by the "natural semantic metalanguage," based on lexical universals, that the author and colleagues have developed on the basis of wide-ranging cross-linguistic investigations. Appealing to anthropologists, psychologists, and philosophers as well as linguists, this book demonstrates that cultural patterns can be studied in a verifiable, rigorous, and non-speculative way, on the basis of empirical evidence and in a coherent theoretical framework.

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Contents

1 Introduction
1
Patterns of Friendship Across Cultures
32
Freedom in Latin English Russian and Polish
125
Homeland and Fatherland in German Polish and Russian
156
5 Australian Key Words and Core Cultural Values
198
6 Japanese Key Words and Core Cultural Values
235
Notes
281
References
293
Index
309
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Page 8 - We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds — and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds.
Page 8 - We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way — an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language.
Page 40 - Be courteous to all, but intimate with few ; and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.
Page 134 - In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way everywhere in the world.
Page 23 - I can see, any unusual ambiguity: it denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.
Page 129 - positive" sense of the word "liberty" derives from the wish on the part of the individual to be his own master.
Page 40 - Friendship is constant in all other things Save in the office and affairs of love: Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues; Let every eye negotiate for itself, And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch, Against whose charms faith melteth into blood.
Page 132 - All errors which he is likely to commit against advice and warning are far outweighed by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to what they deem his good.
Page 6 - A moderate skill in different languages, will easily satisfy one of the truth of this, it being so obvious to observe great store of words in one language, which have not any that answer them in another.
Page 131 - I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity.

About the author (1997)

Dr. Anna Wierzbicka is Professor of Linguistics at the Australian National University. She has lectured extensively at universities in Europe, America, and Japan, and is the author of many books, including Semantics: Primes and Universals (OUP, 1996) and Semantics, Culture, and Cognition: Universal Human Concepts in Human-Specific Configurations (OUP, 1992).

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