English: Meaning and Culture / Edition 1

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As The First truly global language and lingua franca, English is often seen simply- and simplistically-as a neutral, universal vehicle for the expression of thoughts and ideas. In fact, the words, phrases, and grammar of English are heavily loaded with cultural baggage. This engrossing book by one of the world's leading linguists identifies some of the innumerable connections between the English language and "Anglo" culture.

Using the methods of linguistic semantics, Wierzbicka investigates the "universe of meaning" encompassed within the vocabulary and grammar of the English language and places it in historical and geographical perspective. For example, she looks at the historical ascent of the words "right" and "wrong" to their present status of cultural key words. She dissects the ideas of "fairness" and "reasonableness" and shows that, far from being cultural universals, they are unique creations of modern Anglo culture. This fascinating work of scholarship, which seeks to reveal English's cultural underpinnings and their implications for the modern world, will appeal not only to linguists and others concerned with language and culture, but to everyone interested in English and English as a second language.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A great book, one which must be applauded. The strength of this book is to propose a kind of linguistics which takes into account the various, subtle, rich, and extremely interesting interactions between language and cultural scripts. Given that books like this are rare, the author deserves countless words of praise." —Studies in Language

"This is an important book. The strength of this book lies in its accurate and insightful analysis of various linguistic elements and their cross-linguistic equivalents. Wierzbicka's comman of a large number of European languages and her personal experience of cross-cultural communication provide an excellent background for this type of study." —Language in Society

"There is a huge literature on the relation between language and our perception of the world, including well-known myths involving words for snow, but a feature of much previous work in this area has been a focus on an exotic (to anglophone readers) language whose strange structures appear to remake the world. The shock of this book is that the exotic language under the construction of English, and the world which is remade may very well be your own. This is a striking contribution to the history of English, and the history of ideas." —Language

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195174755
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/27/2006
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Wierzbicka is Professor of Linguistics, Australian National University.

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Table of Contents

Part I. Meaning, History and Culture
1. English as a cultural universe
2. Anglo cultural scripts as seen through Middle Eastern eyes
Part II. English words, From Philosophy to everyday discourse
3. The story of RIGHT and WRONG and its cultural implications
4. Being REASONABLE: A key Anglo value and its cultural roots
5. Being FAIR: Another key Anglo value and its cultural underpinnings
Part III. Anglo culture reflected in English Grammar
6. The English Causatives: Causation and interpersonal relations
7. I THINK: The rise of epistemic phrases in modern English
8. PROBABLY: English epistemic adverbs and their cultural significance
Part IV. Conclusion
9. The "cultural baggage" of English and its significance in the world at large

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