Experience, Evidence, and Sense: The Hidden Cultural Legacy of English

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Overview

This book is based on two ideas: first, that any language—English no less than any other-represents a universe of meaning, shaped by the history and experience of the men and women who have created it, and second, that in any language certain culture—specific words act as linchpins for whole networks of meanings, and that penetrating the meanings of those key words can therefore open our eyes to an entire cultural universe. In this book Anna Wierzbicka demonstrates that three uniquely English words—evidence, experience, and sense—are exactly such linchpins. Using a rigorous plain language approach to meaning analysis, she unpacks the dense cultural meanings of these key words, disentangles their multiple meanings, and traces their origins back to the tradition of British empiricism. In so doing she reveals much about cultural attitudes embedded not only in British and American English, but also English as a global language.

An interdisciplinary work, Experience, Evidence, and Sense will be of interest to both scholars and students in linguistics and English, as well as historians of ideas, sociologists, anthropologists, literary scholars, and scholars of communication.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Focusing on a handful of English words whose meaning seems obvious to native speakers, and using a brand of semantic analysis accessible to any intelligent lay person, Anna Wierzbicka reveals the empiricist worldview embedded in the English lexicon and shows how mystifyingly foreign English can thus be to foreigners. As an exploration in historical semantics, Wierzbicka's new book deserves a place beside Raymond Williams's Keywords."—J.M. Coetzee, University of Adelaide, Nobel Laureate in Literature
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195368000
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/24/2010
  • Pages: 472
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Wierzbicka is Professor of Linguistics at Australian National University. She has an international reputation for her work on languages and cultures. Her many books include English: Meaning and Culture, What Did Jesus Mean?, Semantics: Primes and Universals, Understanding Cultures Through Their Key Words, and Emotions Across Languages and Cultures.

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Table of Contents

Part I Introduction

1 Making the Familiar Look Foreign 3

1 Mere Words or Keys to a Cultural World? 3

2 The Cultural and Historical Baggage of English 4

3 The Legacy of "British Empiricism," 6

4 The English Word Empirical and the French Word Empirique: A Closer Look 11

5 'Theory', 'Common Sense', and the Reliability of the Sense 13

6 Natural Semantic Metalanguage as an Effective Methodology for Cultural Semantics 16

Part II Experience and Evidence

2 Experience: An English Keyword and a Key Cultural Theme 25

1 The Uniqueness of the English Concept of 'Experience' 25

2 Experience as the Mother of Wisdom: Shakespeare's Sapiential Perspective 34

3 "A Frightening Experience": From a Retrospective to an Introspective Perspective 38

4 Sensory Experience as a Basis for Empirical Knowledge: A Lockean Perspective 44

5 The Verb to Experience: Evidence for the Semantic Shift 54

6 Experiences in Anglophone Philosophy: John Searle's Perspective 58

7 Experience in Religion: William James's Perspective 65

8 "Bearing Witness": Shared Experience in Anglophone Art and History 74

9 I Know from Experience ... 78

10 English Experience Compared with German Erfahrung and Erlebnis 83

11 Concluding Remarks: The History of Ideas and the Meaning of Words 90

3 Evidence: Words, Ideas, and Cultural Practices 94

1 Evidence as a Key Cultural Concept in Modern English 94

2 An Outline of the Semantic History of Evidence 100

3 Linguistic Evidence 119

4 The New Discourse of Evidence 122

5 Sources of the Modern Concepts of Evidence in Law, Theology, Philosophy, and Science 131

6 Concluding Remarks: Semantics, Culture, and Society 144

Part III Sense

4 The Discourse of Sense and the Legacy of "British Empiricism," 151

1 Sense, Senses, and Modern English Speechways 151

2 The Five Senses 155

3 The Verb to Sense 159

4 A Sense of What Is Happening 162

5 To Have a Sense That ... 169

6 There is a Sense that ... 176

7 Give us a Sense of ... 178

5 A Sense of Humor, a Sense of Self, and Similar Expressions 184

1 A Sense of Humor 184

2 A Sense of Self 192

3 A Sense of Freedom (Confidence, Achievement, Competence) 198

4 A Sense of Obligation (Duty, Responsibility, Urgency) 202

5 A Sense of History, a Sense of Time and Place, a Sense of Reality 204

6 A Sense of Joy 209

6 A Strong Sense, a Deep Sense, and Similar Expressions 212

1 A Strong Sense (of Something) 212

2 A Deep Sense (of Something) 231

3 A Sharp Sense (of Something) 242

4 A Good Sense (of Something) 250

5 A Great Sense (of Something) 262

6 A Real Sense (of Something) 269

7 A False Sense (of Something) 277

8 A Keen Sense (of Something) 279

9 A Clear Sense (of Something) 292

10 An Acute Sense (of Something) 302

7 Moral Sense 313

1 Moral Sense: A Human Universal or an Artifact of English? 313

2 A Brief History of the Concept of "Moral Sense," 317

3 Moral Sense in the Eighteenth Century and Now: A Comparison 322

4 A Sense of Right and Wrong in Present-Day English 324

5 Conclusion 326

8 Common Sense 328

1 The Importance of Common Sense in Anglo Culture 328

2 Common Sense in Law 333

3 The Uniqueness of English Common Sense (Common Sense vs. Bon Sens) 337

4 The Meaning of Common Sense in Contemporary English 346

5 Thomas Reid and the Origin of English Common Sense 354

6 Common Sense and the British Enlightenment 359

9 From having Sense to Making Sense 368

1 Being Sensible 368

2 Having Sense 372

3 Making Sense 377

Part IV Phraseology, Semantics, and Corpus Linguistics

10 Investigating English Phraseology with Two Tools: NSM and Google 395

1 An Overview 395

2 Clear and Stable Contrasts 396

3 Stable and Overwhelmingly Sharp Contrasts 397

4 Figures, Proportions, and Patterns 398

5 Anomalies: How Significant Are They? 400

6 Monitoring the Proportions of Strong Sense to Deep Sense 402

7 Limitations of Google as a Tool for Exploring English Phraseology 403

8 Comparing the Results of Google and Yahoo Searches 404

9 Concluding Remarks 405

Notes 407

References 417

Appendix 431

Index 441

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