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

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Seeks to demonstrate that cultural patterns can be studied in a verifiable and nonspeculative way on the basis of linguistic semantics, rooted in empirically established linguistic and conceptual universals, and explores the meanings of words in everyday discourse and cognition. Contains chapters on patterns of "friendship" across cultures;, "freedom" in Latin, English, Russian, and Polish; "homeland" and "fatherland" in German, Polish, and Russian; Australian key words and core cultural values; and Japanese key words and core cultural values. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 Lexicon as a Key to Ethno-Sociology and Cultural Psychology: Patterns of "Friendship" Across Cultures 32
3 Lexicon as a Key to Ethno-Philosophy, History, and Politics: "Freedom" in Latin, English, Russian, and Polish 125
4 Lexicon as a Key to History, Nation, and Society: "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
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