English: Meaning and Culture

Paperback | April 18, 2006

byAnna Wierzbicka

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It is widely accepted that English is the first truly global language and lingua franca. Its dominance has even led to its use and adaptation by local communities for their own purposes and needs. One might see English in this context as being simply a neutral, universal vehicle for theexpression of local thoughts and ideas. In fact, English words and phrases have embedded in them a wealth of cultural baggage that is invisible to most native speakers. Anna Wierzbicka, a distinguished linguist known for her theories of semantics, has written the first book that connects the Englishlanguage with what she terms "Anglo" culture. Wierzbicka points out that language and culture are not just interconnected, but inseparable. This is evident to non-speakers trying to learn puzzling English expressions. She uses original research to investigate the "universe of meaning" within the English language (both grammar and vocabulary)and places it in historical and geographical perspective. For example, she looks at the history of the terms "right" and "wrong" and how with the influence of the Reformation "right" came to mean "correct." She examines the ideas of "fairness" and "reasonableness" and shows that, far from beingcultural universals, they are in fact unique creations of modern English. This engrossing and fascinating work of scholarship should appeal not only to linguists and others concerned with language and culture, but the large group of scholars studying English and English as a second language.

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It is widely accepted that English is the first truly global language and lingua franca. Its dominance has even led to its use and adaptation by local communities for their own purposes and needs. One might see English in this context as being simply a neutral, universal vehicle for theexpression of local thoughts and ideas. In fact, ...

Anna Wierzbicka is Professor of Linguistics at Australian National University. She has an international reputation for her work on semantics, pragmatics, and cross-cultural linguistics. Other published works include What Did Jesus Mean? (OUP, 2001), Semantics, Culture, and Cognition (OUP, 1992), and Semantic Primitives, in which she i...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 6.1 × 9.09 × 0.98 inPublished:April 18, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195174755

ISBN - 13:9780195174755

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Table of Contents

Part I. Meaning, History and Culture1. English as a cultural universe2. Anglo cultural scripts as seen through Middle Eastern eyesPart II. English words, From Philosophy to everyday discourse3. The story of RIGHT and WRONG and its cultural implications4. Being REASONABLE: A key Anglo value and its cultural roots5. Being FAIR: Another key Anglo value and its cultural underpinningsPart III. Anglo culture reflected in English Grammar6. The English Causatives: Causation and interpersonal relations7. I THINK: The rise of epistemic phrases in modern English8. PROBABLY: English epistemic adverbs and their cultural significancePart IV. Conclusion9. The "cultural baggage" of English and its significance in the world at large

Editorial Reviews

"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 toremake 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