Anna Wierzbicka

Anna Wierzbicka
Australian National University | ANU · School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics

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317
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Publications

Publications (317)
Article
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The central purpose of this study is to apply the NSM (Natural Semantic Metalanguage) method of semantic-conceptual analysis to the word money and to related economic transaction verbs, such as buy, sell and pay, as used in everyday English. It proposes semantic explications for these words on the basis of conceptual analysis and a range of linguis...
Article
This study proposes Natural Semantic Metalanguage semantic explications for the English words virus (in two senses), bacteria, germs, and for the related words sick, ill, and disease. We concentrate on their nave or folk meanings (Apresjan 1992) in everyday English, as opposed to scientific or semi-scientific meanings. In this way, the paper makes...
Article
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Are there any concepts that all human beings share? Three hundred years ago Leibniz was convinced that there are indeed such concepts and that they can be identified by trial and error. He called this hypothetical set the alphabet of human thoughts. Gradually, however, the idea faded from philosophical discourse and eventually it was largely forgot...
Chapter
At the time of the coronavirus pandemic it is has become clearer than ever before that at certain times, certain messages need to be shared globally: they need to be accessible to everyone, everywhere on earth. This is possible only if there is a shared ‘language of thought’ in which such messages can be formulated. To some extent, Minimal English...
Presentation
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Article
This paper explores “we-words” in the languages of the world, using the NSM method of semantic analysis. A simply phrased, cross-translatable explication for English ‘we’ [1pl] is proposed, suitable also for other languages with a single we-word. At the same time, it is argued that English ‘we’ co-lexicalises a second distinct meaning “we two” [1du...
Presentation
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Invited lecture for the International Summit on Languages and Migration in a Globalized World RUDN University, Moscow, Russia 16 December 2020
Article
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All European languages have a word for God, and this word means exactly the same in all of them. However, speakers of different European languages tend to relate to God in different ways. Each group has its own characteristic ways of addressing God, encoded in certain words, phrases and grammatical forms, which both reflect and shape the speakers’...
Article
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Seen from a broad cross-linguistic perspective, the English verb (to) love is quite unusual because it has very broad scope: it can apply to a mother’s love, a husband’s love, a sister’s love, etc. without any restrictions whatsoever; and the same applies to its counterparts in many other European languages. Trying to locate the origins of this phe...
Chapter
In Russian, the loan word seks is linked for many speakers with a famous episode from the pre-perestrojka period when in the course of one of the first Soviet–American tele-bridges a Russian respondent famously declared: “U nas seksa net …”, ‘there is no sex in the Soviet Union’. Focussing on seks as a loan word in Russian and exploring the meaning...
Article
This paper explores the cognitive semantics of the typological category “possession” using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage ( nsm ) approach. At the macro level, we argue that “possession” is not a unitary cognitive category for speakers, but instead represents an aggregation of diverse semantic schemas which center around three distinct conceptua...
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Based on the analysis of Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina, the article deals with semantic structure of words for emotions.
Chapter
We present new interpretations of “direct” and “indirect” speech, framed entirely using simple and cross-translatable words and phrases (Goddard and Wierzbicka 2014), i.e. framed in language which can be transparent both to linguists and to the speakers whose ways of speaking we are trying to understand. In relation to “direct speech”, we present l...
Article
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David Chalmers appears to assume that we can meaningfully discuss what goes on in human heads without paying any attention to the words in which we couch our statements. This paper challenges this assumption and argues that the initial problem is that of metalanguage: if we want to say something clear and valid about us humans, we must think about...
Book
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Goddard, C., 2018. Minimal English for a Global World. Christian, D., Farrelly, N.,Maley, W., Marini, M.G., Mooney, A., Peeters, B., Torkki J., Vanhatalo, U., Wesley, M., Wierzbicka A., Tomasi, D. (contr. - Linguistics interface: applying the Natural Semantic Metalanguage to Narrative Medicine). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan (Eng) / BOOK
Presentation
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This talk has two aims. The first is to share with you my current work, in which I am trying to articulate what I believe I am saying when I recite, with others, the Nicene Creed. The second aim is to show how “minimal languages” can help us to think more clearly and to achieve a deeper understanding with people from different languages and differe...
Article
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In a book entitled The Sermon on the Mount: The modern Quest for its meaning, theologian Clarence Bauman (1985) discusses, inter alia, Jesus’ teaching on “anger”. The book opens with a chapter on Tolstoy: “Leo Tolstoy: The moral challenges of literal interpretation”: “Christ’s first commandment is “Do not be angry” (Matthew 5: 22—25). Tolstoy noted...
Article
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p>Autorka zauważa, że język angielski ma konstrukcję, a być może nawet rodzinę konstrukcji gramatycznych, pozwalającą wyrażać specyficzne dla angielskiej kultury znaczenie „poczucia uprawnienia” („poczucie bycia uprawnionym do”). W zdaniach takich jak Can I have my apple and cheese, please? nośnikiem owego „poczucia uprawnienia” jest zaimek my ‘mój...
Article
p>Autorka zauważa, że język angielski ma konstrukcję, a być może nawet rodzinę konstrukcji gramatycznych, pozwalającą wyrażać specyficzne dla angielskiej kultury znaczenie „poczucia uprawnienia” („poczucie bycia uprawnionym do”). W zdaniach takich jak Can I have my apple and cheese, please? nośnikiem owego „poczucia uprawnienia” jest zaimek my ‘mój...
Chapter
The chapter outlines the origins, purpose and composition of Minimal English and explains its value as a supplement to English in its role as a global lingua franca. It argues for the great importance of cross-translatability in many contexts and shows with examples that many taken-for-granted words and concepts of Anglo English are heavily culture...
Chapter
Full-text available
Science education faces many challenges, not least that of rendering the key propositions into language that children can readily understand. This chapter applies Minimal English to a canonical science education narrative about changing scientific and pre-scientific understandings of the universe. It attempts to capture the key beliefs and mindsets...
Chapter
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Taking UNESCO’s (The Earth Charter, 2000) “Earth Charter” as its point of departure, this chapter argues that the globalizing world needs a global ethics. At the same time, the chapter builds on the “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic” (1993) endorsed by the Parliament of the World’s Religions (and inspired by the Dalai Lama) whose Principle 6 reads...
Chapter
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The chapter argues that vocabulary that is not intelligible to many “ordinary speakers” and not translatable into most languages of the world imprisons its users in a conceptual space defined by culture-specific English words and prevents genuine cross-cultural dialogue about God and religion. It seeks to demonstrate that it is possible to speak ab...
Chapter
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Article
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Linguists generally assume that all languages have some words for parts of the human body such as ‘head’, ‘hands’, ‘mouth’ and ‘legs’, but it is not so widely agreed that speakers of all languages can speak—or even consciously think—of the designata of such words as ‘parts of the body’. In particular, it has been claimed that the Australian languag...
Article
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Proposal Background: The complexity of diagnostic presentations of an inpatient psychiatry population requires an integrative approach to health and well-being. In this sense, the primary need of this research aims at developing clinical strategies and healthier coping skills for anger, anxiety, and depression, promoting self-esteem, healthier slee...
Article
This article is "in press". ABSTRACT. This study has two main parts. It begins with a conceptual and semantic analysis in the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) framework (Wierzbicka, 1996; Peeters, 2006) Goddard & Wierzbicka, 2002, 2014a) of what linguists term “true possession” or “ownership”. The requirements of the NSM framework force the anal...
Chapter
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One of the deepest differences between English-based human interaction and the interaction based on the languages of continental Europe has to do with terms of address. For speakers of languages like French, Italian, or German it goes without saying that “polite” words such as vous, Lei and Sie are indispensable in daily exchanges with others. What...
Article
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This study examines the conceptual semantics of human locomotion verbs in two languages – English and German – using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage approach. Based on linguistic evidence, it proposes semantic explications for English walk and run, and their nearest counterparts in German, i.e. laufen (in two senses, roughly, ‘run’ and ‘go by wal...
Article
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Building on the author's earlier work on address practices and focusing on the French words monsieur and madame, this paper seeks to demonstrate that generic titles used daily across Europe have relatively stable meanings, different in different languages, and that their semantic analysis can provide keys to the speakers' cultural assumptions and a...
Article
This study proposes NSM semantic explications for a cross-section of the English verbal lexicon of ‘doing and happening’. The twenty-five verbs are drawn from about a dozen verb classes, including verbs for non-typical locomotion ( crawl , swim , fly ), other intransitive activities ( play , sing ), manipulation ( hold ), activities that affect mat...
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This paper addresses one of the most controversial issues in cultural anthropology: the conceptual foundations of kinship and the apparent inevitability of ethnocentrism in kinship studies. The field of kinship studies has been in turmoil over the past few decades, repeatedly pronounced dead and then again rising from the ashes and being declared c...
Article
The vocabulary, grammatical structure, and usage conventions of any language are linked in innumerable ways with the social, cultural, and historical experience of its speakers. Drawing on examples from many languages, this article demonstrates the nature and range of these links. It highlights the culture-specific nature of many words, including t...
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This paper investigates the meaning and use of the German word Herr as a form of address, in a historical and cross-linguistic perspective. The paper argues that despite their apparent insignificance, generic titles used daily across Europe, and in all the parts of the world to which European languages have travelled, can reveal complex and intrica...
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This study presents and justifies a detailed explication for the Australian Aboriginal Jukurrpa concept ('Dreamtime', 'the Dreaming'), phrased exclusively in simple cross-translatable words. The explication, which is partitioned into multiple sections, depicts a highly ramified and multi-faceted concept, albeit one with great internal coherence. Af...
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The invention of the spoon may not be quite as ground-breaking in human history as the invention of the wheel or the needle, but arguably it is also a significant conceptual (as well as technological) event. It has been claimed that “all people in the world use spoons”, that “spoons have been used as eating utensils since Paleolithic times”, that c...
Article
This essay argues that, since Kant wrote in German and since German has no word for “right” corresponding in meaning to the English word, it is a case of conceptual anglocentrism to say, as many anglophone philosophers do, that Kant reformulated the foundations of ethics by formulating them in terms of the “right” rather than the “good.” Further, t...
Chapter
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Cultural scripts are representations of cultural norms that are widely held in a given society and are reflected in language. To be faithful to the “insider perspective” and at the same time intelligible to the outsider, these representations are formulated in simple words and phrases that are cross-translatable between English (the main lingua fra...
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This paper builds on findings of the author’s 1999 book Emotions Across Languages and Cultures: Diversity and Universals , which tentatively identified eleven universals pertaining to human emotions. The paper probes some of those “emotional universals” further, especially in relation to ‘laughing’, ‘crying’, and ‘pain’. At the same time, the autho...
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Proceedings of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: General Session and Parasession on Phonetics and Phonological Universals (1998)
Article
The main goal of paper is to show how NSM findings about lexical universals (semantic primes) can be applied to semantic analysis in little-described languages. It is argued that using lexical universals as a vocabulary for semantic analysis allows one to formulate meaning descriptions that are rigorous, cognitively authentic, maximally translatabl...
Article
This study seeks to make a contribution to evolutionary science. It shows how the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) system of semantic-conceptual representation, developed for modern humans, can be "reverse engineered" to produce a plausible model of cognitive evolution from the time of the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees. We...
Article
While many anthropologists these days dismiss the study of kinship terminologies as something that belongs—or should belong—to the past, from an Australian perspective kin terms must still be seen as an essential guide to the ways in which speakers of many languages understand their social world. This being so, establishing what these terms really...
Article
If anthropology aims at ‘understanding “others” ’, then obviously anthropologists must be interested in the meaning of what those ‘others’ say. But to understand what speakers of a language other than our own say, we need to know what exactly the words and grammatical categories of that other language mean. This article argues that translating indi...
Article
“It is a noble task to try to understand others, and to have them understand you (…) but it is never an easy one”, says Everett (p. 327). This paper argues that a basic prerequisite for understanding others (and also for having them understand you) is to have some shared concepts on which this understanding can build. If speakers of different langu...
Article
Pain is a global problem whose social, economic, and psychological costs are immeasurable. It is now seen as the most common reason why people seek medical (including psychiatric) care. But what is pain? This article shows that the discourse of pain tends to suffer from the same problems of ethnocentrism and obscurity as the discourse of emotions i...
Article
Response to comments by Fabrega, Fernandez, and Hinton.
Chapter
The natural semantic metalanguage (NSM) theory of language assumes, with Franz Boas, that the grammatical categories of a language represent a given speech community's interpretation and classification of experience. As Boas put it, 'Since the total range of personal experience which language serves to express is infinitely varied, and its whole sc...
Article
We consider MIMO communication systems with Rayleigh fading. We propose a new coded modulation based on orthogonal sequences and state a new decodability condition. We introduce concepts and constructions of permutation free (PF) and permutation and ...
Article
This paper discusses patterns of ‘arguing’ which prevails in Russian speech culture and shows that they differ profoundly from those characteristic of modern Anglo culture(s). The author focuses on the extended arguments (spory) in Solzhenitsyn’s novel ‘In the First Circle’ and shows that many linguistic and cultural aspects of the original are los...
Article
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The words and grammar of any language encode a vast array of complex prepackaged concepts, most of them language-specific and culture-related. These concepts are manipulated routinely in almost every waking hour of most people's lives. They are largely acquired in infancy and they are intersubjectively shared among members of the speech community....
Article
The division of knowledge into ‘science,’ ‘social science,’ and ‘the humanities’ is deeply entrenched in ways of thinking prevailing in the English-speaking world and is reflected in many institutional structures. The English word science, which excludes not only ‘the humanities’ but also logic and mathematics, does not have exact equivalents in ot...
Article
One of the central debates in human sciences concerns the relation between human universals and human diversity. Some scholars - for example the cognitivist Stephen Pinker - emphasize the unity of human nature and treat the diversity as more or less superficial. Others - for example the anthropologist Clifford Geertz - emphasize the diversity and a...
Article
This paper shows that story is an English cultural keyword and a key interpretive tool of modern Anglo culture and that it is linked with a family of concepts which have no semantic equivalents in other languages and are unique conceptual artefacts of Anglo culture. It argues that if we can pinpoint these concepts we can also pinpoint the shared va...
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This commentary argues that the question of metalanguage is a key issue in emotion research. Izard (2010) ignores this issue (and all the earlier literature relating to it, including the debate in Emotion Review, 2009, 1[1]), and thus falls into the old traps of circularity, obscurity, and ethnocentrism. This commentary rejects Izard’s claim that “...

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