Vol 22, No 4 (2018): Studies in cultural semantics and pragmatics: for Anna Wierzbicka’s anniversary


Anna Wierzbicka, language, culture and communication

Gladkova A.N., Larina T.V.


The Introductory article to the second part of the Special Issue dedicated to Anna Wierzbicka’s anniversary focuses on her research in the domain of language and culture interchange. It overviews the fundamental concepts of Wierzbicka’s research program, those of cultural keywords and cultural scripts within the cultural semantics and ethnopragmatics paradigm. As is the case with other Wierzbicka’s linguistic studies, the analysis involves representation of meaning in terms of universal human concepts of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM). The article also discusses the concept of Minimal Language as a recent development in the NSM programme and associated research into various fields.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):717-748
pages 717-748 views

In the Circle of Inspiration of Anna Wierzbicka: The Cognitive Definition - 30 Years Later

Bartmiński J.


The author recalls the close ties linking Professor Anna Wierzbicka with the community of linguists centered around the journal “Etnolingwistyka”/“Etnolinguistics” published in Lublin (vols. 1-30, 1988-2018) and with Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, where in 2004 she received the title of doctor honoris causa for her research into universals in different world languages and her service as a morally sensitive humanist. The complementary character between the frameworks advocated by Wierzbicka and Lublin ethnolinguists consists in the opposition to taxonomic approaches to word meaning and the adoption of the subjective reconstruction principle, which derives from Wilhelm Humboldt’s philosophy of language; in the apprecia- tion of the role of colloquial language and the intuition of the average language user; in the use of both systemic and textual data, taking into account all relevant communication features that can be supported with “linguistic evidence”; in the use of simple sentences for definitions, which are arranged in coherent, facetted sequences. Anna Wierzbicka, similarly to Lublin ethnolinguists, postulates to capture the meaning of words in the context of social life, history and national culture. In particular, the author focuses on the concept of the so-called cognitive definition. The article discusses its genesis, construction principles and the most important inspirations for its emergence; although the concept itself was created autonomously as an extension of studies on the language of folklore, independently of Anna Wierzbicka’s works, it nevertheless exhibits clear parallels to the way of thinking of the scholar from Canberra. The author of this article shows the similarities (convergences) between the cognitive definition and the NSM (Natural Semantic Metalanguage) method developed by Anna Wierzbicka on the examples of mother and gold , but it also highlights some differences, which in the case of the cognitive definition are related to the use of colloquial definientia that do not have the status of semantic “primitives” ( primes ). Finally, on the example of the concept HOME/HOUSE, the author considers new perspectives for applying the cognitive definition in comparative works undertaken within the framework of the EUROJOS seminar.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):749-769
pages 749-769 views

The Catalogue of Semantic Shifts: 20 Years Later

Zalizniak A.A.


The article summarizes the goals and the current state of the Catalogue of sematic shifts (CSSh), its primary notions being those of a semantic shift , which is understood as a relation of cognitive proximity between two linguistic meanings, and a realization of a semantic shift, i.e. one polysemic word or a pair of cognate words of the same language or different languages that act as “exponents” of this relation. The typology of semantic shifts occupies a position at the crossroad of semantic, lexical and grammatical typologies, overlapping each of these areas of study in terms of linguistic data and methods used; however, the domain of CSSh does not coincide with any of them. The framework of CSSh provides the theoretical foundation for identifying recurring cross-linguistic semantic shifts, and collecting them in the Database of Semantic Shifts for further analysis. The article demonstrates that the notion of semantic shift as defined in CSSh is just a formalization of an instrument of linguistic analysis that is already quite common in various areas of linguistics. Semantic shift provides a basis for the notion of semantic parallel used in the historical linguistics and etymology, for motivational models in word-formation, it is a central notion for grammati- calization theory; finally, semantic shift is one of various types of implicit meanings (along with presuppositions and connotations) that shape the “linguistic model of the world”. Linguistic data contained in the Database of Semantic Shifts can be used in all these areas, in order to provide semantic plausibility criteria for linguistic reconstruction, to act as empirical evidence for cognitive mechanisms of linguistic conceptualization, to aid in identifying specific features of the semantic system of a given language or group of languages.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):770-787
pages 770-787 views

A Lexicographic Approach to the Study of Copolysemy Relations

Polguère A.


The notion of lexical polysemy is considered under very different angles depending on the context in which it is called on, e.g. in theoretical lexicology, practical lexicography or so-called cognitive approaches to the lexicon. We adopt an approach where polysemy is defined as a property of vocables (roughly, entries in dictionary word lists): the property to regroup several word senses, monosemy being the opposite property. Polysemy is the consequence of a more basic fact: the relation that holds between lexical units grouped within the same vocable. This relation we term copolysemy . The notion of copolysemy is required to not only account for such a well-known phenomenon as regular polysemy, but also to model the polysemy structures of vocables and the incidence these structures may have on lexical dynamics, vocabulary acquisition, analogical reasoning based on lexical information, etc. As for many other aspects of lexicology, the study of copolysemy has to be anchored in a thorough analysis of lexical data. In this paper, we present the current results of an exploration of copolysemy in French, which allowed us to systematically retrieve patterns of copolysemy (on which we believe regular polysemy is built) and achieve formal description of the polysemy structure of several thousand French vocables. The descriptive work is embedded in a large-scale lexicographic project, namely the construction of the French Lexical Network (fr-LN). Though based on the study of the French lexicon, the approach to the modeling of polysemy presented here is expected to be applicable to natural languages in general.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):788-820
pages 788-820 views

A word in the context of a cultural and historical universe: Some case studies from the US political discourse

Ivanova S.V., Chanysheva Z.Z.


The article examines cultural semantics of lexical units of the English language through the prism of Anna Wierzbicka’s views. The article focuses on the lexical units like whistle-blower, kangaroo ticket, log cabin president, Camelot presidency, redneck, etc., which along with the lexical meaning fixed in the dictionary, are able to generate various cultural meanings. The analysis of lexical units is made in accordance with the concept of the cultural-historical universe by Anna Wierzbicka. The approach to the analysis of lexical units within the framework of this concept stems from the understanding of the lexical unit as a sign of culture. Accordingly, the semantic analysis of lexical units is based on different levels of culture. A variety of subcultures and countercultures are also taken into account (everyday, political, industrial; gender, age, professional; dominant, elitist, mass, folk, marginal). The cultural universe is treated as a sort of intertext, i.e., an open cultural space with mobile boundaries. The analysis takes into account the dynamics of the cultural universe by comparing the data of different historical sections. This procedure of interpreting the meanings makes it possible to reach the core of the culture of the linguistic cultural community, on the one hand, and on the other to reveal its dynamics. The analysis discloses later semantic layers in word semantics that reflect the formation of new values in society. The search for cultural meanings is of undoubted interest for linguists working in the field of lexical semantics, linguoculturology, discourse analysis, since it exposes cultural practices and cultural codes of a certain linguistic and cultural community .
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):821-843
pages 821-843 views

Evaluative Senses in Russian Grammar (on the basis of verbs of emotional attitude)

Bogdanova L.I.


The article deals with the evaluative characteristics of lexis which are reflected in Russian grammar. The idea of semantic basis of grammar, created and developed by Anna Wierzbicka, has a continuation in the study of role and place of evaluative senses in productive grammar of the Russian language. The activity approach to the description of the language, adopted in this paper, involves studying the role of a subjective factor in Russian grammar. The article demonstrates the results of research aimed at the analysis of semantic space of Russian verbs. The aim of the work is to identify evaluative senses that are important for grammar and to demonstrate how the subjective component of the verb meaning influences the way of expressing its actant positions. The research has been conducted using the methods and operational procedures of component analysis, equivalent substitutions and context transformations, modeling and a linguistic experiment. The work has been carried out on the material of Russian dictionaries with the use of data from the National Corpus of the Russian language. As a result, the connection between intellectual and emotional evaluative characteristics of verb having an output in the grammatical space of the language has been established. It was demonstrated that evaluation (positive or negative), which verbal semantics contains, affects the syntagmatic behavior of the verb selectively and requires additional efforts in solving the problem of establishing those semantic zones where the role of evaluation component in the grammatical formulation of actant positions is the most significant. One of such semantic spheres is verbal lexicon which denotes the subject’s attitude to his/her own actions. Positive or negative evaluation in this case is significant for making the verb actant frame. The obtained results let raise the question of identifying the vector of estimation orientation in Russian grammar. The study of verbal semantics in its projection on syntagmatic properties makes it possible to find a new perspective for the disclosure of national-specific worldview. The continuation of the research in chosen direction could contribute to the development of comparative axiology.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):844-873
pages 844-873 views

The Ethnocultural Potential of Voice Forms and Its Discourse Actualization

Kozlova L.A.


The article belongs to the field of ethnogrammar, a branch of linguistics founded by Anna Wierzbicka, and the main goal of which is the reconstruction of cultural specificity on the basis of grammatical analysis. The analysis of grammar in the ethnocultural aspect enables us to reveal the ethnocultural factors which might have served as the backbone of certain grammatical categories or might explain the grammatical changes happening here and now. The aim of the article is the analysis of the category of voice in the ethnocultural aspect and elucidation of the ethnological factors which determine the choice of voice forms in various types of discourse. The choice of this category as the object of study is determined by the fact that it presents one of the most culture-sensitive categories and it reflects most fully the specificity of the nation’s mentality, its cultural values as well as the specificity of communication ethnostyle. The author shows the evolution of views on the essence of the category of voice in the context of changing paradigms of scientific knowledge, presents the essence of voice relations viewed from the functional and cognitive-discursive points of view and attempts to elucidate the ethnocultural factors which determine the choice of both categorical and noncategorial voice forms in various types of discourse. One of these factors is the ‘doing’ type of Anglo culture, and especially American culture in which a human being is presented as an active agent, a creator of his/her destiny and it finds reflection in the language consciousness and in the language units, including the choice of voice forms. Among other important factors which determine the necessity and expediency of using the passive constructions the author points out the following:a deliberate wish not to point out the agent of the action in accordance with the politeness principle;an attempt to avoid responsibility for one’s actions; 3) the intention to impart a generalizing meaning to one’s own opinion by disguising it as a general rule. All this enables the author to make a conclusion about the significance of discourse culture for the realization of voice forms as well as about the discourse variability of voice functions.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):874-894
pages 874-894 views

Algorithms of comic texts construction

Karasik V.I.


The paper deals with semiotic characteristics of comic texts construction. It is aimed at analyzing semantic, pragmatic and syntactic properties of jokes so as to find out models of comic texts comprehension. The material for the analysis comprises ca. 1000 jokes of various kinds including funny short narratives (in Russian these are named ‘anecdotes’), humorous aphorisms and demotivators as a new genre of internet communication. Semantic and pragmatic mechanisms of comic texts differ, though methodologically they make inseparable unity, according to A. Wierzbicka. Semantically, comic texts represent caricature pictures of the reality concerning objects, time and space dimension of events and positions of agents. They may be described in terms of denotative and significative incongruences. Pragmatically, such mechanisms form evaluative and argumentative divergence between usual and given states of affairs which manifest themselves as collisions of interpretation scripts. Syntactically, comic texts may be interpreted in terms of their narrative, or descriptive or argumentative correlation with corresponding non-comic texts. Two models of such texts interpretation are discussed. The first one is dictal in its essence and is based on disagreement between the planes of reality as shown in the text, whereas the second one is modal and it reflects an incongruity between reality and the view of it. The dictal model includes such techniques as repetition, juxtaposition and reversing of agents positions, the modal model can be traced in jocular periphrasis, precedent text parodies, and comic allusions. The dictal model is oriented towards semantic disagreement between various aspects of reality, the modal model concerns mostly pragmatic and syntactic aspects of a comic world view. Modern communicative practice as represented in the Internet network communities is focused on self-representation and various jokes are inherent part of this objective. The jokes are often based on incongruity between theme and rheme in the message content and disagreement between image and text in its form.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):895-918
pages 895-918 views

Indirect Communication in the Russian Speech Culture

Dementyev V.V.


The national specificity of the Russian indirect communication is analyzed according to Anna Wierzbicka’s linguocultural model in which the specific characteristics of language and speech are interpreted through cultural scenarios. Wierzbicka’s model was partially modified for the purposes of this study. Firstly, we suggest to use the opposition of personality ~ impersonality. Secondly, unlike A.Wierzbicka, we consider it appropriate to use the concept of indirect communication, defining it as a communicative-interpretive phenomenon (through additional interpretative efforts of the addressee of speech). Indirectness itself is defined as one of the types of indirect communication: the planned indirect communication. We analyze in detail the reasons for it to be a part of Russian communicative style (primarily indirect directive speech acts and manipulation), associating these reasons with the cultural scenarios and the opposition of personality ~ impersonality. From this point of view, a number of actual processes in modern Russian speech are discussed, such as planned indirect communication and its: a different understanding of indirect communication as a means of increasing the politeness of statements by different generations, as well as the undesirability of excessive politeness in some situations and appeal to indirect communication in order to avoid it.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):919-944
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Anna Wierzbicka’s Linguocultural Theory of Emotions in the Development Dynamics

Ionova S.V., Shakhovskiy V.I.


The article overviews the most significant aspects of the linguocultural theory of emotions developed by Anna Wierzbicka. The scientist’s outlook on emotions in the context of language and culture is discussed in its dynamic consistency, starting with the 70-s of the XX century up to the present. The voluminous set of Anna Wierzbicka’s published works on emotions demonstrates the universal and explanatory power of her research method and the systematic character of her linguocultural, semantic and pragmalinguistic studies. The article overviews the vastness and diversity of the issues analysed by the linguist, among which are the emotive semantics of the word, emotional pragmatics of speech, emotional concepts as cultural key words, emotional means of their verbalization in different languages, translation issues, ways of describing emotional scenarios, working out the metalanguage of semantic analysis by using the emotional operator “to feel”, etc. The article does not aim to provide a critical analysis of Anna Wierzbicka’s theory; its unprecedented novelty and topicality as well as the linguist’s innovative method of research, unbelievable hard work, honesty and correctness in defending her scientific views are emphasised.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):966-987
pages 966-987 views

Modern Linguistics through Post-Secular Perspective

Naydenova N.S.


The research is focused on the current state of interaction between language and religion in contemporary linguistics in the post-secular environment, when religious discourse becomes an integral part of the discursive polyphony inherent in the open space of communication. The review is centered around three main pillars: the “language of religion” from a sociolinguistic perspective; theolinguistics as a new integrative discipline; linguopersonology and lexicography. Each section contains an overview of works by modern linguists and outlines further research prospects.
Russian Journal of Linguistics. 2018;22(4):988-1000
pages 988-1000 views

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