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Empirical Universals of Language as a Basis for the Study of Other Human Universals and as a Tool for Exploring Cross-Cultural Differences

Wierzbicka, Anna

Description

My main thesis can be summed up in two sentences: first, genuine universals of culture or cognition cannot be formulated if we do not have at our disposal some well established universals of language; and second, generalizations about cross-cultural differences can be sharpened and tightened if they are based on universals of language. The idea is simple and can be presented in the following series of statements: In searching for either universal or culture-specific features of human cognition...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorWierzbicka, Anna
dc.date.accessioned2015-12-13T23:01:44Z
dc.identifier.issn0091-2131
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/84554
dc.description.abstractMy main thesis can be summed up in two sentences: first, genuine universals of culture or cognition cannot be formulated if we do not have at our disposal some well established universals of language; and second, generalizations about cross-cultural differences can be sharpened and tightened if they are based on universals of language. The idea is simple and can be presented in the following series of statements: In searching for either universal or culture-specific features of human cognition we are searching for certain generalizations; These generalizations have to be expressed in some language; Each language carries with it some ways of thinking that are peculiar to that language, that is, not universal; If we uncritically formulate some hypothetical universals in one particular natural language, for example, English, we run the risk of distorting those universals by imposing on them the perspective embedded in that particular language; and the same applies to our descriptions of cultural differences; If our language of description is not to introduce a language-specific bias, this language itself has to be universal, in the sense of not being tied to a particular culture and society. Hence the conclusion: genuine universals of culture or cognition can only be formulated if we have at our disposal a universal language, and similarly, only a universal language can allow us to formulate generalizations about different cultures from a culture-independent point of view. In this article, I argue that a universal, "culture-free" language suitable both for the study of human universals and the exploration of cultural differences, can be built on the basis of empirical universals of language. I also claim that such a language has already been largely constructed, thus bringing the notion of a "universal language" from the realm of utopia to the realm of everyday reality. The article shows that this language can serve as a natural semantic metalanguage for describing and exploring both universal and culture-specific forms of human thinking, and in particular, for identifying and comparing models of person across languages and cultures.
dc.publisherAmerican Anthropological Association
dc.sourceEthos: The Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology
dc.subjectKeywords: Cultural models; Ethno-ethics; Ethnopsychology; Japanese; Korean; Language universals; Languages: Russian; Universals of time and space
dc.titleEmpirical Universals of Language as a Basis for the Study of Other Human Universals and as a Tool for Exploring Cross-Cultural Differences
dc.typeJournal article
local.description.notesImported from ARIES
local.description.refereedYes
local.identifier.citationvolume33
dc.date.issued2005
local.identifier.absfor200408 - Linguistic Structures (incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)
local.identifier.absfor160103 - Linguistic Anthropology
local.identifier.absfor200209 - Multicultural, Intercultural and Cross-cultural Studies
local.identifier.ariespublicationMigratedxPub12843
local.type.statusPublished Version
local.contributor.affiliationWierzbicka, Anna, College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU
local.description.embargo2037-12-31
local.bibliographicCitation.issue2
local.bibliographicCitation.startpage256
local.bibliographicCitation.lastpage291
local.identifier.doi10.1525/eth.2005.33.2.256
dc.date.updated2015-12-12T07:42:14Z
local.identifier.scopusID2-s2.0-27844570313
CollectionsANU Research Publications

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