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Lecture 12. The basic characteristics of a lingua-cultural concept



· Study the initial characteristics of a lingua-cultural concept

· Define the components of a lingua-cultural concept


Events of language use mediate human sociality. Such semiotic occasions develop, sustain, or transform at least part—some have argued the greater part—of people’s conceptualizations of their universe.

Whenever languages and other, perilinguistic semiotic systems are used in their ubiquitous human habitats, cultures as well as people can be said to be communicating.

In discursively mediated interaction, whether as “native” users or as analyst-investigators, we perceive ourselves to be sending and receiving messages to and from so-called real or fictional individuals; we communicate about states of affairs concerning all manner of experience able and imaginable things. But we are at the same time experiencing culture by communicating through this exemplar, medium, and site: language-in-use.

We can “hear” culture only by “listening to” language in a certain way. This channel is made available by contemporary semiotic pragmatism in its theorizing the “conceptual” nexus linking language to culture.

To be sure, all human activity centrally engages conceptualization in one or another respect. And, further, language is a semiotic complex most visible to our individual reflexive gaze precisely for its instrumental role in explicit, task-oriented conceptualization. Yet the argument here is that there is a realm of what we might justly term “cultural” concepts to be discerned from among concepts in general and specifically among other conceptual codings manifested in language. These “cultural” concepts define and reveal what is culturally specific about human discursive interaction, seen both as itself human activity and as mediating semiotic “relay” of all other human activity.

It is a truism that cultures are essentially social facts, not individual ones; they are properties of populations of people who have come to be, by degrees, tightly or loosely bounded in respect of their groupness, their modes of cohering as a group. Cultures are historically contingent though, as experienced, relatively perduring values and meanings implicit in the ways people dothings and interact one with another. Such doings, as events, have value and meaning only insofar as they are patterned—the textually oriented word is “genred”—so that even as they are participating in them, people in effect negotiate the way that events are plausibly and (un)problematically instances of one or more such patterns. So, culture being manifest only in such socio-historical facts, anything “cultural” would seem to depend on the contingencies of eventhood that, in complex ways, cumulate as genred norms of “praxis” or “practice.” Yet, in the event culture is always presumed upon in the course of that very praxis, even as it is always potentially transformed by people’s very doings and sayings.

Cultures like languages, are fundamentally ideational or mental – or conceptual insofar as in communicating people seem (at least at first) to be giving evidence of knowledge, feeling, and belief, even creating, sharpening, and transforming knowledge, feeling, and belief in themselves and others. What, then, is the sociological condition of existence of such—as we should term them—“cultural concepts” of which cultures are constituted in the face of the very individual-centric assumptions that our own culture persists in having about knowledge, feeling, and belief? How can we see that language as used manifests such cultural concepts, ones specific to a socio-historical group, not-withstanding the “freedom” we think we manifest in saying what we want, as a function of what we, as individuals, “really” believe we want to communicate about? Is there, in short, a socio-cultural unconscious in the mind—wherever that is located in respect of the biological organism—that is both immanent in and emergent from our use of language? Can we ever profoundly study the social significance of language without understanding this socio-cultural unconscious that it seems to reveal? And if it is correct that language is the principal exemplar, medium, and site of the cultural, then can we ever understand the cultural without understanding this particular conceptual dimension of language? The reorientation of linguistic anthropology over the past few decades has made real progress in these matters in good part by comprehending three lessons heretofore scattered in many literatures about language and culture, following them out and integrating them into its analytic approach to revealing the “conceptual”—hence, “cultural”— in language.

The first of these lessons is that discursive interaction brings sociocultural concepts into here-and-now contexts of use—that is, as I hope to explain, that interaction indexically “invokes” sociocultural conceptualizations— via emergent patternings of semiotic forms that we know how to study in the image of the poetics of ritual. Precipitated as entextualizations (by-degrees coherent and stable textual arrays) in relation to contextualizationshow texts point to a framing or surround for the text), such “text-in-context” is the basis for all interpretative or hermeneutic analysis. Both the comprehensibility and the efficacy of any discursive interaction depend on its modes and degrees of “ritualization” in this special sense of emergent en- and contextualization.

The second lesson focuses on the underpinnings and effects of the denotational capacity of the specific words and expressions we use that gel as text-in-context. This is the complex way in which, on occasions of their use, words and expressions come specifically and differentially to “stand for,” or denote, things and states of affairs in the experienced and imagined universe. Yet integral to the very act of denoting with particular words and expressions, it turns out, is the implicit invocation of certain sociocultural practices which, in the context of discourse, contribute to how participants in a discursive interaction can and do come to stand, one to another, as mutually significant social beings. The most interactionally potent components of denotation seem to function in at least two ways: first, to be sure, as contextually differential characterizers of some denotatum but second as indexes of users’ presumed-upon (or even would-be) relational positions in a projective social distribution of conceptual knowledge. So individuals in effect communicatively “perform” a here-and-now interactional stance in relation to such knowledge by the phraseology and construction in which they communicate the substance of what is being “talked about.” We read such interactional stances as ritual figurations of social identity come to life, interactionally activated in the here-and-now of discourse for the intersubjective work of creating, maintaining, or transforming social relations.

Given these first two points, the third lesson is that there are wider-scale institutional “orders of interactionality,” historically contingent yet structured. Within such large-scale, macrosocial orders, in-effect ritual centers of semiosis come to exert a structuring, value-conferring influence on any particular event of discursive interaction with respect to the meanings and significance of the verbal and other semiotic forms used in it. Any individual event of discursive interaction occurs as a nodal point of a network of such in a field of potentially conflicting interdiscursivities across macrosocial spaces that may be simultaneously structured by other (e.g., political and/or economic) principles and dimensionalities as well. Viewed in such a space, every discourse event manifests, by degrees, authoritative, warranted, or heretofore uncountenanced or even contested entextualization slicensed from centers of value creation. Here, human subjectivity and agency come to their potential plenitude. The flow of value thus comes to be mappable as a felt effect or adjunct of interlocutors’ strategic positionalities—presupposed or entailed—in such complex macrosocial space and of people’s stasis in and/ or movement through its ever-changing configurations.

Lingua-cultural concept as a subject of study of lingua-culture appears (lingvokulturologija) to the researchers as a cultural, mental and linguistic education.

According to the Y. Stepanov’s definition, lingua-cultural concept is a mental unit,

aimed at a comprehensive study of language, consciousness and culture. The linguacultural concept differs from other units in its mental nature. Mentality is perceived as aguided collection of images and perceptions. H. Bloom defines mentality as the perception of the world in the categories and forms of the native language that connects the intellectual, and spiritual qualities of national character in its typical manifestations(Bloom 2000). Many scholars agree that the mentality is easier to describe than to define. Mentality of deeper thinking, standards of behaviour represents the internal willingness of a person to act in a certain way. Lingua-cultural concept differs from other mental units by the presence of the value component. Value is always in the centre of the concept. A lingua-concept consists of distinguish evaluative, figurative and conceptual components. Notional component of the concept is stored in the verbal form. A figurative component is non-verbal and can be described or interpreted at most.


Problem questions: Can we distinguish certain differences between a lingua-cultural concept and a linguistic concept? What are they? Why is it important to define this kind of concept out of the “concept” in general?


Topic 5. The integral interaction of cross-cultural communication and linguistic concept study as a new perspective in investigation of cognitive ethnic peculiarities.


Date: 2014-12-22; view: 5686

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