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Lecture 13. Linguistic concept study and cross-cultural communication: backgrounds and aims.



o To identify the connection between linguistic concept study and cross-cultural communication

o To differentiate the notion of linguistic concept and its peculiar features

The increasing internationalization of activities in almost all spheres of life in the late twentieth century has brought new challenges in the way communication is done. Among these, linguistic and cultural boundaries enjoy a higher profile because effective communication is essential to success in such global domains. Linguistic and cultural knowledge is basic nowadays when doing even business internationally. With the world emerging from interacting economies and increasing mobility and interaction across borders, linguistic and cultural diversity has increased and as a result there has been a demand for effective cross-cultural communication. Thus, international and intercultural communication, which in the process of cross-cultural hybridization produces new and different types of identity and makes it necessary for people belonging to different cultures to develop the required conceptual competence, is one of the most relevant fields of research in the context of English language teaching and translation.

From an intercultural perspective, the theory which was introduced by Lakoff and Johnson in 1980, and which has been developed further, marks an excellent interdisciplinary ground for investigating the interrelationship between culturally bound and universal constructs in intercultural communication. The relevance of the cognitive theory of metaphor for intercultural aspects begins with its principal claim of ubiquity. This means that there is no situation where metaphorical concepts are not used to express values, thought patterns, norms, etc. In other words, metaphor is not a matter of language; it is rather human thought processes which are largely metaphorical. Put differently, the conceptual system in terms of which we think and act is fundamentally metaphorical (Lakoff& Johnson, 1980). If it is right to suggest that our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, the way we think and what we do is a matter of metaphor. As the consequence of the role cognitive metaphors play in communication, there seems to be a need to investigate metaphor as related to cross-cultural communication.

The research on metaphor can be traced back to the time of ancient Greece. Aristotle believed that the function of metaphor was primarily decorative and ornamental. In the traditional view, metaphor is a matter of special language, which is called a figure of speech. As a result, for hundreds of years, most metaphor studies focused on a rhetorical perspective, i.e. figurative metaphor. However, in the 20th century the view of metaphor changed from purely a figurative device to a matter of thought itself or conceptual metaphor. Lakoff (1986) points out that metaphor is not just a way of naming, but also a way of thinking and it is “a figure of thought”. As language is part of culture, the cross-cultural study of metaphor is one of the most interesting fields to linguistic researchers.

As a significant part in foreign language teaching and learning, metaphor has attracted the interest of a number of applied linguists. They have explored pedagogical aspects of metaphor awareness and figurative expressions for language learners. Low (1988) argues that metaphoric competence should be developed in language learners. Metaphoric competence is believed to consist of metaphor awareness, and strategies for comprehending and creating metaphors (Deignan, Gabrys, &Solska, 1997). Danesi (1994) puts forward the view that the L2 learner’s speech sounds non-native because of literalness or absence of metaphor use. Sacristan (2004) emphasizing the central role metaphor plays in English for specific purposes, cites a number of scholars who have analyzed the function of metaphor in economics.

Although scholars have done a large amount of research in both fields of metaphor and culture, most of these studies drew their conclusions only based on English data. Whether the results are the same for other languages remains unknown. Therefore, it is necessary to carry out more research focusing on cross-cultural aspects of metaphor. With respect to metaphor, the focus will, of course, be on conceptual metaphor because it provides a good approach to discuss different metaphorical expressions based on human concepts and experience.

If the intercultural hypothesis that both universal and non-universal constructs are used while communicating is accepted, then this study should be able to show that for effective cross-cultural communication we need to seek a way of communicating over language and culture borders. Thus, the question which is of primary interest in this paper is to see to what extent metaphors are universal. In other words, there is an attempt to find out whether variation in conceptual metaphors is significant. If language is considered to be a matter of social convention and conventions which arise as a matter of historical accident and path-dependence determine language, and if we accept that these conventions, in turn, shape thought and assuming that metaphor does not primarily occur in language but in thought (Lakoff& Johnson, 1980); we face a serious challenge as to how we can construct a theory to account for both universality and variation in our use of metaphor. Further, we need to seek how to make mutual intelligibility among people possible as the process of globalization moves ahead.

Conceptual metaphors are believed to comprise the whole conceptual system of speakers of any given language, so to investigate the universality of metaphor one should collect some data on conceptual metaphors as related to a specific domain in one language and see if they exist in the same meaning in other languages. For instance, in business communication some metaphorical themes which are commonly used are mechanism and machines, plants, animals, gardening, health, fitness, fighting and warfare, ships and sailing, and sports (Boers, 2000). In this study, animal metaphors, among others, were chosen for comparison in two different languages: English and Persian. The rationale for choosing animal metaphors for comparison is that although there has been extensive research on metaphor across cultures, in general, on animal metaphors, in particular, there is still paucity of research. In the following section, first the theoretical framework within which the study was done is explicated, i.e. the conceptual theory of metaphor, as forwarded by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) and, then, the study, its findings, and implications will be discussed.

Metaphor has been approached from different perspectives. In the classical approach, originally associated with Aristotle and further developed by Ricoeur and Black in the last century, the concern is with the poetic and rhetorical function of metaphors. In the cognitive approach metaphor is seen primarily as a matter of mind or as a set of fixed mappings between two conceptual domains. This is the view advanced in the 80's by Lakoff and Johnson. A new strand of metaphor research has also begun in the last 90's in which emphasis is again placed on the language of metaphors. Using ideas from cognitive theory of metaphor, this approach—the emergentist approach (Cameron & Deignan, 2006)—connects the conceptual with the linguistic in theory and in empirical work. For the purposes of this study the cognitive approach, explained below, has been used.

Conceptual theory of metaphor was first introduced in detail by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) in Metaphors We Live By. This theory has questioned and challenged the traditional linguistic views in which metaphor is viewed as a matter of words rather than thought or action. In literary contexts, metaphor is regarded as used for effect or for ornament and contrasts with literal language. For most people, metaphor is above the everyday ordinary language. They believe that the function of metaphor is only a device of the poetic imagination and “rhetorical flourish” (Lakoff& Johnson, 1980). According to this view advanced by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), there are two levels of metaphor: the conceptual and the linguistic. At the conceptual level, a metaphor is a relationship between two concepts, one of which functions as the source and the other as the target. The relationship is in the form of “target domain is/as source domain” like argument is war. The particular relation between source and target domains is based on the basic conceptual correspondences between two domains. The other level, the linguistic, is motivated by conceptual metaphor, and represents the realization in words. It appears in the form of everyday written and spoken language. Thus, for example, a variety of metaphorical expressions are developed from the conceptual metaphor argument is war, such as “Your claims are indefensible”, “He attacked every weak point in my argument”, and “I demolished his argument” (Lakoff& Johnson, 1980).

What role does culture play in metaphor? As Lakoff and Johnson (1980) claim, most metaphors are grounded in systematic correlations within our daily experience. Human experience consists of a large range of conventional models. These models are essential elements, which construct a conceptual system in the human mind. According to the conceptual theory, metaphors are able to reflect the ideas in a human conceptual system, so various cultural models are shown in a great number of metaphors. In the conceptual metaphor argument is war, war is the source domain and knowledge is the target domain. What is the mapping or correspondence between these two different domains? According to most people’s basic experience, the general concepts of war and argument might include: war is physical fighting with a purpose to win, and argument refers to verbal fighting about different ideas. In that case, the knowledge of fighting might be the connection of mapping between two domains. In fact, a certain cultural model determines this kind of knowledge. In other words, in a culture where an argument is never viewed as a war, the conceptual metaphor argument is war may never exist.

From the above discussion we may come to the conclusion that as the cultural border spaces expand and become the place where cross-cultural communication occurs, there will be a greater need for interactants to develop an intercultural competence to cope with the problems of cross-cultural communication. As put by Lakoff (1986), "the language that enables us to communicate with one another also encloses us in an invisible web of sounds and meanings, so that each nation is imprisoned by its language, a language further fragmented by historical eras, by social classes, by generations"

Cross-cultural variation

The area of cross-cultural variation in metaphor has raised great interest among metaphor researchers. A number of studies are based on the comparison of different metaphorical concepts and expressions in cultures, as well as in different languages. Boers (2003) observes that there are three types of cross-cultural variation in metaphor usage:

(1) Differences with regard to the particular source-target mappings that have become conventional in the given cultures

(2) Differences with regard to value judgments associated with the source or target domains

(3) Differences with regard to the degree of pervasiveness of metaphor as such, as compared with other (rhetorical) figures

Of these three types, the first type of variation is the most obvious and common one in metaphors. The research findings suggest that in different cultures, metaphor may have different source domains that map onto the same target domain. Many complex conceptual metaphors reflect the various cultural models in that way e.g., life is a journey. Many metaphorical expressions derived from this conceptual metaphor involve different types of vehicles, such as trains, ships, cars and so on (ibid). The second group of variation refers to “connotations” and “institutions” in a certain culture. These aspects are particularly important for foreign language learners because they lack the knowledge of particular cultural backgrounds.

Cross-cultural communication (also frequently referred to as intercultural communication, which is also used in a different sense, though) is a field of study that looks at how people from differing cultural backgrounds communicate, in similar and different ways among themselves, and how they endeavour to communicate across cultures.

Cross-cultural communication endeavours to bring together such relatively unrelated areas as cultural anthropology and established areas of communication. Its core is to establish and understand how people from different cultures communicate with each other. Its charge is to also produce some guidelines with which people from different cultures can better communicate with each other.

Cross-cultural communication, as in many scholarly fields, is a combination of many other fields. These fields include anthropology, cultural studies, psychology and communication. The field has also moved both toward the treatment of interethnic relations, and toward the study of communication strategies used by co-cultural populations, i.e., communication strategies used to deal with majority or mainstream populations.

The study of languages other than one’s own cannot only serve to help us understand what we as human beings have in common, but also assist us in understanding the diversity which underlies not only our languages, but also our ways of constructing and organizing knowledge, and the many different realities in which we all live and interact. Such understanding has profound implications with respect to developing a critical awareness of social relationships. Understanding social relationships and the way other cultures work is the groundwork of successful globalization business efforts.

Language socialization can be broadly defined as “an investigation of how language both presupposes and creates new, social relations in cultural context”. It is imperative that the speaker understands the grammar of a language, as well as how elements of language are socially situated in order to reach communicative competence. Human experience is culturally relevant, so elements of language are also culturally relevant. One must carefully consider semiotics and the evaluation of sign systems to compare cross-cultural norms of communication. There are several potential problems that come with language socialization, however. Sometimes people can over-generalize or label cultures with stereotypical and subjective characterizations. Another primary concern with documenting alternative cultural norms revolves around the fact that no social actor uses language in ways that perfectly match normative characterizations. A methodology for investigating how an individual uses language and other semiotic activity to create and use new models of conduct and how this varies from the cultural norm should be incorporated into the study of language socialization.


Problem questions: What does the connection between linguistic concept study and cross-cultural communication consist in? Does the absence of knowledge about specifics of linguistic concept seem to be a barrier for communication?


Lecture 14. Linguistic culture studies and lingua-conceptology. Concept as a unit of a collective consciousness that has linguistic expression and the marked ethnic and cultural specificity

Aims :

· To distinguish the main backgrounds of development of linguistic culture studies

· To define the notion of concept from the linguistic culture studies’ point of view

· To study the main peculiarities of ethno-cultural specificity of concept


In the 1960s and 1970s, most linguists and linguistic anthropologists studied grammar as an innately configured, abstract realm heaving an almost mathematical precision. In the realm of semantics all categories were taxonomic, which category membership based on the possession of certain necessary and sufficient features. This logician’s image of grammar and meaning divorced from everyday life encountered a dramatic challenge in 1980, when George Lakoff and Mark Johnson published Metaphors We Live By. Lakoff followed it with Women, Fie and Dangerous Things in 1987, and in the same year Ronald Langacker published Foundations of Cognitive Grammar I. With these landmark publications, the hermetic seal of idealist grammar was broken and the scientific study of semantics began to look outward to general cognitive processes, encounters with the physical world, communication and culture. The paradigm change was underway. The new semantics was a semantics of life.

The virtue of the new approach was that it found the source of semantic categories in embodied experience and encyclopedic or world knowledge. This means that linguistic meaning was seen as emergent from physical experiences and as acquired from other people in the course of infant nurturance, growing up among peers and parents, and living in society as an adult. Culture and history could now factor into the semantics of lexemes and grammatical constructions, where in prior theorizing they could only influence language performance. For example, Lakoff has argued that metaphorical idioms involve cultural knowledge in the form of conventional images and that links in redial semantic categories are structured by experiential domains, which may be culture- specific. Langacker, too, has recently reaffirmed that ‘language is an essential instrument and component of culture, whose reflection in linguistic structure is pervasive and quite significant’.

Palmer has used such observation as a starting point for cultural linguistics, an approach which foregrounds cultural schemata and cultural models in explanations of grammar and semantic patterns. In this respect, it contrasts with the typical practice of cognitive linguists, who in spite of their recognition of the importance of culture, typically foreground universal scientific phenomena such as figure-ground relations, spatial schemas, force dynamics, prototype categories, and Lakoff’s famous Idealized Cognitive Models, leaving cultural dimensions of language somewhere in the background, or at least unlabeled as such. Cultural linguistics offers a shift I emphasis. Though it draws on the theory of cognitive linguistics for many essential analytical concepts, it explicitly extends cognitive linguistics into cultural domains and it treats cultural categories as potential semantic categories.

Palmer claims that many grammatical phenomena are best understood as governed by cultural schemata rather than universal innate or emergent cognitive schemata. The courses of such cultural schemata include mythology, such as Australian Dyirbal myth of the sun and moon, which Lakoff used to explain membership in Dyirbal noun classes. They also include social structure, repetitive domestic and subsistence activities, salient rituals, and a host of other cultural phenomena. For instance, they include such activities as the pulverizing of maize or mealie with a mortar and pestle, an activity practiced throughout Africa, mainly by women and girls. The daily routine of lifting and dropping the pestle and hearing the thumps, time after time, must surely entrench the scenario and embody the schemas of lifting, of the falling pestle, and the crushing, punctuating, revererating thumps, felt in the hands and feet as well as heard. The emergent categories must also register the femaleness of pounding grain. The experience of pulverizing is culturally structured in at least two ways: first, by the assignment of tasks by gender and age; second by the technology of the mortar and pestle, which are cultural artifacts. If such basic embodied cultural experiences structure semantic categories, then we should expect to see their expression in grammar. The example reveals how essential it is that linguists do ethnography or at least read it systematically as a source of semantic categories. Linguists can not rely solely upon their own non-native intuitions about the semantics of complex domains (Mylne 1995)

Linguistic culture study - to date, is the youngest branch of the ethno-linguistic. Its task is to examine and describe the relationship of language and culture, language and ethnicity, language, and national mentality, it is created, according to the forecast of Emile Benveniste, "based on the triad - the language, culture, the human person" and is linguistic culture as a lens through which the researcher can see the material and spiritual identity of the ethnos.

Typically, the name given by its scientific field object, and categorical apparatus as linguistic conceptology should be directed to the study of the structure and the specific properties of concepts as mental entities of a special kind, to determine their shape depending on the region of existence – concept topology, the description of their homomorphic characteristics – conceptologyc aspect.

Certainly, the concept – is a "multi-dimensional idealized shaping", but consensus on the number of semantic parameters that can be conducted to study it, the conceptology not. This includes both conceptual and imaginative, value, behavioral, etymological and cultural 'dimension' of which almost anyone can have a priority status in the study.

Appears to be optimal for the completeness of the semantic description of the concept will be a cultural selection which includes three components: conceptual, reflective of the feature and its definitional structure, shaped, fixing cognitive metaphors that support the concept of a linguistic consciousness and component of value for which it takes the name of the concept in lexical and grammatical system of a particular language, which will include as its etymological and associative properties.

The concept of "linguistic identity" is formed in the projection area of linguistics appropriate interdisciplinary term, in the sense that we break the philosophical, sociological and psychological perspectives on public important set of physical and spiritual qualities of man that make up its qualitative method. Integration and multi-dimensional nature of the term implies the ambiguity and diversity of his understanding of linguistics, defined by parameters such as the level of abstraction (the personality is an individual, group and base), and is the area (personality, physical, social and spiritual). First of all, under the 'language personality' we understand "man as a native speaker," taken from his ability to voice activity, that is, a set of mental and physical properties of the individual, allowing him to make and receive voice work - in fact, the identity of speech. By 'language personality' is understood as the aggregate of features co-verbal behavior of the person using the language as a means of communication - communicative personality. Finally, under the 'language personally ' can be understood as embodied primarily in the lexical system of basic national cultural prototype vehicle specific language, a kind of 'semantic sketch', drawn up on the basis of worldviews, values, priorities and behaviors reflected in the dictionary - personality 'dictionary', ethnosemantic

Sociological approach to multi-level structure of the individual existents and almost all its representations in linguistics: it is allocated to the verbal-semantic, pragmatic and cognitive levels. "Total language person" owns types of speech acts, the stratification model and cognitive-expressive means of the language, as well as familiar with the status of relations in the culture of the society.

According to its epistemological status of linguistic meaning - intermediate formation occupying the middle space between the representation of knowledge as a form of figurative and abstract concept as a form of thinking. However, the main feature that separates the linguistic understanding of the concept is its way of adopting a particular language implementation. Recognition of the concept plan, the content of the linguistic sign that it includes, in addition to the whole object relatedness, communicatively relevant information. First of all, it's reference to the place occupied by this sign in the lexical system of the language: its paradigmatic, syntagmatic and derivation of communication - that F.Sossyur calls "significant" and that, in the end, reflects the "linguistic value of extralinguistic object", which is expressed in accordance with the law of attraction synonymous in semantic density of a thematic group. In the semantic structure of the whole concept there is also pragmatic information of the sign, associated with its expressive and illocutionary functions, which is consistent with the "intensity" of spiritual values, to which it sends. Another highly probable component of semantics of language concept is cognitive memory words: the semantic characteristics of the sign, associated with its age-old purpose and spiritual value system of speakers. However conceptologically most important here is the so-called cultural-ethnic component that defines the semantics of the specific units of natural language and reflecting 'linguistic world' of its speakers.

'Naive view of the world' as a fact of everyday consciousness gradually played in the lexical units of language, but the language itself does not reflect the world, it only reflects the way of representation (conceptualization) of the world the national language personality, and therefore the term 'language world' sufficiently conditionally is the image of the world, reconstituted according to the semantics of the language alone, but rather caricatures and schematic, as its texture weave mainly of the features underlying the categorization and category of objects, phenomena and their properties, and the adequacy of linguistic image of the world adjusted empirical knowledge about indeed, common to people in a language.

Linguistic conceptualization as a set of techniques semantic representation of the content of lexical items are obviously different in different cultures, but only one specific way of semantic representation as to highlight the concept of linguistic-cultural category, apparently, is not enough: the linguistic and cultural characteristics are largely random and do not reflect the national and cultural (the actual ethnic) identity semantics, and not all of the differences in the internal form of individual lexical items have to be interpreted as meaning conceptologycal.

If the set of concepts as semantic units, reflecting the cultural specificity of perception of the world of native speakers, forms the conceptual realm, is comparable to the concept of mentality as a way of seeing the world, the concepts marked with ethnic characteristics, belong to the domain that correlate with the mentality of a variety of cognitive, emotive and behavioral nation . Boundary between the mentality and attitudes - in the broad concepts and concepts in the narrow sense - is sufficiently unclear and formal means to describe the modern mentality of a Linguacultural community does not currently exist. The only criterion of this is the degree of mass character and invariance of cognitive and psychological stereotypes reflected in lexical semantics.

The selection of the concept as mental formation, marked Linguacultural specificity - it is a natural step in the development of humanitarian anthropocentric paradigm, in particular, the linguistic knowledge. In essence, in the concept of an impersonal and objectivist notion authenticated ethnosemantic, regarding the individual as enshrined in the semantic system of natural language base of national and cultural prototype native speakers. Recreating the "image of man in this language", carried out through ethnocultural authorization concepts, to an extent comparable with the authorization statements and propositions concerning the subject of speech and thought in the framework of the theory of modal statements and non-classical (evaluation) of modal logics.

Meaning of the name - is a subject (denotation), bearing this name, the meaning - the concept of denotation, is the information by which it is possible to name the assignment to the subject. In the interpretation of the concept of linguistic-culture is identified with the standard representation (prototype, gestalt-structure), and here, as you can see, logical-semantic meaning and purpose almost reversed: the concept of denotation - the information necessary and sufficient to separate class of objects - is replaced by the actual denotation - standard way to represent a class of undifferentiated fullness signs.

Sense - it is "an overall relatedness and communication of all relevant situations phenomena." He always situational, due to the context, and is primarily a question belongs to the value, which, in turn, out of context, non-situational, is in the language, derives from the sense, socially institutionalized and formulated, in contrast to the meanings that are created each and every one, only the drafters dictionaries. Value abstracted from meanings and links with national idiolect codified language. The texts lingvoculturological research concept receives the different names: it is "an existential meaning," and "extremely clear" and own "cultural concepts", but, taking into account the fact that the concept of language belongs to the national consciousness, we can assume that dichotomy of value-meaning it is related to the value, and can only find its name - to define a language unit / unit, whose plan for the content it represents.

Lingvocultural concept is the formation of a high degree of semantic abstraction. Correlation with the units of the universal concept of subject code is hardly consistent with membership of lingvocultural concepts to the field of national consciousness, as it idiolect and formed in the mind of an individual voice personality.


Problem questions:

Can we consider the linguistic conciseness to be a form of abstract thinking? Can we consider a concept to be a form of collective consciousness? What influence does the ethnic identity of a human make on his consciousness and world vision?




Date: 2014-12-22; view: 3513

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