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id ga9927
authors Neagu, Mariana
year 1999
title On Linguistic Aspects from a Cross-cultural Perspective
source International Conference on Generative Art
summary The goal of this paper is to discuss the issue of culture and its relationship to language and cognition by dealing with a number of lexical concepts, grammatical concepts and cultural scripts. Taking a moderate view, I reconcile universalism and ethnocentrism and argue that the study of culture-specific aspects of language has both a theoretical and practical importance. The role of universal semantic primes is obvious in culture-specific words such as the Japanese amae (a peculiarly Japanese emotion) which, though unique and untranslatable, can be accurately and intelligibly defined in terms of semantic primes (Wierzbicka, 1996). The view that meanings cannot be fully transferred from one language to another is supported by the difference in meaning manifested in the different range of use of the word happy (a common, everyday word in modern English) and joyful (a more literally and stylistically marked term.). A cross-linguistic analysis of the concept ‘happy’in English, Romanian, German, French, Italian, points to the so-called ‘traditional Anglo-Saxon distate for extreme emotions’. As far as aspects of grammar connected with culture are concerned, I compare expressive grammatical devices like intensifiers in English, Romanian and Italian. The question the paper addresses is whether constructions like syntactic reduplication(e.g. bella bella) and the absolute superlative (e.g. bellissimo) are indeed linked with what has been called ‘the theatrical quality’ of Italian life (Barzini, 1964) or not. Relative to Romanian, I assume that the idea of intensity of a state or action is conveyed, in certain registers, by terms and expressions pertaining to basic element source domains such as fire (e.g. frumoasa foc ‘fire-beautiful’) and earth (e.g. frumusetea pamantului ‘beauty of the earth’) and also by syntactic reduplication (e.g. frumoasa-frumoaselor ’beauty of the beauties’). Finally, I approach aspects of pragmatics which are culturally determined in the sense that they express cultural norms, values, ideals, attitudes. For instance, preferences are expressed directly in English while in Japanese this manner is contrary to the ideal of enryo ’restraint, reserve’.
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