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Imprisoned in EnglishThe Hazards of English as a Default Language$
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Anna Wierzbicka

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199321490

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199321490.001.0001

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Grammar and Social Cognition: The Hawaiians, the Dalabons, and the Anglos

Grammar and Social Cognition: The Hawaiians, the Dalabons, and the Anglos

Chapter:
(p.119) 10 Grammar and Social Cognition: The Hawaiians, the Dalabons, and the Anglos
Source:
Imprisoned in English
Author(s):

Anna Wierzbicka

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199321490.003.0010

As many linguists studying endangered languages have emphasized, every language contains, in its lexicon and grammar, a distinct conceptual universe that is going to disappear forever when the last remaining speakers of that language die out. In 1974 anthropologist Clifford Geertz published a famous paper titled “From the native’s point of view,” in which he presented capturing “the native’s” ways of thinking as a major goal of cognitive anthropology. This chapter defends Geertz’s vision against present-day skeptics and shows how the goal of capturing the insider’s way of thinking can be realized by means of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage. By way of illustration, it reanalyzes a major grammatical category of Dalabon and other Australian languages known as the principle of “alternating generations.” The chapter shows how the social word of the speakers of Dalabon can be explained without technical English, in simple words cross-translatable into Dalabon itself, and thus describe Dalabon “social cognition” from the native speaker’s point of view.

Keywords:   Australian languages, social cognition, “harmonic” and “disharmonic” categories, Giambattista Vico, science vs. humanities

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