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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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Endangered languages, Endangered meanings

Endangered languages, Endangered meanings

(p.137) 12 Endangered languages, Endangered meanings
Imprisoned in English

Anna Wierzbicka

Oxford University Press

Most of the world’s languages are dying out, and the ways of thinking and knowing embedded in their vocabulary are dying out, too. Linguistics has come to see as one of its central responsibilities to document as many of those languages as possible, in consultation with native speakers. But speakers of the indigenous languages that are now rapidly dying out do not think in academic English. This creates a big challenge for linguists accustomed to stating linguistic generalizations in English academese. This chapter shows how NSM can be used as an effective tool of communication with indigenous consultants and as a “natural semantic metalanguage” for modeling the indigenous meanings without imposing on them alien categories derived from the conceptual vocabulary of English.

Keywords:   language death, language documentation, language revitalization, interlinear glosses, evidentials, kinship terms, Australian languages, ethnogeographical concepts, cultural keywords

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