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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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Naming the World or Construing the World?

Naming the World or Construing the World?

(p.12) 2 Naming the World or Construing the World?
Imprisoned in English

Anna Wierzbicka

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses the widespread illusion that the structure of reality can be discussed in English in a way independent of the structure of the English language itself. It also discusses various methodologies that have been put forward in an attempt to bypass language in the description of reality and to find a neutral framework in external reality alone. A classic example here is the use of commercially produced Munsell color samples as a basis for cross-linguistic semantics of color. The chapter shows that such “external stimuli” are not independent from language but have English meanings embedded in them. The chapter contrasts the illusion that languages simply “name” aspects of the world with the view that through their vocabulary, languages construe the world; and it shows how different languages can construe different worlds.

Keywords:   John Searle on “brute facts”, Sapir on “language habits”, Whorf on Western culture, ethnocentrism, visual semantics, Munsell color chips

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