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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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Human Bodies and Human Minds: What is Visible and What is Invisible

Human Bodies and Human Minds: What is Visible and What is Invisible

(p.40) 5 Human Bodies and Human Minds: What is Visible and What is Invisible
Imprisoned in English

Anna Wierzbicka

Oxford University Press

This chapter builds on Sapir’s insight that “vocabulary is a very sensitive index of the culture of a people.” It argues that the meanings of words reflect the speakers’ ways of thinking and can only be identified through conceptual analysis, and not through external methods such as video-clipping, favored, in particular, by the influential Nijmegen Language and Cognition Group. The chapter illustrates the limitations of “extensionalist semantics” based on video-clipping and “stimulus methodologies” with examples from the areas of body parts and social interaction, and shows that meanings reflect human construals (shared within particular languages and cultures, and not some observable “partitions” and discontinuities in the world. The chapter discusses Richard Shweder’s critique of neo-behaviorism in anthropology and psychology and shows that it applies also to “stimulus-based” methodologies in linguistics, which substitute observable objects and pictures for meanings in the speakers’ minds.

Keywords:   Sapir on vocabulary, Nijmegen School, “stimulus methodology”, a word for “head”, a word for “hand”, a word for “body”, words for artifacts, polysemy, reciprocity, Shweder on Cognitive Revolution

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