Natural semantic metalanguage

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The Natural semantic metalanguage (NSM) is a linguistic theory based on the conception of Polish professor Andrzej Bogusławski. The leading proponents of the theory are Anna Wierzbicka at Warsaw University and later at the Australian National University who originated the theory in the early 1970s (Wierzbicka 1972), and Cliff Goddard at Australia's Griffith University (Goddard & Wierzbicka 1994, 2002).

Approach[edit]

Linguists of the NSM school rely on semantic primitives (or semantic primes) for analysis (that is, simple, indefinable, and universally lexicalized concepts) and reductive paraphrase (that is, breaking complex concepts down into simpler concepts).

Research in the NSM approach deals extensively with language and cognition, and language and culture. Key areas of research include lexical semantics, grammatical semantics, phraseology and pragmatics, as well as cross-cultural communication.

Languages studied in the NSM-framework include English, Russian, Polish, French, Spanish, Malay, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Ewe and East Cree,[1] as well as Swedish.[2]

Semantic primitives[edit]

The declared NSM primes have stabilized as a list of irreducible meanings, coded here as English words with specific senses. These primes are hypothesized to be language universals, with most of them having been tested across a wide variety of languages without encountering disconfirmation.

It is very important to realize that some of the exponents in the following list have meanings in English that are not shared with other languages, but when used as an exponent in the Natural Semantic Metalanguage, we are only concerned with the meanings that are universal.

The English exponents of semantic primitives[3]

substantives 
I, YOU, SOMEONE, PEOPLE, SOMETHING/THING, BODY
relational substantives
KIND, PART
determiners 
THIS, THE SAME, OTHER/ELSE
quantifiers 
ONE, TWO, MUCH/MANY, SOME, ALL
evaluators 
GOOD, BAD
descriptors 
BIG, SMALL
mental predicates 
THINK, KNOW, WANT, FEEL, SEE, HEAR
speech 
SAY, WORDS, TRUE
actions, events, movement, contact 
DO, HAPPEN, MOVE, TOUCH
location, existence, possession, specification 
BE (SOMEWHERE), THERE IS, HAVE, BE (SOMEONE/SOMETHING)
life and death 
LIVE, DIE
time 
WHEN/TIME, NOW, BEFORE, AFTER, A LONG TIME, A SHORT TIME, FOR SOME TIME, MOMENT
space 
WHERE/PLACE, HERE, ABOVE, BELOW, FAR, NEAR, SIDE, INSIDE
logical concepts 
NOT, MAYBE, CAN, BECAUSE, IF
intensifier, augmentor 
VERY, MORE
similarity 
LIKE/WAY
Citizendium image based on Goddard (2002)

Explication[edit]

An explication is a breakdown of a non-prime concept into prime ones.

Eg, Someone X killed someone Y:
someone X did something to someone else Y
because of this, something happened to Y at the same time
because of this, something happened to Y's body
because of this, after this Y was not living anymore[4]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Goddard, Cliff. 1998. Semantic Analysis: A practical introduction. Oxford. Oxford University Press.
  • Goddard, Cliff (ed.) 2006. Ethnopragmatics - Understanding discourse in cultural context. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Goddard, Cliff (ed.) 2008. Cross-Linguistic Semantics. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Goddard, Cliff and Wierzbicka, Anna (eds.). 1994. Semantic and Lexical Universals - Theory and Empirical Findings. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Goddard, Cliff and Wierzbicka, Anna (eds.). 2002. Meaning and Universal Grammar: Theory and Empirical Findings (2 volumes). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Harkins, Jean & Anna Wierzbicka. 2001. Emotions in Crosslinguistic Perspective. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Peeters, Bert (ed.) 2006. Semantic Primes and Universal Grammar: Empirical evidence from the Romance languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 1972. Semantic Primitives. Frankfurt: Athenäum.
  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 1992. Semantics, Culture, and Cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 1996. Semantics: Primes and Universals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 1997. Understanding Cultures Through Their Key Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 1999. Emotions Across Languages and Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 2003 (1991). Cross-cultural Pragmatics: The semantics of human interaction. 2nd edition. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Wierzbicka, Anna. 2006. English: Meaning and culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "The natural semantic metalanguage approach", in Bernd Heine and Heiko Narrog (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis (2009) Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ Pedersen, Jan (2010), "The different Swedish tack: An ethnopragmatic investigation of Swedish thanking and related concepts", Journal of Pragmatics 42:1258-1265.
  3. ^ "Natural Semantic Metalanguage: The state of the art", in C. Goddard (ed.) Cross-Linguistic Semantics (2008), p.33.
  4. ^ Goddard, Cliff. "The Natural Semantic Metalanguage Approach". Retrieved 27 May 2013. 

External links[edit]