Anna Wierzbicka

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Anna Wierzbicka
Born (1938-03-10) 10 March 1938 (age 85)
AwardsPrize of the Foundation for Polish Science (2010)
Dobrushin Award (2010)
Academic background
Alma materWarsaw University
Academic work
Main interestssemantics, pragmatics and cross-cultural linguistics
Notable ideasnatural semantic metalanguage

Anna Wierzbicka FAHA FASSA [ˈanna vʲɛʐˈbʲitska] (born 10 March 1938 in Warsaw) is a Polish linguist who is Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University, Canberra.[1] Brought up in Poland, she graduated from Warsaw University and emigrated to Australia in 1972, where she has lived since. With over twenty published books, many of which have been translated into other languages, she is a prolific writer.

Wierzbicka is known for her work in semantics, pragmatics and cross-cultural linguistics, especially for the natural semantic metalanguage and the concept of semantic primes. Her research agenda resembles Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's original "alphabet of human thought". Wierzbicka credits her colleague, linguist Andrzej Bogusławski, with reviving it in the late 1960s.[2]


External video
video icon In Conversation with Anna Wierzbicka — Living in Languages

Wierzbicka was born in 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II. She received her PhD from the Institute of Literary Research, Polish Academy of Sciences in 1964 and subsequently her habilitation degree five years later.[3] Since 1973 she has been working at ANU, from 1989 as a professor. 1988 saw her elected fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.[4] In 1996 she was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.[5] Throughout her career she has collaborated closely with Polish researchers, and was awarded the Prize of the Foundation for Polish Science for developing the theory of the natural semantic metalanguage and discovering a set of elementary meanings common to all languages.[6] Her work spans a number of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, and religious studies as well as linguistics.[7]

Natural semantic metalanguage[edit]

In her 1972 book Semantic Primitives, she launched a theory of natural semantic metalanguage, a theory of language and meaning.




  • (co-authored with Cliff Goddard) Words and Meanings: Lexical Semantics Across Domains, Languages, and Cultures. Oxford UP (2014). ISBN 9780199668434
  • Imprisoned in English. The Hazards of English As a Default Language, Oxford UP 2013. ISBN 978-0-19-932150-6
  • Experience, Evidence, and Sense: The Hidden Cultural Legacy of English (2010). ISBN 0-19-536801-0
  • English: Meaning and culture (2006). ISBN 0-19-517474-7
  • What Did Jesus Mean? Explaining the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables in simple and universal human concepts (2001).
  • Emotions Across Languages and Cultures: Diversity and universals (1999).
  • Understanding Cultures Through Their Key Words: English, Russian, Polish, German, Japanese (1997).
  • Semantics: Primes and Universals (1996).
  • Semantics, Culture and Cognition: Universal human concepts in culture-specific configurations (1992).
  • Cross-cultural pragmatics: The semantics of human interaction (1991).
  • The Semantics of Grammar (1988).
  • English Speech Act Verbs: A semantic dictionary (1987).
  • Lexicography and Conceptual Analysis (1985).
  • The Case for Surface Case (1980).
  • Lingua Mentalis: The semantics of natural language (1980).
  • Semantic Primitives (1972).


Anna Wierzbicka has published over 300 articles in journals from the disciplines her work spans, including Language, Current Anthropology, American Anthropologist, Man, Anthropological Linguistics, Cognition and Emotion, Culture and Psychology, Ethos, Philosophica, Behavioral and Brain Sciences and The Journal of Cognition and Culture.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Professor Anna Wierzbicka". Australian National University. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  2. ^ Interviewer: Maria Zijlstra (15 August 2009). "Natural Semantic Metalanguage". LinguaFranca. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Transcript.
  3. ^ "Prof. Anna Wierzbicka – laureatka Nagrody FNP 2010". Fundacja na rzecz Nauki Polskiej. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  4. ^ "Anna Wierzbicka". Australian Academy of the Humanities. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Academic Fellow: Professor Anna Wierzbicka FASSA, FAHA". Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Prof. Anna Wierzbicka – laureatka Nagrody FNP 2010". Fundacja na rzecz Nauki Polskiej. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  7. ^ "Professor Anna Wierzbicka". Australian National University. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  8. ^ "Dobrushin International Award". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Professor Anna Wierzbicka". Australian National University. Retrieved 17 December 2015.

External links[edit]