Anna Wierzbicka

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Anna Wierzbicka
Born (1938-03-10) March 10, 1938 (age 77)
Warsaw, Poland
Alma mater Warsaw University
Main interests
semantics, pragmatics, and cross-cultural linguistics
Notable ideas
Natural Semantic Metalanguage
Notable awards
Prize of the Foundation for Polish Science (2010), Dobrushin Award (2010)

Anna Wierzbicka [ˈanna vʲɛʐˈbʲitska] (born March 10, 1938 in Warsaw) is a Polish linguist currently working at the Australian National University in Canberra.[1] Brought up in Poland she graduated from Warsaw University and finally emigrated to Australia in 1972, where she has lived until now. With over twenty published books, many of which were translated into foreign languages, she is a prolific writer. Wierzbicka is famous for her work in semantics, pragmatics, and cross-cultural linguistics. She is especially known for Natural Semantic Metalanguage, particularly the concept of semantic primes. This is a research agenda resembling Leibniz's original "alphabet of human thought", which Wierzbicka credits her colleague, linguist Andrzej Bogusławski, with reviving in the late 1960s.[2]


Wierzbicka was born in 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II. She received her Ph.D. from 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. Throughout her career she has collaborated closely with Polish researchers, for what was awarded Prize of the Foundation for Polish Science. Her work spans a number of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, Jewish and religious studies as well as linguistics.[4]

Natural Semantic Metalanguage[edit]

In her 1972 book "Semantic Primitives" she launched a theory of Natural Semantic Metalanguage ('NSM'), one of the theories of language and meaning.




  • 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).


  • "The language of life and death". Quadrant 39 (7-8): 21–25. Jul–Aug 1995. 
  • "The language of "bullying" and "harassment"". Quadrant 53 (12): 102–107. Dec 2009. 
  • "Moral absolutes and the multiplicity of languages". Quadrant 55 (12): 81–88. Dec 2011. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Professor Anna Wierzbicka". Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Interviewer: Maria Zijlstra (2009-08-15). "Natural Semantic Metalanguage". [[1]]. Transcript. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 
  3. ^ "Prof. Anna Wierzbicka – laureatka Nagrody FNP 2010". Fundacja na rzecz Nauki Polskiej. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "Professor Anna Wierzbicka". Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "Dobrushin International Award". Retrieved 24 November 2014. 

External links[edit]