By Anna Wierzbicka
Conceptual primitives and semantic universals are the cornerstones of a semantic idea which Anna Wierzbicka has been constructing for a few years. Semantics: Primes and Universals is an important synthesis of her paintings, featuring an entire and systematic exposition of that conception in a non-technical and readable method. It delineates a whole set of common suggestions, as they've got emerged from large-scale investigations throughout a variety of languages undertaken by way of the writer and her colleagues. at the foundation of empirical cross-linguistic reviews it vindicates the outdated thought of the "psychic cohesion of mankind", whereas whilst supplying a framework for the rigorous description of alternative languages and cultures.
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Additional info for Semantics. Primes and Universals
G. Clancy 1985 on Japanese; SmiE 1975 on Serbo-Croatian) 113. 1. Negation: NOT The nos-relation is ane of the simplest and mast fundamental relations knawn t o the human mind. Wayce 1917: 265; quoted in Ham 11989: 1) Negation is probably the least controversial of all the lexical universals which have ever been proposed. Nobody has ever reported coming across a language without negation, and exponents of negation-unlike those of most other conceptual primitives posited here-are routinely reported in all descriptive grammars.
I would suspect, however, that diRerences of this kind (interesting as they are) are due to culltural rather than strictly semantic reasons, and that BAD, like GOOD,is indeed a universal semantic primitive. ) The idea of a %ba deed", a %ad person', or 'bad peoplebay play a greater role in some cultures than in others; for example, it is no doubt more prominent in the Judaeo-Christian culture than, say, in Japanese culture, but this doesn't mean that in Japanese culture one cannot speak at ali about %ad actions' or 'bad peop l e ' ( ~Qnishi ~ 1994).
Orice 11975) is no dnoublt worth exploring. 2. CAN CAN is a relatively recent addition to the list of primitives. From a crosslinguistic point of view, "an' is particularly difficult to identify, partlly because It is often involved in complex patterns of polysemy, and partlly RKncausr: its exponents oftemr appear to be bound morphemes rather tban distinct words. From the point of view of decomposition, there is allso a temptaliion to try to treat "an' as complex, because of its intuitively "fly' character (discussed, for example, by Austin 1961).