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Imprisoned in English: The Hazards of English as a Default Language

ISBN : 9780199321506

Anna Wierzbicka
304 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Dec 2013
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Imprisoned in English argues that in the present English-dominated world, social sciences and the humanities are locked in a conceptual framework grounded in English and that most scholars in these fields are not aware of the need to break away from this framework to reach a more universal, culture-independent perspective on things human. Indeed they are typically not aware that any problem exists, and resistant to its being pointed out. The book engages with current debates across a range of disciplines, including philosophy, anthropology, sociology, evolutionary science, psychology, and cognitive science, as well as linguistics. The topics include values, emotions, social cognition, intercultural communication, endangered languages, human universals vs. human diversity, the evolution of consciousness, etc. It is a book dedicated to one central idea: the blind spot in contemporary social sciences and the prevailing global discourse on values, the human condition, human relations, and so on, which results from the " of English as an increasingly globalized way of thinking and talking.


PART I: Every language draws a circle ... Chapter 1. Introduction: Recognising the contingency of one's own language Chapter 2. Naming the world or construing the world? Chapter 3. The givens of human life Chapter 4. Universal words, semantic atoms and semantic molecules Chapter 5. Human bodies and human minds: what is visible and what is invisible PART II: Emotions and values Chapter 6. Anglo values vs. Human values: Talking about values in a global world Chapter 7. Human emotions and English words: Are anger and disgust universal? PART III: 'Politeness' and 'cooperation' Chapter 8. Talking to other people: 'Politeness' and cultural scripts Chapter 9. Doing things with other people: 'cooperation', 'interaction' and 'obs?enie' PART IV: Entering other minds Chapter 10. Grammar and social cognition: the Hawaiians, the Dalabons, and the Anglos Chapter 11. Endangered languages, endangered meanings Chapter 12. Thinking about 'things' in Yucatec and in English Chapter 13. Chimpanzees and the evolution of human cognition PART V: Breaking down the walls of the prison Chapter 14. From ordinary (Anglo) English to Minimal English PART VI: kindred thinking across disciplines Preliminary remarks Chapter 15. Anthropology, Psychology, Psychiatry Chapter 16. Philosophy, Theology, Politics Chapter 17. Linguistics: Cognitive and cultural approaches Chapter 18. Bilingualism, Life writing, Translation Final remarks References Index

About the author: 

Professor of Linguistics, Australian National University, and author of Semantics, Culture, and Cognition (1992); Semantics: Primes and Universals (1996): Understanding Cultures Through their Keywords (1997); What did Jesus Mean? (2001), and English: Meaning and Culture (2006)

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