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LINGUOCULTURAL APPROACH TO THE ANALYSIS OF CULTURALLY BOUND SEMANTIC SPHERES

Автор Доклада: 
T. Kostyuchenko, E. Ermolaeva
Награда: 
LINGUOCULTURAL APPROACH TO THE ANALYSIS OF CULTURALLY BOUND SEMANTIC SPHERES

УДК 811.111’27

LINGUOCULTURAL APPROACH TO THE ANALYSIS OF CULTURALLY BOUND SEMANTIC SPHERES

Tamara Kostyuchenko, PhD, associate professor
Elena Ermolaeva, PhD, associate professor
Kemerovo State University


Speaking of culture in context of its manifestation in language allows us to investigate the core of cultural values and identities as it is language that remains a basic means of transmitting culture. Language, being a complex cognitive system of getting and delivering information, reflects human experience and perception of the surrounding world in culture that created it. Modern environment, full of wars and armed conflicts, influences and modifies people’s perception of the world.
Keywords: culture, values, identity, cultural concepts, semantic sphere

“The strongest in this world is rough substance,
but it is the least valuable. The higher the
hierarchy of values is, the less they are
stronger”.
N. Berdyaev, Russian philosopher
Before we try to investigate the problem we’d like to underline that there have been given a lot of definitions of culture by scholars, beginning with the 18th century: from a wider meaning, as anything made by man, to a narrower sense, as art culture. But in any case, underlining its artificial character, they state, that culture is transmitted from generation to generation through the images of myths, legends, customs and traditions.
While the shift of generations is the task of nature, it is the task of human societies to render to new generations cultural achievements as the highest levels of elevating any sphere of human life and primary facts of human experience.
In the book “The Philosophy of History” H. Rickert defined culture as “the process of realization of universal social values in the course of historical development”.
Culture comprises language, customs, types of economy and technology, art and models of entertainment, morality and religion, that is, everything “by virtue of which members of the group endow their activities with meaning and significance” (the definition from Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
We would claim here the relevance of two definitions, which, undoubtedly, can’t be full.
First of all, culture is sometimes distinguished by its being primarily a state of things, when the emphasis is laid on habits and attitudes, forms and appearances, which can cause immediate attention, later forgotten. Here culture is a stimulus, but not a means of education.
By contrast, culture may be understood in terms of constant achievements, productions and artifacts, whose essential value may not be immediately apparent, and which elevate life rather than simply excite it.
Secondly, culture may be a manifestation of power or control, of the regulation or restriction of social activity.
In contrast to this, culture can reveal the power of creativity, of thoughtful reflection and critical estimation.
It is just the values that modify inside, from the depth of individual and social life, what we call culture, and become its core. But it is culture that keeps the unity of a nation, a state and a society, because it is modified by the degree of realization of values and value relations in all spheres of human activity, being primary to economics, politics, law and morality, which are limited by the degree of penetration of universal values into these spheres.
And only in religion, morality and art values can be embordered with no limits. Accordingly, since culture is a practical realization of universal and spiritual (ideal) values in people’s actions and relations, the lack of development of value consciousness is one of the main features of the crisis of culture and the society itself.
Here, it’s worth mentioning one more notion, which appeared at the same time as culture, in connection with the development of new economic relations, that is, the notion of civilization, which meant a new level of the development of culture. It’s necessary to state that since the end of the 19th century philosophers (let us remember here O. Spengler, A. Toynbee, Pitirim Sorokin) began to oppose these two notions.
Later axiologists clarified that the crisis of culture and turning it into civilization does not mean the destruction of values, but their reappraisal. Though up till now the notion of culture in common consciousness is substituted for the notion of civilization.
But people very often forget that civilization bases upon the rational, and, as a result, on material values, while it is just the culture that defines the core values and the meanings of life, being the real foundation of civilization with no reasonable alternative, and that the society may function normally, being the unity of culture and civilization.
There is another issue that needs philosophic questioning, that is the notion of identity. We can speak here about national (collective) identity, which may or may not be based on a sense of cultural distinctiveness and which is the self-knowledge of a social group with some concrete culture.
We also mean here personal identity, self-conception or self-knowledge of one’s own values or what is valuable at a given moment in that group. Like undeveloped consciousness speaks volumes of the crisis of culture and the society we mentioned above, the disorder and instability in values in the mind of an individual signals of the crisis of personal identity.
Speaking of culture in context of its manifestation in language allows us to investigate the core of national values and identities as it is language that remains a basic means of transmitting culture. Language, being a complex cognitive system of getting and delivering information, reflects human experience and perception of the surrounding world in culture that created it. That is why cultural investigations are significantly supported by linguistics.
Linguocultural scientific researches have become one of the most promising fields in linguistics and cognitive science in general. The investigation and description of language and culture, their interaction, interconnection, and different types of correspondence, is a complex problem the most effective solution of which is the analysis of cultural concepts, the so-called stereotypes of national identities and, in a wider sense, the whole cultural mind.
Different types of knowledge are represented in human mind in a form of cognitive and linguistic categories that, as a whole, form global, universal and cultural concepts. Concept as a category is understood as a multidimensional structure in collective mind, having a linguistic realization and representing the primary cultural formation, reflecting national worldview and experience. Concepts are determined by culture and, thus, serve as a mechanism of transmitting culture through generations.
Concepts accumulate all the information acquired by a nation and a human being individually, and are manifested in meanings of lexical and grammatical units. If so, linguistic means are the reflection of thought, cognition, and, which is more important, culture and cultural values. Meaning then is understood as a definite type of information acquired and processed by means of language.
The above stated speaks for the fact that every language shows national mentality that comprises knowledge, experience, culture and cultural values of particular nation and national identity. The image of the world, formed in human mind in a process of conceptualization and realized by means of language, is often referred to as “the linguistic representation (picture) of the world”. The latter is always culturally unique as every society perceives the world through the prism of its culture.
The analysis of cultural concepts serves also as a key to understanding national prototypical models of peoples’ behavior in different situations that are often culturally and socially based. These models reflect the cultural “rules” and values of a nation (A. Wierzbicka).
Moreover, conceptual research of linguistic signs and discourse allows to clearly see the dynamics and evolution of cultural identities and societies, on the whole. Language has always been a mirror of changes in society, adapting to the demands of time and manifesting its unbreakable connection with culture.
To illustrate the statement, let us analyze the semantic evolution of the word “war” that represents the concept of war and people’s attitude to the corresponding phenomenon.
Originally, according to etymological dictionaries, the lexeme “war” means armed fighting between nations, open armed conflict between two or more parties, nations, or states. The meaning presupposes such a fight that includes arms and takes place on a large scale between nations, countries, civilizations.
The empirical analysis of modern contextual usage of the word (based on mass media texts and contemporary fiction) makes it possible to specify its semantic features that clearly show the change in perception of the phenomenon of war.
As our research shows, nowadays the word “war” has significantly broadened its semantic boundaries, and is used in modern English as a synonym to its etymological hyperonym (generic term) “conflict”, while the latter is losing its hyperonymic status, being primarily used as a euphemism to the lexeme “war”. The word “war” is no more referred to the sphere of huge armed fighting only, it is widely used as a nomination for any conflict of any size and type (family quarrels and squabbles, different confrontations and arguments, crackdowns on drugs and poverty (“war on drugs and poverty”), etc):
According to one estimate, five and half million people have died in war during the 1990s. The vast majority of these conflicts occur in the developing world (Development Outreach);
One answer… is to give young people that have been drawn into these conflicts an alternative to going to war… these wars, while often internal conflicts, affect neighboring countries as well (Development Outreach );
A couple at war with their neighbours claim they came home one day to find a pig’s head outside their cottage (Daily Mail);
The difficult child… is at war with himself, and in consequence, he is at war with the world (Reader’s Digest);
There was a war in me – not a great war, like the war in Europe, just a small one (S.Beauman).
More than that, we have witnessed the whole metaphorical mappings of the semantic sphere “war” onto the semantic sphere “conflict”, due to which conflicts are described with the help of the “war” vocabulary:
Neighbours have become adversaries. Friends are now rivals. Instead of a warm, friendly, peace-loving town, the community is divided into factions, poised for battle (E.Title);
Finney, the attorney, had been among them, … creating a party hostile to the warden, and establishing a corps in the enemy’s camp (A.Trollope);
…the archdeacon never wanted courage; he was quite willing to meet his enemy [John Bold] on any battlefield with any weapon. … As the indomitable cock preparing for the combat sharpens his spurs, so did the archdeacon arrange his weapons for the coming war (A.Trollope);
How comes it that now, when all should be silent, …the black-coated corps leave their retreat and begin skirmishing? One by one they creep forth, and fire off little guns timidly, and without precision. Ah, my men, efforts such as these will take no cities, even though the enemy should be never so open to assault. At length a more deadly artillery is brought to bear; slowly, but with effect, the advance is made; … the battle is no longer between opposing regiments, but hand to hand, and foot to foot with single combatants, as in the glorious days of old, when fighting was really noble (A.Trollope).
Thus, we see how modern environment full of wars and armed conflicts influences and modifies people’s perception of the world, their cultural values and identities. And language at once reacts to the changing world adapting the meanings of words (that are “reservoirs” of sense and culture) to reality, enhancing and, as in the stated case, hyperbolizing their connotational and cultural aspect.
Hence we can notice the inadequacy of the estimation of people in the society, irrespective of their social position and popularity. Inner uniqueness and spiritual independence in material-life situations raise them on to the level of genuine personality: estimation, action, behavior.
Such value-oriented activity modifies the correlation of goals and means, the life of an individual, a group or the whole society and fulfills the prognostic function, when the future is not only foreseen, but is created by the process of the formation of the hierarchy of values.
By way of conclusion we would like to suggest the following theses:
1) The sociocultural changes are all world processes; only in different countries they take place on different levels according to the degree of the development of these countries.
2) Much of culture is an expression and cachet of personal identity, an outgrowth of predominating values and purposes which find their way in the observable forms.
3) Culture is reflected in language in forms of different linguistic signs. Language immediately reacts to changing reality, cultural trends and cultural values. It is via language that we can have access to cognitive processes that are culturally bound.
4) On the present stage of the development of human society culture as realization of new values is of greater importance than ever in the history of mankind.

References:
1. Berdyaev, N. The Destiny of Man. - 1931.
2. Spengler, O. The Decline Of The West. - 1917.
3. Sorokin, P. Social and Cultural Dynamics: A Study of Change in Major Systems of Art,
Truth, Ethics, Law and Social Relationships. - 1957.
4. Toynbee, A. A Study of History. - 1934-1961.
5. Wierzbicka, A. Lexicography and Conceptual Analysis. - Ann Arbor, 1985.
6. Beauman, S. Dark Angel. – Bantam Press, 1990.
7. Daily Mail: popular newspaper. – 2004, December . – London.
8. Development Outreach: inform.– analyt. magazine. – 1999 – 2001. – Quarterly.
9. Reader’s Digest: popular magazine. – London; N.Y., 1997 – 2004. – Monthly.
10. Title, E. Nearly Paradise. – Silhouette, 1992.
11. Trollope, A. The Warden. – Wordsworth Classics, 1994.

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В статье обосновывается

В статье обосновывается актуальность тематики языка в культуре и языковой культуры, что не вызывает сомнений в эпоху информатизации и тотальной текстуальности. К сожалению, в статье неоправданно большое место отведено малозначимой иллюстрации (семантической эволюции слова "война") к заявленной фундаментальной проблематике, что позволило авторам только обозначить требующие раскрытия тезисы. Хотелось бы надеяться, что формулировки тезисов подразумевают не только отражающую (выраженной метафорой зеркала), но и формирующую (конструктивную) роль языка в культуре (как порождающей ее константной реальности).

О лексеме "война"

Современная лингвокогнитивистика разработала достаточное количество схем, моделей репрезентации концептов. Работы Ю.Н, Караулова, В.И. Карасика, Е.С. Кубряковой и др. стали классикой жанра, позволяющие рассматривать и "человека в языке, и язык в человеке". Исследование семантической эволюции лексемы и концепта "война" на примере англоязычных материалов отражает общую тенденцию репрезентации языкового материала через сферу культурных ценностей и познавательную деятельность. В статье предлагается анализ указанного слова, хотя остаётся непонятным этимологическое описание лексемы, сведённое к передачи значения слова (без указания на источник того и другого). Ограниченный фактический материал (не охарактеризованный авторами в полной мере), возможно, демонстрирует определённые семантические сдвиги, полисемию и т.п., но достаточно ли только одностилевых текстов для описания именно семантической эволюции? Учитывается ли соотношение "языковое - речевое"? Норма - узус? То, что язык "реактивно" реагирует на изменение в социуме, общеизвестно. Как и то, что значение слова - величина переменная.
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