This article discusses the work of George Seddon as a significant Australian intellectual whose writing on postcolonial settler-descendant relations with land and nature is a major contribution to academic and public life. Seddon’s originality lies partly in his bridging knowledge and expertise in both the humanities and sciences. However, while there is a reliance upon factual data drawn from geology, botany and zoology, Seddon’s analyses of language and culture can appear idiosyncratic and unsystematic in terms of social science (...) methods. Based on introspection, the work might be considered ‘autoethnography’, though Seddon seeks to do more than tell stories about himself. In acknowledging both the brilliance and shortcomings of Seddon’s work, I present some examples of how it has stimulated my own research on the cultural implications of naming species and places in Australia. (shrink)
In this multi-disciplinary volume, comprising the work of several established scholars from different countries, central concepts associated with the work of the Bakhtin Circle are interrogated in relation to intellectual history, language theory and an understanding of new media. The book will prove an important resource for those interested in the ideas of the Bakhtin Circle, but also for those attempting to develop a coherent theoretical approach to language in use and problems of meaning production in new media.
Jerome Bruner is one of the grand figures of psychology. From his role as a founder of the cognitive revolution in the 1950s to his recent advocacy of cultural psychology, Bruner's influence has been dramatic and far-reaching. Such is the breadth of his vision that Bruner's work has inspired thinkers in many of the major areas of psychology and has had a powerful impact on adjacent disciplines. His writings on language acquisition, culture and education are of profound and (...) enduring importance. Focusing on the dominant themes of language, culture and self, this volume provides a comprehensive exploration of Bruner's fertile ideas and a considered appraisal of his legacy. With a distinguished list of contributors including Jerome Bruner himself, the result is an outstanding volume of interest to students and scholars in psychology, philosophy, cognitive science, anthropology, linguistics, and education. Among the contributors are Judy Dunn, Howard Gardner, Clifford Geertz, Rom Harré, David Olson, Edward Reed, Talbot Taylor, Michael Tomasello, and John Shotter. The volume is framed by an editorial introduction that considers the distinctively philosophical dimensions of Bruner's thought, and a final chapter by Bruner himself in which he re-examines prominent themes in his work in light of issues raised by the contributors. The volume will be invaluable to students and researchers in the fields of psychology, cognitive science, education, and the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
The theory of opposition has always been viewed as the founding principle of structuralism within contemporary linguistics and semiotics. As an analytical technique, it has remained a staple within these disciplines, where it continues to be used as a means for identifying meaningful cues in the physical form ofsigns. However, as a theory of conceptual structure it was largely abandoned under the weight of post-structuralism starting in the 1960s — the exception tothis counter trend being the work of the Tartu (...) School of semiotics. This essay revisits opposition theory not only as a viable theory for understanding conceptual structure, but also as a powerful technique for establishing the interconnectedness of language, culture, and cognition. (shrink)
Dichotomous definitions of culture and language do not generate productive questions. Instead, more progress can be made by identifying components of each that other animals might plausibly possess. The evolutionary, ecological approach advocated by Rendell and Whitehead holds great promise for helping us to understand the conditions under which natural selection can favor similar capacities in differently organized brains.
Everett's main claim is that language is a “cultural tool“, created by hominids for communication and social cohesion. I examine the meaning of the expression “cultural tool“ in terms of the influence of language on culture (i.e. the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) or of the influence of culture on language (Everett's hypothesis). I show that these hypotheses are not well-supported by evidence and that language and languages, rather than being “cultural tools“ as wholes are rather collections (...) of tools used in different language games, some cultural or social, some cognitive. I conclude that the coincidence between language and culture is due to the fact that both originate from human nature. (shrink)
Is agency a straightforward and universal feature of human experience? Or is the construction of agency (including attention to and memory for people involved in events) guided by patterns in culture? In this paper we focus on one aspect of cultural experience: patterns in language. We examined English and Japanese speakers’ descriptions of intentional and accidental events. English and Japanese speakers described intentional events similarly, using mostly agentive language (e.g., “She broke the vase”). However, when it came (...) to accidental events English speakers used more agentive language than did Japanese speakers. We then tested whether these different patterns found in language may also manifest in cross-cultural differences in attention and memory. Results from a non-linguistic memory task showed that English and Japanese speakers remembered the agents of intentional events equally well. However, English speakers remembered the agents of accidents better than did Japanese speakers, as predicted from patterns in language. Further, directly manipulating agency in language during another laboratory task changed people’s eye-witness memory, confirming a possible causal role for language. Patterns in one’s linguistic environment may promote and support how people instantiate agency in context. (shrink)
This paper addresses the questions of whether and, if so, how and to what extent the Internet brings about homogenisation of local cultures in the world. It examines a particular case, that of Thai culture, through an investigation and interpretation of a Usenet newsgroup, soc.culture.thai. Two threads of discussion in the newsgroup are selected. One deals with criticisms of the Thai government and political leaders, and the other focuses on whether the Thai language should be a medium, (...) or perhaps the only medium, of communication in the newsgroup. It is found that, instead of erasing local cultural boundaries, creating a worldwide monolithic culture, the Internet reduplicates the existing cultural boundaries. What the Internet does, on the contrary, is to create an umbrella cosmopolitan culture which is necessary for communication among people from disparate cultures. That culture, however, is devoid of ‘thick’ backgrounds, in Michael Walzer's sense. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Preface v -- CRITIQUE -- 1. Culture and Semantics 1 -- 2. What is 'Cartesian' in Linguistics? 8 -- 3. Computer, Brain and Grammatical Theory 22 -- DYNAMICAL SEMANTICS -- 4. From Discrete Signs to Dynamic Semantic Continuum 37 -- 5. Catastrophe Theoretic Semantics: -- Towards a Physics of Meaning 50 -- 6. Ontological and Cognitive Bases of kiraka Theory 60 -- 7. 'Force Dynamics' as a Dynamical Sem-antics Model 72 -- METAPHOR -- 8. Body, (...) Space and Metaphorical-Cultural Worlds 85 -- 9. Metaphors in Grammar 103 -- SEMIOTICS -- 10. Dynamics in Nar-rative Structures 123 -- 11. -Perspectives in the Semiotics of Objects 139 -- 12. Tfhe Semantics of 'Nukespeak' 149 -- POST-STRUCTURALISM I POSTMODERNISM -- 13. Language, Power, and Plurality 155 -- 14. On Difference(s) 160 -- 15. Dialogics, or the Dynamics of Intersubjectivity 170 -- 16. Writing, hifinity, and Dialogicality 178 -- 17. Lacan, Denrida and the Vicissitudes of the 'Sign' 185. (shrink)
In this paper we examine how English and Mandarin speakers think about time, and we test how the patterns of thinking in the two groups relate to patterns in linguistic and cultural experience. In Mandarin, vertical spatial metaphors are used more frequently to talk about time than they are in English; English relies primarily on horizontal terms. We present results from two tasks comparing English and Mandarin speakers’ temporal reasoning. The tasks measure how people spatialize time in three-dimensional space, including (...) the sagittal (front/back), transverse (left/right), and vertical (up/down) axes. Results of Experiment 1 show that people automatically create spatial representations in the course of temporal reasoning, and these implicit spatializations differ in accordance with patterns in language, even in a non-linguistic task. Both groups showed evidence of a left-to-right representation of time, in accordance with writing direction, but only Mandarin speakers showed a vertical top-to-bottom pattern for time (congruent with vertical spatiotemporal metaphors in Mandarin). Results of Experiment 2 confirm and extend these findings, showing that bilinguals’ representations of time depend on both long-term and proximal aspects of language experience. Participants who were more proficient in Mandarin were more likely to arrange time vertically (an effect of previous language experience). Further, bilinguals were more likely to arrange time vertically when they were tested in Mandarin than when they were tested in English (an effect of immediate linguistic context). (shrink)
By spotlighting the irreducible role of cognitive processes between biology and culture, this synthesis and critique of the universalist tradition in colour science offers a genuine starting-point for all future 'serious inquiry into the relationship between linguistic and non-linguistic aspects of colour classification'.
Across cultures people construct spatial representations of time. However, the particular spatial layouts created to represent time may differ across cultures. This paper examines whether people automatically access and use culturally specific spatial representations when reasoning about time. In Experiment 1, we asked Hebrew and English speakers to arrange pictures depicting temporal sequences of natural events, and to point to the hypothesized location of events relative to a reference point. In both tasks, English speakers (who read left to right) arranged (...) temporal sequences to progress from left to right, whereas Hebrew speakers (who read right to left) arranged them from right to left, replicating previous work. In Experiments 2 and 3, we asked the participants to make rapid temporal order judgments about pairs of pictures presented one after the other (i.e., to decide whether the second picture showed a conceptually earlier or later time-point of an event than the first picture). Participants made responses using two adjacent keyboard keys. English speakers were faster to make “earlier” judgments when the “earlier” response needed to be made with the left response key than with the right response key. Hebrew speakers showed exactly the reverse pattern. Asking participants to use a space-time mapping inconsistent with the one suggested by writing direction in their language created interference, suggesting that participants were automatically creating writing-direction consistent spatial representations in the course of their normal temporal reasoning. It appears that people automatically access culturally specific spatial representations when making temporal judgments even in nonlinguistic tasks. (shrink)
How do we refer to people in everyday conversation? No matter the language or culture, we must choose from a range of options: full name ('Robert Smith'), reduced name ('Bob'), description ('tall guy'), kin term ('my son') etc. Our choices reflect how we know that person in context, and allow us to take a particular perspective on them. This book brings together a team of leading linguists, sociologists and anthropologists to show that there is more to person reference (...) than meets the eye. Drawing on video-recorded, everyday interactions in nine languages, it examines the fascinating ways in which we exploit person reference for social and cultural purposes, and reveals the underlying principles of person reference across cultures from the Americas to Asia to the South Pacific. Combining rich ethnographic detail with cross-linguistic generalizations, it will be welcomed by researchers and graduate students interested in the relationship between language and culture. (shrink)
This paper seeks to contribute to the sociology of nations, a literature that is only starting to carve out its place in the social sciences. The paper offers a reconceptualization of “nations” as “national cultures”, employing an evolutionary perspective and a systemic framework in which “nations” are understood as cultural systems of a special kind. National cultures are intimately tied to natural languages, and the acquisition of a national culture occurs as part and parcel of the acquisition of a (...) natural language. Acquiring a natural language is a prerequisite for learning other cultural systems (artefactual languages as well as other natural languages). National cultures function as metacultures. They are also the reference cultures for modern states and their citizens, a political dimension of nations that is of paramount importance, though it will only be touched on in this paper. National cultures should be considered as the most fundamental type of cultural system today. (shrink)
According to the orthodox account of meaning and translation in the literature, meaning is a property of expressions of a language, and translation is a matching of synonymous expressions across languages. This linguistic account of translation gives rise to well-known skeptical conclusions about translation, objectivity, meaning and truth, but it does not conform to our best translational practices. In contrast, I argue for a textual account of meaning based on the concept of a TEXT-TYPE that does conform to our (...) best translational practices. With their semantic function in view, text-types are Archimedean points for their respective disciplines. The text-type of philosophy is no exception. Culture-transcendent conceptual analysis can proceed on firm footing without having to deny the reality of radical cultural and linguistic difference by treating components of text-types as the concepts to be analyzed. Analyses of central philosophical concepts are provided as a means of adjudicating philosophical controversy. (shrink)
Who a manager is, as a person of moral character, has been only of tangential interest in social science definitions of management, which have focused on functions, roles, behaviors, and environmental influences. But how do managers themselves speak of managerial excellence? This paper answers this for a particular corporation, based on a three-phased research process that deliberately imposes no descriptive or normative categories, but allows the answer to emerge, listening to what managers themselves say when discussing excellent managers and their (...) behaviors. This approach finds that: (1) virtue ethics and virtue language is fluently used by practicing managers, (2) virtue language is important to understanding managerial excellence, and (3) whereas the set of virtues defining the excellent manager can be expected to be dependent on the societal, industry, and organizational context, such a set of manager virtues can be identified and prioritized within a particular organizational milieu. The implication is that, once an organization's management better understands the meaning of the excellent manager in terms of the virtue language already used by its own employees, it is better equipped to implement a practical ethic of virtues, one helpful toward recognizing and developing excellent managers. Ethics researchers are challenged to increase their understanding of extant virtue language as the basis for a renewed development of virtue ethics theory and applications. (shrink)
Scientists’ language use in communication to or with the public has often been criticised as merely strategic. This article explores three terms employed in stem cell and genomic research, to support the hypothesis that biomedical terminology is heavily influenced by different legal, cultural, and ethical backgrounds in different societies. The word ‘pre-embryo’ has never been part of any acceptable official rhetoric in Germany but was important in Britain. The ‘toti-’, ‘pluri-’, or ‘multipotency’ of specific stem cells became a topical (...) issue of scientific expertise in countries with strict regulations on embryo research. The distinction between ‘reproductive’ and ‘therapeutic’ cloning has become very common but problematic due to its obvious strategic purpose, and is intensely debated in the scientific community. The examination of these examples and the cultural framework in which they gain importance will demonstrate the mutual interconnectedness of biomedical science and social and cultural conditions. Separation of a purely descriptive terminology that belongs to science itself, adequately describing its discoveries, and a rhetoric that addresses external, non-scientific attitudes is impossible. Regulations, social discourses, and cultural traditions influence biomedical sciences, their scientific research projects and the terminology employed therein. Biomedical practices are considered ethically problematic not only by those external to the scientific realms, but also by some professionals participating in the research. Biomedical science is not a discrete field with clear boundaries and has to be re-conceptualized as an integral and important part of modern culture. (shrink)