Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. August 2004

4.9. Transkulturelle Stereotype in den Kunst- und Literaturwerken
HerausgeberIn | Editor | Éditeur: Tamara Fessenko (Tambov/Russland)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

Cognitive Linguistics as a Way of Investigating the Links between Language and Culture

Maxim Y. Belau (Tambov, Russia) [BIO]


This paper deals with the analysis of the connection of language and culture, using the methods of cognitive linguistics. So here a brief observation of this branch of linguistics is given and then the conceptual analysis of two concepts, those of "culture" and "language" is presented.

The connection of language and culture, and also the existence of the connection between various cultures did not cause doubts in scientists throughout the world during the different periods of development of linguistics. Language and culture are inextricably related and do not exist separately from each other - many proofs have been stated to confirm the given thesis. The culture is - a spirit of the nation, a set of traditions, an inner world of a person; a language, which, among other things, is the bridge between cultures of different countries. Language expresses cultural property of the nation and serves as a way of intercultural dialogue. In this connection S. Johnson's statement can be given - "I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigree of nations". And, that's what is said in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus of Ludwig Wittgenstein, an outstanding Austrian philosopher - "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world".

Within the last third of the 20-th century, the increasing and enormous popularity in global philological science was gained by one of the advanced branch of linguistic researches - cognitive linguistics. The problems of the branch include a research of language as means of the organization, processing and transferring the information with a support on studying of categories and concepts. The branch is rather young. Its proclamation is officially dated in 1989. On a symposium in Duisburg organized Rene Dirven and other European scientists the birth of this branch has been proclaimed. However, despite of the "youth" of cognitive linguistics, its popularity is extremely high. Today the number of the researchers, who use methods of cognitive linguistics is great enough. In various cities of Russia symposiums, seminars, conferences, dealing with the problems of cognitology are carried out. From this very point the research of the connection of language and culture, using the methods of this branch is the most actual and interesting to us. One of such methods is the method of the conceptual analysis on which this research is based.

The basis of cognitive linguistics is cognitive semantics, which concentrates on studying and understanding the processes of conceptualization and categorization of the world, metonymicalness and metaphoricalness of thinking.

Conceptualization comprises principles of perception and judgementjudgment of a person and the phenomena of the world around - the events occurring in it. It is necessary to note that preconditions of revealing the process of conceptualization have been incorporated at the end of the 70-s in N. Chomsky's works which put forward as priority problems of theoretical linguistics the description of the language representation in a brain of a native speaker, i.e. those structures in mind, which are represented in a person's speech activity.

Scientists try to understand, how a person learns about the world around, how it is reflected in mentality of a speaker. The development and the knowledge of the world is what the entire cognitive activity of an individual is directed to. A person starts to learn about the world as soon as he is born. He tries to distinguish the subjects surrounding him, correlates them with each other, makes the first attempts of generalization. As a result of these processes in a child's mind the knowledge, which subsequently are structured and systematized, are formed. The knowledge accompanies a person during his entire life. Cognitive linguistics is constructed on studying of the process of perception of the world. It is curious, that yet in 1967 in first of three lectures read by Chomsky at the Californian University, linguistics was defined as " a special branch of cognitive psychology".

So, a person, having comprehended some information, having given it the name or definition, conceptualizes this or that event, the phenomenon of the world around. In speaker's mind senses are fixed, there are associations, there are concepts. In cognitive linguistics such senses fixed in a person's mental system are called concepts. Concepts, and also their associations (gestalts, frames and so forth) underlie various structures of the knowledge about world around existing in our mental sphere.

The word "concept" is derived from Latin (<an conceptus) and means - an idea. The explanatory dictionary of modern English language A S Hornby offers the following definition of a word "concept":

concept - an idea or a principle relating to something abstract

On the basis of similar interpretation, in a modern linguistic science the number of definitions of the cognitive term "concept" has arisen and continues to arise.

"The form of knowledge" - the definition of the term "concept" made by R. Jakendoff in "Semantic structures". The author specifies synonymic links between the words "concept" and "idea". Rather illustrative definition of the term "concept" was given by N.N.Boldyrev in a rate of lectures on cognitive semantics where, in particular, it is told, that "it is possible to compare concept with a sliding snowball which is gradually being enveloped by new layers ". Really, the maintenance of a concept grows constantly due to receipt of new conceptual characteristics.

Having analyzed a number of definitions of the term "concept", it is obviously possible to define "concept" as a complex of the associations arising in mental area of a speaker. Any word could be a concept. " The mystery of language was revealed to me, - said Helen Keller, - I knew then that ' w a t e r ' meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, joy, set it free! " Language is capable to materialize, carry out an idea. " Language is a dress of thought " as S. Johnson wrote.

In mind of a person culture and language are conceptualized as the concepts "culture" and "language". Every concept is verbalized in language with the help of lexical means. Thus, in English the concept "Culture" is represented by the words "culture", "cultured", "cultural" and some others, which are synonymous to the word "culture." Such as: "civilize", "civilization", "cultivate", "cultivated" and so on [Roget's Thesaurus, 1995]. The analysis of these words' definitions, which are given in the dictionaries of the English Language [Hornby, 1998; Longman, 1992; COBUILD, 1990; BBC English Dictionary, 1992], makes it possible to expose the characteristics of the concept. They are:

1. Art: literature, music.
2. History of a country.
3. Intellectual expressions of a particular society or time.
4. Customs and Traditions.
5. Development of a country or a nation.

Analogously the characteristics of the concept "Language" are revealed, which are based on the analysis of the definitions of the words "language", "linguistic" and their synonyms. The characteristics of the concept "Language" are:

1. A particular nation.
2. A particular culture.
3. Way of expression (very often an individual way).
4. A style.

So we can see that in a person's mental field culture and language are conceptualized similarly. Speaking about culture, a man connects his ideas with the language of a particular nation. And vice a versa.

© Maxim Y. Belau (Tambov, Russia)


1. Boldyrev, Nikolay. Cognitive Semantics. Tambov, 2002.

2. Kobrina N.A. Language as the cultural habitat of its native speakers. Philology and Culture. Tambov, 2003.

3. Lakoff, George. Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What categories reveal about the mind. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990.

4. Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980.

5. Langaker R.W. Concept, Image, and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of Grammar. New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991.

4.9. Transkulturelle Stereotype in den Kunst- und Literaturwerken

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Maxim Y. Belau (Tambov, Russia): Cognitive Linguistics as a Way of Investigating the Links between Language and Culture. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003. WWW:

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