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Title: The Danish Universe of Meaning: Semantics, Cognition and Cultural Values
Contributor(s): Levisen, Carsten Almann (author); Goddard, Cliff  (supervisor); Gladkova, Anna  (supervisor)
Conferred Date: 2011
Copyright Date: 2010
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Abstract: Danish is not only a language. It is a universe of meaning saturated with concepts, some of which are quintessentially Danish. This thesis tells the story of the Danish speech community, its distinctive social ethos and its culture-specific linguistic construals. It provides sociocognitive representations of Danish ways of speaking, thinking and feeling based on evidence from everyday words. Danish core values are explored through keywords such as 'hygge', roughly 'pleasant togetherness', 'tryghed' roughly 'security', and 'janteloven' 'the Jante law', words which are not only untranslatable into other languages, but which also act as discursive focal points for the Danish speech community. Indigenous terms for sociality, cognition and emotion are analysed based on their usage and collocational profiles as found in linguistic corpora of Danish texts. Equipped with the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) approach, this thesis aims to disentangle the intricate meanings of Danish words and to situate these meanings in a broader cultural context. Contributing to the growing body of NSM studies and the emerging disciplines of cultural semantics and ethnopragmatics, this thesis is the first to systematically study Danish as a cultural universe by explicating Danish word meanings and providing cultural scripts for their associated values and attitudes. It is argued that words are products of cultural history, and that they have emerged to meet the conceptual needs of speakers. It is also argued that the worlds we live in are not linguistically and conceptually neutral, but rather that speakers who "live by Danish concepts" are likely to pay attention to their world in ways suggested by "guiding" Danish keywords and lexical grids. Finally, it is demonstrated how, equipped with semantic methodology, we can account for the meanings of even highly culture-specific and untranslatable linguistic concepts. This cultural-semantic and ethnopragmatic study of Danish breaks new ground with respect to the language-culture and language-cognition interfaces, but also more specifically, provides a new integrative sociocognitive framework for understanding Danish language, identity and cultural values. The findings extend to the fields of cross-cultural communication and cross-cultural education and call into attention the central role of language in the study of cultural values.
Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Fields of Research (FoR) 2008: 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2008: 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
Rights Statement: Copyright 2010 - Carsten Almann Levisen
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Appears in Collections:Thesis Doctoral

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