Cultural Linguistics: a new multidisciplinary field of research

Cultural Linguistics

 

Cultural Linguistics is a multidisciplinary area of research that explores the relationship between language and cultural conceptualisations. 

A recent article on Cultural Linguistics:

Sharifian, F. (2015). Cultural Linguistics. In F. Sharifian (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Culture. New York/London: Routledge.

download an assessment of Cultural Linguistics 

Watch a recent keynote speech on Cultural Linguistics

Journals and book series

Handbook

 Scholarship in Cultural Linguistics

Scope

The multidisciplinary nature of the scope of Cultural Linguistics and its relationship with other disciplines and sub-disciplines can best be diagrammatically summarised as follows:

Diagram (powerpoint)

For Cultural Linguistics, many features of human languages are entrenched in cultural conceptualisations, including cultural models.

Originally, this area grew out of an interest in integrating cognitive linguistics with the three traditions within linguistic anthropology of Boasian linguistics, ethnosemantics, and the ethnography of speaking.

In recent years, while Cultural Linguistics has maintained its interest in cognitive linguistic research’s exploration of the role of culture as a source of conceptualising experience, it has drawn on several other disciplines and sub-disciplines, such as Complexity Science, Distributed Cognition, and Cognitive Anthropology to enrich its theoretical understanding of the notion of cultural cognition.

Applications of Cultural Linguistics have enabled fruitful investigations of the cultural grounding of language in several applied domains such as World Englishes, intercultural communication, and political discourse analysis.

Research carried out within these applied areas has shed significant light on the nature of the relationship between language and culture.

Key publications in Cultural Lingusitics

From several reviews of “Sharifian, Farzad (2011), Cultural Conceptualisations and Language: Theoretical Framework and Applications. Philadelphia/Amsterdam: John Benjamins.”

1) “By drawing on and expanding the theoretical advancements and analytical tools of a number of disciplines and research paradigms, including cognitive linguistics,  anthropological linguistics, distributed cognition, complexity science, cognitive psychology, and cognitive anthropology, Sharifian lays solid theoretical and analytical grounds for what can be recognised as Cultural Linguistics. Sharifian successfully navigates the reader through a multiplicity of premises, findings and models of numerous fields of research and analytical paradigms. These are used as the foundation on which his coherent multidisciplinary approach builds, utilizing the apparatus of cognitive linguistics in the study of core areas of/in human communication.[…] The basic merit of the book is that the author, in his capacity as both an insider (emic) and an objective analyst (etic), takes the reader on a fascinating journey across a multiplicity of patterns of human interaction (from responding to compliments to translating highly sensitive political discourses). Sharifian convincingly illustrates that successful communication depends, to a very large extent, on the enhanced metacultural competence of the participants.[…] The volume successfully promotes the development of Cultural Linguistics as a multidisciplinary theoretical and applied paradigm of linguistic research. The novelty of the offered approach lies in the comprehensive harmonization which the author accomplishes in the treatment of problems and issues that have long haunted the fields of ecolinguistics (Crystal 2000), ethnolinguistics (Mathiot 1979), anthropological linguistics (Foley 1997; Duranti 2004),cultural linguistics (Palmer 1996), studying cultures through their key words (Wierbicka 1997) and research on the Sapir-Whorf relativity principle. […] The reader will spend a few pleasant days delving into the intricacies of a “new linguistic world opened up by the cultural linguistic perspective. This is not a world to be exploited so much as it is a world to be appreciated, and, since it is our everyday world, it is a world desperately in need of mending and healing by greater cross-cultural understanding and tolerance” (Palmer 1996: 296). Sharifian’s book Cultural conceptualizations and language is a major step in this direction.” — Alexandra Bagasheva, in Language and Cognition, Vol. 4:3 (2012), pp. 243-249.


2) “This monograph presents a new theoretical framework for the explanation and study of cultural conceptualisations and their intimate relationship with language, and discusses its applications. […] In developing and illustrating his framework, the author also draws upon disciplines ranging from anthropological linguistics through to complexity science and cognitive psychology, opening some intriguing perspectives and implications for the study of linguistic and pragmatic phenomena within and across cultures […] Sharifian’s approach is impressive as it is innovative, both in terms of weaving together cutting edge concepts from diverse but complementary disciplines and its relevance to areas as wide-ranging as Cross Cultural Pragmatics, Anthropological Linguistics and Cognitive Psychology.[…] This is an accomplished work that draws upon several exciting and dynamic disciplines to present new perspectives on the intersection between culture, cognition and language, with wide-ranging implications.” — Chris Tang, King’s College London, in Journal of Pragmatics, Vol. 66 (2014), pp. 32-34

 


3) “This book develops an exciting and highly innovative theoretical model that is long overdue. By drawing on what are cutting-edge theoretical concepts in several disciplines, including cognitive linguistics, it builds a model that successfully melds together various complementary approaches such as “language as a complex adaptive system” (LCAS), distributed cognition, and multi-agent systems theory. The result is a framework that has significant implications for those working in a multitude of theoretical and applied domains such as cognitive linguistics, cognitive psychology, cognitive anthropology, anthropological linguistics, intercultural communication, intercultural pragmatics, and political discourse analysis. The manuscript is a pioneering work in many senses. It sets forth a valuable new research initiative which draws on a highly nuanced multi-disciplinarily informed approach that, in turn, is particularly sensitive to the role of culture in linguistic choices and perceptions. I highly recommend the book and believe that it is an excellent way to initiate the series “Cognitive Linguistic Studies in Cultural Contexts”, for it clearly “demonstrates how language as a subsystem of culture transformatively interacts with cognition and how cognition at a cultural level is manifested in language”, as indicated in the description of the book series.” — Roslyn M. Frank, The University of Iowa


4) “The volume under discussion brings together a stimulating collection of articles and book chapters Farzad Sharifian has produced over a period of about eleven years. This is already a contribution on its own as it offers the readers a fully developed theoretical background on cultural conceptualisations, cultural cognition and language, and its application on areas such as intercultural communication, cross-cultural pragmatics, English as an international language, and World Englishes.[…] In this monograph Farzad Sharifian has developed a theoretical model of cultural conceptualisations and language which constitutes an advancement in this emerging area of Cultural Linguistics. […] He starts from the premise that cultural cognition is transmitted through language and is instantiated in the content and use of language; it is reflected in categories, schemas and metaphors. Language (morphosyntax, semantic meaning, pragmatic meaning, discourse features) is entrenched in cultural conceptualisations. […] The application of the model to such case studies constitutes an invaluable tool for different investigations, both theoretical and applied, a central one being that of universality vs. culture-specificity. Overall, the book offers an interesting account of an emerging area of investigation, that of cultural cognition. It is of relevance to scholars interested in the interface of language, culture and mind.” – Angeliki Athanasiadou, in Cognitive Linguistics, vol 24(3), pp. 579-588.