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date: 19 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Though most approaches to lexical semantics have shown little interest in cultural aspects of meaning, the subject holds intense interest for adjacent disciplines such as anthropology, cultural history, literary studies, and translation studies, as well for the general public. The chapter reviews different ways in which word meanings can be ‘culturally laden’, starting with cultural key words, i.e. intense focal points of cultural meaning, typically untranslatable, by normal means, into other languages. Words can also be culturally important in less dramatic fashion. The chapter reviews examples from various abstract and concrete domains, stressing that cultural themes are oftentimes conveyed by a suite of related, mutually reinforcing words. The chief methodological challenges in this arena are how to capture subtleties of meaning with precision, while avoiding the danger of conceptual Anglocentrism creeping into the description. The chapter demonstrates how the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) approach deals with this challenge.

Keywords: cultural key word, cultural semantics, language and culture, lexical semantics, Natural Semantic Metalanguage, NSM, Anglocentrism

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