The Semantics of "Violence": Ethnoembodiment and Postcolonial Cognition

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This paper presents a semantic analysis of “violence” – a word around which Anglo-internationaldiscourses revolve. Many ethnolinguistic communities around the world are currently adapting thisEnglish lexical concept into their linguistic systems, and, presumably also, the view of the worldembodied by the “violence” concept.Based on semantic fieldwork in Port Vila, the creolophone capital of Vanuatu in the SouthPacific, the paper investigates the discursive introduction of “violence” into a community which,until recently, lived by other concepts. I compare and contrast the traditional Bislama concepts kilimand faetem with the newly imported English word vaeolens (violence). My study provides newevidence for how cognitive and semantic change co-occur in the context of postcolonial linguisticcommunities, and my paper addresses an important, ongoing controversy related to the notion of“Anglocentric bias”: In The Better Angles of our Nature (2011), Stephen Pinker argues that“violence” is in decline in human history, and that “cooperation”, and “altruism” are on the rise. InImprisoned in English (2013), Anna Wierzbicka shows that “violence”, along with “cooperation”and “altruism” are all English concepts, without counterparts in many (most) languages, and thatPinker’s claims are Anglocentric in nature. My papir studies the intricate details of vaeolens, as a new word that has attracted a number ofother English-based phraseologies such as vaeolens againsem woman ‘violence against women’,and vaeolens againsem pikinini ‘violence against children’. Semantic explications of “violence/vaeolens”, kilim and faetem will be provided and based on these explications, two different culturalmodels will be articulated, based on two radically different ways of co-conceptualizing the humanbody, personhood, sociality, and power – an Anglo English model (or Anglo-International), atraditional South Pacific model, but also a new hybrid model of “the body in society”.Based on evidence from South Pacific semantics, the paper suggests two new directions forcognitive semantics, firstly, the need for new studies in “ethnoembodiment”, i.e. the diversity ofways in which the body is conceptualized across ethnolinguistic communities, and the ways inwhich these different conceptualizations allow for local configurations of meaning, and secondly, a“postcolonial turn”, in which postcolonial language varieties, such as creoles, postcreoles, andworld Englishes, are brought into the study of the language-cognition interface, in order to shednew light on old debates and controversies (Levisen & Jogie 2015, Levisen 2016).
Publikationsdato1 apr. 2017
StatusUdgivet - 1 apr. 2017
BegivenhedThe 6th conference of the Scandinavian Association for Language and Cognition - Lund, Sverige
Varighed: 20 apr. 201722 apr. 2017


KonferenceThe 6th conference of the Scandinavian Association for Language and Cognition

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