The Grammar of Violence: Insights from Danish Ethnosyntax and the Wierzbicka-Pinker debate

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This paper explores the Danish keyword vold ‘violence, abuse’ and its associated ethno-syntax. Calling into attention (i) the differences and similarities of violence-related concepts in ethnolinguistic communities, and (ii) the key role played by ethnosyntax in the elaboration of violence, vold, and similar concepts, the paper aims to open a new ethnolinguistic research agenda for the study of negative sociality constructs and the positive value system hidden in such concepts. The Danish ethnosyntax of vold ‘violence, abuse’ hidden in compound morphology is scrutinized. Focusing on the compounds hustruvold ‘wife vold’ and politivold ‘police vold’, the paper explores the hidden conceptual syntax embedded in such coinages. Exploring more recent constructs, such as forældrevold ‘parent vold’, it is argued that Danish ethnosyntax embodies a view of the world in which traditional authority figures are coded as aggressors: men, police, parents, whereas women, citizens and children are coded as victims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-168
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2018
EventThe 6th conference of the Scandinavian Association for Language and Cognition - Lund, Sweden
Duration: 20 Apr 201722 Apr 2017


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


  • violence
  • Ethnosyntax
  • cultural scripts
  • ethnopragmatics
  • sociality
  • Danish

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