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Intercultural Pragmatics

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Not taking yourself too seriously in Australian English: Semantic explications, cultural scripts, corpus evidence

Cliff Goddard

Citation Information: Intercultural Pragmatics. Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 29–53, ISSN (Online) 1613-365X, ISSN (Print) 1612-295X, DOI: 10.1515/IPRG.2009.002, March 2009

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In the mainstream speech culture of Australia (as in the UK, though perhaps more so in Australia), taking yourself too seriously is culturally proscribed. This study applies the techniques of Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) semantics and ethnopragmatics (Goddard, Ethnopragmatics: Understanding discourse in cultural context, Mouton de Gruyter, 2006b, Goddard, Cross-linguistic semantics, John Benjamins, 2008; Wierzbicka, Semantics: Primes and universals, Oxford University Press, 1996, Wierzbicka, Cross-cultural pragmatics, Mouton de Gruyter, 2003, Wierzbicka, English: Meaning and culture, Oxford University Press, 2006a) to this aspect of Australian English speech culture. It first develops a semantic explication for the language-specific expression taking yourself too seriously, thus helping to give access to an “insider perspective” on the practice. Next, it seeks to identify some of the broader communicative norms and social attitudes that are involved, using the method of cultural scripts (Goddard and Wierzbicka, Cultural scripts 1, 2004). Finally, it investigates the extent to which predictions generated from the analysis can be supported or disconfirmed by contrastive analysis of Australian English corpora as against other English corpora, and by the use of the Google search engine to explore different subdomains of the World Wide Web.

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