The complex, language-specific semantics of “surprise”
MetadataShow full item record
This study is conducted using the NSM (Natural Semantic Metalanguage) methodology, which seeks to explicate complex language-specific concepts into configurations of simple universal concepts (Goddard 2011; Goddard & Wierzbicka 2014; cf. Ye 2013). The study has three main dimensions. It begins by turning the lens of NSM semantic analysis onto a set of words that are central to the "discourse of the unexpected" in English: surprised, shocked, amazed and astonished. By elucidating their precise meanings, we can gain an improved picture of the English folk model in this domain. Brief comparison with Malay (Bahasa Melayu) shows that these English words lack precise equivalents in other languages (Goddard 1997). The second dimension involves grammatical semantics, seeking to identify the semantic relationships between agnate word-sets such as: surprised, surprising, to surprise; amazed, amazing, to amaze. The third dimension is a theoretical one, concerned with the goal of developing a typology of "surprise-like" concepts. It is argued that adopting English-specific words, such as surprise, as descriptive categories inevitably leads to conceptual Anglocentrism (Wierzbicka 2014). The alternative, non-Anglocentric strategy relies on components phrased in terms of universal semantic primes, such as 'something happened' and 'this someone didn't know that it will happen', and the like.
Review of Cognitive Linguistics
© 2015 John Benjamins Publishing Co. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal website for access to the definitive, published version.
Linguistic Structures (incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)