Dissertation Abstract

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon Jan 27 13:57:12 UTC 2003

From: LINGUIST List 14.237

Author: Troy B. Williams

Dissertation Title:
Language in Culture: The Conceptualization of Health in Russian
language and culture

Dissertation Abstract:

Although there has been considerable scholarship on the relationship of
language to culture, an approach which integrates multiple linguistic
structures into the illumination of a given cultural concept has been
lacking.  This dissertation will attempt to make a small contribution the
research by examining lexical roots, semantic collocations and grammatical
constructions used in health expressions in contemporary standard Russian
to reveal some of the more salient aspects of the conceptualization of
health in Russian culture.

The study begins with some preliminary suggestions about the relationship
between language and culture which will be carefully considered in later
chapters.  It will be hypothesized that language and culture are not
distinct entities, but are part of a complex dynamic system in which each
changes and is changed by the other.  In particular, the work of cognitive
anthropologists as well as that of linguists and semioticians from the
Prague school will be instrumental.

The second step will be a careful examination of Russian language
scholarship on proverbs including a study of the syntactic, semantic, and
pragmatic elements of proverbs and the way that proverbs fit into culture
as a text genre directed toward the transmission and reinforcement of
cultural attitudes.

A more focused examination of health-related Russian language proverbs
will be the third step.  The themes which recur in this relatively large
corpus of proverbs will be interrogated to discover how they may
illuminate Russian cultural attitudes toward health.  This section will
also include the results of survey of contemporary usage of health-related
proverbs in Russian which will show an overall decrease in usage of such
proverbs, but the perseverance of many of the themes detailed earlier.
The final section will focus on Russian impersonal constructions as they
are used to express health.  There is a generally-accepted understanding
that such expressions can indicate a distancing of agency or volition from
the logical experiencer of the verb.  In health-expressions, the speaker
often chooses to exploit such constructions and their concomitant
distancing of agency.  Many of the themes found in the earlier discussion
of proverbs are supported by the use of this grammatical construction.

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