Journal of Danubian Studies and Research, Vol 6, No 2 (2016)

Semasiological Approach to the Investigation of the Danubian Basin Axionomens

Tetyana Soroka1

Abstract: The purpose of the article is to characterize semasiological approach to the investigation of the Danubian basin axionomens. The subject of this study is system and structurally-defined organization of axionomens which are qualified as determined linguistic units taken from the lexicographical interpretative sources. Methods of semantic and componental analysis are used in this linguistic research. Internally-arranged lexical semantics of words denoting philosophical, world outlook, scientific, social, political, moral, religious, legal, aesthetic values of Modern English is the finding of research. The practicalvalue of the research is to use the results for fundamental studies of all lexico-semantic sub-systems of value paradigms of the Ukrainian, English and French language societies.

Keywords: axionomen; semasiological approach; componental analysis; seme

1. Problem Statement

Culture and language are intertwined and are shaping each other. It is impossible to separate the two ones. Language is not neutral codes and grammatical rules. Each time a person selects words, forms, sentences, and sends a message, either oral or written; he or she also makes cultural choices. It goes without sayings that language helps in communicating with people from different backgrounds. However, someone may be less aware that cultural literacy is necessary in order to understand the language being used. If the people select language without being aware of the cultural implications, they may at best not communicate well and at worst send the wrong message. In this context the problem of intercultural communication comes to the fore in up-to-date scientific investigations, whose positive results may be applied both in theoretical considering culturally-determined cognitive and communicative peculiarities and in practical teaching foreign languages.

2. Critical Overview

The modern linguistic studies have focused on the six important factors making the language barriers (real and perceived) in intercultural communication. The key factors include the following: the environment reflection, the reflection of cultural values, the meaning of words, changes in language, acronyms, language implications (Beamer & Varner, 1995, pp. 31-37).

3. Purpose of Investigation

The purpose of the article is to distinguish attitudes and national values, to represent different meanings of identical words used by various cultures at one time or phrases that are discontinued or changed over time, to testify the dominating role of linguistics on the whole and a semasiological approach to the ethnolinguistic investigation of the Danubian basin axionomens characterized as nouns denoting philosophical, world outlook, scientific, social, political, moral, religious, legal, aesthetic values of Modern English, to found out the ways of removing language barriers with the purpose of improving relationships across intercultural lines.

4. Research Course

Language reflects the environment in which people live and label things that are around them, because the language of a society can direct the attention of its members to certain features of the world rather than to others. The classic example of this phenomenon is that, in the Amazon area snow is not part of the environment; therefore, people in the region do not have a word for snow because it simply does not exist. On the contrary, in areas where it snows occasionally, people have a word for snow, but it may just be one word without any differentiations. Most Americans, for example, use terms such as snow, powder snow, sleet, slush, blizzard, ice. That’s the extent of most people’s snow vocabulary. People who live in an environment where it snows during most months of the year may have a much more differentiated terminology for show (Mead, 1990, p. 107). Not surprisingly, the environment influences the appropriate vocabulary.

In addition to the environment, language also reflects cultural values. Values are abstract ideas about what society believes to be good, right, and desirable; they form the cultural basement of a society. They provide the context within which a society’s norms are established and justified. E. Hall, for example, points out that the Navajos do not have a word for late (Hall, 1959, p. 47).Time, he tells, does not play a role inNavajo life. There is a time to do everything, a natural time rather than the artificial clock time that industrial countries use. As a result, the Navajos do not have the differentiatedvocabulary connected with time and clocks that Americans have. Time and the passing of time are things one can't control; therefore, one should not worry about wasting time and setting schedules.

One of the problems in dealing with people from other cultures is that we translate concepts from a foreign language and culture with words that fit our priorities. For example, businesspeople in the United States typically are frustrated with the manana mentality of Spanish-speaking countries: «They said tomorrow, but they did not mean it». For Americans tomorrow means midnight to midnight, a very precise time period. To Mexicans, on the other hand, manana means in the future, soon. A Mexican businessman speakingwith an American may use the word tomorrow but may not be aware of or may in it intend the precise meaning of the word. This vague terminology is not precise enough for American emphasis on efficiency. The difficulties over the word manana are at least as much an American problem as a Mexican problem. Dictionaries do not help because they typically pretend that there are exact word equivalencies that have the same meanings. In order to communicate concepts effectively, cultural knowledge is as important as linguistic knowledge.

Values include a society’s attitudes toward cultural concepts. The Chinese, for example, do not have a word for communication, as in the term busi­ness communication. They use letter exchange or transportation traffic but not communication. The Chinese also do not have a concept of privacy; as a result, there is no corre­sponding word in the Chinese language. Typically privacy is translated reclusiveness, whichbrings up very different connotations in English than the word privacy. The word privacy has a positive connotation for people in the United States. They think of the privacyof their homes, the right to privacy, the right to private property. The word reclusive­ness on the other hand, indicates that a person withdraws from society, is a loner, or does not fit in. In the U.S. context, a reclusive person is considered somewhat strange. In China a reclusive person is much more negatively viewed.

Sometimes different cultures use identical words that have rather different meanings. The results can be humorous, annoying, or costly depending on the circumstances. Let us look at several examples.

The word manager is used worldwide, but it has different levels of importance and meaning in different cultures. The same is true for the title director. Many Japanese, for example, have the title director on their business card. In the American context, a director is a person of some importance and power. In Japan, the title may not carry the same level of authority. It may take some time to determine what titles mean and where the person stands in the hierarchy. The term director could be a loan word from English to trans­late the position for use on a business card; the word is the same, but the meaning may be slightly different. The term could also reflect cross-cultural differences in organiza­tional structure. The word director may be the closest translation of a job title that does not exist in the U.S. corporate structure. Likewise, the words office worker or staff are often used for the general administrative workers in a Japanese work group, which tends to have less defined job categories than its U.S. equivalent. An understanding of the specific title would require a more detailed explanation of the job and its fit in the organizational structure.

In the United States documents are often notarized. This is not a complex process. One simply goes to a notary public and gets the stamp and signature. Sometimes one pays a fee; sometimes the service is free. The German term, notarielle Beglaubigung,often trans­lated as notarized, means something quite different. In this case one would go to a Notar,a lawyer. The Notar would prepare the document or, at a minimum, sign the document. This service is much more expensive. The meaning of the United States concept notarized is better reflected in the German term Beglaubigung,something any official person can do. The confusing part is the word notarized in the American expression. A notary public is not a Notar. The same confusion arises in Mexico where a Notario is a lawyer with spe­cial privileges to perform certain functions that require special qualifications.

Both the French and the Americans use the word force majeure,but the phrase carries very different meanings. Literally the term means superior or irresistible force. In U.S. legal language, the term refers generally to forces of nature or possibly war. The implica­tions are that the terms of a contract may be changed because the risk was not allocated in either the expressed or implied terms of the contract.

In European law the term has a broader meaning. It also includes changes in economic conditions or other circumstances that were not reasonably anticipated when the contract was drawn up. The implication is that when Americans make agreements with Europeans that include discussions of unforeseen circumstances and use the term force majeure,they need to clarify what they mean and spell out what that term covers.

Words and phrases that are commonly being used at one time may be discontinued or their meaning may change over time. For example, the word gay means happy, light-hearted. In recent decades, however, the word has taken on the meaning homosexual. As a result, English speakers in countries like New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States don’t use the word in its original meaning any more, and young speakers of English may not even be familiar with the tra­ditional meaning. In other cases, the words may take on additional meanings, and one must understand the context in order to understand the meaning. An example is the word hard­ware, which used to refer to tools and materials used in repairing and building houses. Today the word also refers to computers and components that can be added to a computer, such as a printer or an extra drive.

Foreigners and U.S. citizens who have lived outside the United States for some time may not be familiar with subtle changes in language usage. Twenty years ago words such as businessman, chairman, salesman, airline stewardess, and fireman were regularly used. Today, with more women in the workforce and with growing awareness of the way gender and power can be linked to communicate value, the use of gender-neutral terms, such as businesspeople, chairperson or chair, sales clerk, flight attendant, and firefighter is com­mon. The old terminology is seen as too restrictive.

Countries such as France and Iceland try to keep their language pure. The French Academie Française polices the language and ensures that businesses use pure French. But even here the language changes. The officials may frown on Franglais, but people in France eat a sandwich, go on a trip for le weekend, and go on le jogging,all pronounced in the French manner with the accent on the last syllable. To use English is «chic», and somehow the English terms just seem to be more precise and descriptive. French Canadians make the Academie Française really nervous when they use char for car, and many other English words in their French. French Canadians do not feel compelled to follow the rules of the Academie Française.

The example of Canadian French illustrates that a language, if spoken in different parts of the globe, will ultimately develop differently. The Academie Française may insist on certain rules, but other French-speaking groups may make their own rules and consider their French just as correct. The same is true for the development of English. What is standard and correct English? Former British colonies such as India and Nigeria increasingly insist that their English is just as correct as Oxford English. The result is the emergence of different «Englishes» used in different parts of the world. Attention recently has focused on «Singlish» – the English of Singapore that incorporates Malay and the Hokkien dialect of Chinese as well as English words, and follows a syntax like other pidgin Englishes.

Here are three examples of Singlish (Wong, 2015):

Eh, this road so narrow, how you going to tombalik your big fat Mare-see-deese? You going to do 100-point turn or what? Sekali tombalik into the lang-kau your father kill you then you know!

(Oh, this road is so narrow, how are you going to turn around your big fat Mercedes?Are you going to do a 100-point turn, or what? Wait until you turn it into the roadside ditch. Your father will be furious!)

Eh, Katong sopping sehnta got the “Sah-Leh” you know. Some up to hap-pride ah! (Hey, the Katong Shopping Center has a sale, some [items] are up to half-price off!);

Aiyah, you want to chit in your exam tomolloh, har? You tink you can lite the ansir on the table? Cher catch you, lppl (lam pa pak lan) man! (Oh no, you want to cheat on your exam tomorrow? You think you can write the answer on the desk? Teacher will catch you, and it [your plan] will backfire!).

Many countries adopt English terms specifically in business and related areas. Some words are simply taken over without changes. For example, the Germans frequently use the word shop instead of Geschäft or Laden; ticket instead of Fahrkarte; standard instead of Norm. They use the words computer and software, but they do not use the word calculator,retaining the German word Taschenrechner. The difficulty is that the outsider cannot be sure whether they will use German or American terminology. An increasing number of Germans are concerned about the use of English in everyday speech and advocate the use of German whenever possible. The newly formed Verein Deutsch Sprache, for example, has requested replacing English computer terminology with German terms, and there are some changes. For example, a few years ago Germans would use «download material» and «shut down the computer». Today they say «runterladen» and «runterfahren».

In some cases people use foreign words, but adapt them to their own language both in grammatical usage and pronunciation. For example, the Japanese have changed the word salaryman to sarariman, homerun to homurunu, headhunter to heddo hantaa,and the German word Arbeit to arubaito,meaning a part-time job. After some time, the words are considered native ones because they have been integrated into the Japanese language and cul­ture. In German, for example, the word stress has been integrated. Thirty years ago nobody used the word. Today everyone uses it. The pronunciation is German and when used as a verb is given German grammatical form. A German says, «Ich bin gestreßt», I am stressed. The word has become part of the language.

Acronyms pose special problems because they are based on a particular language. The same institution may carry a different acronym in different languages. For example, MITI, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Investment, is referred to as MITI by the Germans but then spelled out as Ministerium für Industrie und Außenhandel. The UN stands for United Nations, but the Germans transcribe UN as Vereinte Nationen. The for­mer East Germany was called Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR. The English translated the term but also changed the acronym to German Democratic Republic, GDR. Germans would not have immediately recognized that GDR and DDR stood for the same thing.

As the previous examples show, communication across cultures and languages is difficult and full of hurdles and pitfalls. Even if two people from different cultures can speak a com­mon language, they may misinterpret the cultural signals. The result is confusion and mis­understanding. Many people have difficulty identifying the root of the problem. For exam­ple, American students often complain that they can’t understand their foreign professors. In some cases the professors may actually have a poor command of the English language; however, in most cases the problem is not the language itself but different intonation pat­terns and different cultural signals. English-speaking students listen to their instructors with certain expectations. For example, if the instructor's voice drops to a low pitch, the students take that as a signal of a rhetorical topic boundary «I’m finished with this idea», whereas the instructor may actually mean no such thing. Students adjust their interpretation of the lecture according to those intonation signals, thereby misconstruing the instructor’s intent. A professor who comes from a culture where the professor is almighty and never challenged, Korea or India, for example, may send signals to that effect to his students. If the students are not aware of the cultural issues, they will in all likeli­hood identify the problem as a language problem rather than a cultural problem. In this context the phrase, I don't understand you,can mean any of the following:

1. I don't understand the words you use;

2. My interpretation of what you say raises a flag and makes me wonder if this is actually what you want to say;

3. In my perception, your words and nonverbal behavior do not complement each other, and I am puzzled.

5. Concluding Remarks

All the presented issues stress that communication differences knowledge is an important strategy for removing language barriers which sometimes lead, in turn, to conflicts. The communication success depends on cultural competence, or literacy of communicants, i.e. the balance of common and different in their perception and symbol systems. This balance is not given, it should be acquired through learning, experiencing. Many training courses and programs are intended to do this on the basis of intercultural sensitivity. They are built on fundamental investigations on intercultural contents; the leading position is occupied by linguistic analysis. Different approaches to language as the subject revealed in communicative styles, discourse studies, cross-cultural pragmatics testify the dominating role of linguistics on the whole and a semasiological approach to the ethnolinguistic investigation of the Danubian basin axionomens in particular in finding ways for improving relationships across intercultural lines.

6. Further Research

The prospect of research is to use the results for fundamental studies of all lexico-semantic sub-systems of value paradigms of the Ukrainian, English and French language societies.


Beamer, L. &Varner, I. (1995). Intercultural Communication in the Global Workplace. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Hall, Edward T. (1959). The Silent Language. New York: Doubleday and Co.

Mead, R. (1990). Cross-Cultural Management Communication. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Wong, T. (2015). The rise of Singlish. Retrieved from, date: 08.06.2015.

1 PhD, Izmail State University of Humanities, Address: Riepina St, 12, Izmail, Odessa Oblast, Ucraina, 68601, Tel.: +380 4841 51388, Corresponding author:


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