Article published in:Language and Cultural Values: Adventures in applied ethnolinguistics
Edited by Bert Peeters
[International Journal of Language and Culture 2:2] 2015
► pp. 169–193
The Trinidadian ‘Theory of Mind’
Personhood and postcolonial semantics
In this paper, we study the cultural semantics of the personhood construct mind in Trinidadian creole. We analyze the lexical semantics of the word and explore the wider cultural meanings of the concept in contrastive comparison with the Anglo concept. Our analysis demonstrates that the Anglo concept is a cognitively oriented construct with a semantic configuration based on ‘thinking’ and ‘knowing’, whereas the Trinidadian mind is a moral concept configured around perceptions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. We further explore the Trinidadian moral discourse of bad mind and good mind, and articulate a set of cultural scripts for the cultural values linked with personhood in the Trinidadian context. Taking a postcolonial approach to the semantics of personhood, we critically engage with Anglo-international discourses of the mind, exposing the conceptual stranglehold of the colonial language (i.e., English) and its distorting semantic grip on global discourse. We argue that creole categories of values and personhood — such as the Trinidadian concept of mind — provide a new venue for critical mind studies as well as for new studies in creole semantics and cultural diversity.
Keywords: postcolonial semantics, ethnolexicology, ethnopsychology, ‘Theory of Mind’, Trinidadian Creole, Anglo English
Published online: 17 December 2015
Cited by 9 other publications
Levisen, Carsten & Kristoffer Friis Bøegh
Levisen, Carsten & Carol Priestley
Levisen, Carsten & Sophia Waters
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In progress). Exponents of semantic primes in 20th century Virgin Island Dutch.
Clarke, R., & Charles, R.N.
Goddard, C., & Wierzbicka, A.
Leezenberg, M., Komlósi, L.I., & Houtlosser, P.
Forthcoming). Personhood constructs in language and thought: New evidence from Danish. In Z. Ye (Ed.) The semantics of nouns: People, places and things Oxford Oxford University Press
Levisen, C., & Priestley, C.
Forthcoming). Neomelanesian keywords in discourse: Kastom ‘traditional culture’ and pasin bilong tumbuna ‘the ways of the ancestors’. In S. Waters & C. Levisen (Eds.) Cultural keywords in discourse Amsterdam John Benjamins
Levisen, C., & Bøegh, K.F.
In progress). Semantic primes and cognitive creolistics. In P. Bakker, F. Borchsenius, C. Levisen, & E. Sippola (Eds.) Creole studies: A phylogenetic approach
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Forthcoming). Two levels of verbal communication, universal and culture-specific. In L. de Saussure & A. Rocci (Eds.) Handbook of verbal communication Amsterdam John Benjamins