Publication details [#54044]

Wierzbicka, Anna. 2010. ‘Story’ — An English cultural keyword and a key interpretive tool of Anglo culture. Narrative Inquiry 20 (1) : 153–181.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This paper shows that story is an English cultural keyword and a key interpretive tool of modern Anglo culture and that it is linked with a family of concepts which have no semantic equivalents in other languages and are unique conceptual artefacts of Anglo culture. It argues that if we can pinpoint these concepts we can also pinpoint the shared values and assumptions reflected in them. It shows that this can be done with the help of the natural semantic metalanguage (NSM) methodology developed over many years by the author and her colleague Cliff Goddard — a methodology which has been previously applied effectively to many other semantic domains, across a wide range of languages. Further, the paper argues that because the uniqueness and centrality of the English story has until now gone unnoticed, many semantic components associated with it have been projected onto other languages, which has lead to the positing of spurious human universals and to claims such as “story is a basic principle of mind”. The paper draws attention to the fact that a unique English cultural keyword (story) has played a significant role in the “narrative turn” in the humanities and social sciences, and discusses some of the implications of this fact.