Publication details [#6873]

Kövecses, Zoltán. 2000. The concept of anger: Universal or culture-specific? Bulletin of Hispanic studies 33 (4) : 159–170. 12 pp. URL


I will suggest that the English word 'anger' and its counterparts in diverse languages of the world are based on concepts of anger that have a great deal of complexity. This conceptual complexity derives from several sources: (1) the metaphors and metonymies that apply to the concepts in various languages; (2) the prototypes of anger that people share in these cultures, and (3) the many different senses that the word 'anger' and its counterparts have in different languages. We can ask: Are there any universal aspects of the concept(s) of anger? On the basis of linguistic evidence from English, Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, Zulu and Wolof, I will suggest that there are, but I will also claim that some of the aspects are culture specific. This raises the further important question of why there is both universality and culture specificity in the conceptualization of this emotion. At stake is the issue of which of the following two contradictory claims is valid: (1) that anger is conceptualized in the same way universally, or (2) that anger is a social construction and thus varies considerably from culture to culture. I will propose a compromise view, which can be called 'body-based social constructionism', that enables us to see anger and its counterparts as both universal and culture specific. (Zoltán Kövecses)