Conceptualization as a way of reproducing ethno-cultural cognition

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010

Author: Zharkynbekova Sholpan , Eurasian National University in honor of L. Gumilyov, Kazakhstan

At present the problem of representation of reality as the linguistic picture of the world and national-cultural concepts is more definitely concerned with the problem of systematization of semantic units, which is stipulated by the recognition of fundamental properties of the human language – anthropocentrism and systemacy and the need to take them into account as fundamental principles of its description. In this concern the attention to the problem of conceptualization and discretization of the world is becoming more aroused in the way it is represented by means of natural language; there is also a quest going for special and peculiar features of conceptualization of objects which are defined by trivial ideas of people; there are also ideas said about the variety of pictures of the world in spatial-temporal extend; there are attempts being made to describe an individual linguistic picture of an individual and “a collective linguistic personality” (U.D. Apressyan, G.A. Brutyan, A. Vezhbitskaya, U.N. Karaulov, G.A. Klimov, E.N. Krasilnikova, L.P. Kryssin, V.V. Kolesov, E.S. Kubryakova, V.I. Postovalova, B.A. Serebrennikov, N.I. Sukalenko, Z.K. Tarlanov, V.N. Teliya, A.A. Uphimtseva, E.S. Yakovleva, etc.).

There is an increase in the number of articles devoted the cognitive aspects of the language, to mechanisms of the formation of meaning related to cognitive activity of the human being – and it is natural as meaning and knowledge in ontology reveal an indissoluble connection. A significant role in this is given to the study of how namely a human being perceives and conceptualizes reality, which factors of objective and subjective orders have a conclusive importance in the formation of the picture of the world of a certain ethnos. But on the whole, as researchers mention, there is just starting to form itself a kind of cognition of conceptualization as some “through” process for various forms of cognitive activity in structuralizing knowledge in accordance with a range of characteristic syntactical and semantic norms. That is why there are insufficiently elaborated researchers which would explicit both correlation of concepts with such cognitive factors as category and presentation, image and idea as well as their mutual relation to the process of conceptualization. There is also lack of a well-elaborated system of ideas (to say nothing of the theory), process of conceptualization (3; p.3).

Issues we have touched upon in our article arise first of all due to interpretation of linguistic data proper, and still the notion of conceptualization of the world cannot be full without necessary information and beyond linguistics. That is why at the modern stage of the research of linguistic phenomena we cannot avoid mentioning an evident involvement of boundary fields of human knowledge into the circle of interests of a linguist and researcher. For the solution of topical issues which arise before modern linguistics it is urgent to discuss a number of theoretical problems, and at least a part of these issues still remains unsolved in the framework of linguistics, psycholinguistics, culturology, etc, which are studied on their own account that is as separate sciences. Thus the problem of interrelations of language and most compound categories of cognition, thinking, perception of the world and world outlook, mentality of a nation, psychology of culture without any doubt must be attributed to the category of namely such issues which must be solved in complex.

Without going into deep detail of this problem, in our article we have made an attempt to describe the problem which being in the rank of such topical directions for modern linguistics as ethnic linguistics, linguistic culturology and cognitive linguistics, it all the same remains being a problem which has not been given enough attention by linguists and researchers. We mean comparison of ways of generalizing human experience (conceptualization) which hides itself in linguistic signs, particularly in adjectives of color of various languages.

Notions about the surrounding world of a human being are formed on the basis of processes of conceptualization and categorization which have both verbal and nonverbal nature. That is why the process of cognition by the human being of the surrounding world consists in “the development of his abilities to orientate himself in the widest meaning of this word in the world of concepts, about the object of cognition as a process of building up information about them. This information concerning the topical or possible situation of things in the world… is that which we call “meaning” or “concept” (1; p.102). It is possible to understand or master concept if only we study “integral structure of organizing linguistic phenomena as a conceptual picture of the world of a language speaker” (the same source; 240). For a visual illustration of this thesis we suggest the following scheme.

The scheme given above defines natural laws of conceptual organization of meaningful spaces as a basic form of representing knowledge in a linguistic code designated in cognitive linguistics as a process of conceptualization. Summing up already existing views upon this approach, U.D. Apressyan singles out basic regulations of conceptualization of linguistic phenomena:

1. Each natural language reflects a certain way of perception and organization (=conceptualization) of the world. Meanings represented in it are assembled in a single system of viewpoints, which can be called in a way a kind of collective philosophy which is imposed as compulsory for all speakers of the language.

2. The way of reality conceptualization (view of the world) which is characteristic of a language is partially universal, and partially nationally specific, so speakers of various languages can see the world in somehow different ways, in the light of their own languages.

3. On the other hand, it is “naïve” in the sense that in many essential details it is different from the scientific picture of the world. At the same time naïve notions are not at all primitive. In many cases they are no less compound and interesting than scientific ones (1; p.350).

In the world of the language there are two kinds of conceptualization (and categorization): initial and secondary. Through initial process we can show signs and properties of the real world, and secondary ones include signs of a certain language. The process of initial conceptualization is realized in the logical basis. That is why during any variation of linguistic worlds they preserve a unity of real world and it gives an opportunity, for example, for an adequate translation from one language into another. Secondary conceptualization is stipulated of the world of language and very often its results are very difficult to explain from their logical basis.

Differences in perception and conceptualization of the world of linguistic means in various languages can turn out to be quite considerable notwithstanding their affinity. In other words, in various languages pictures of the world can have their own peculiarities. According to A.V. Kravchenko, it is stipulated by the following: “designated function of linguistic signs appears not due to any direct correlation with the outer world but due to correlation with human experience which is the basis of knowledge. Differences in experience lead to differences in knowledge, and thus to different pictures of the world. “Consequently, – the author states, – study of the linguistic picture of the world must make a start from defining types of knowledge given in language, sources and ways of representing it in linguistic forms, so it is necessary to hold a detailed study of laws ad mechanisms of linguistic categorization” (5; 61).

The way how one or another outlook of the world is represented in language is directly related to physiology and psychology of perception. Thus, on the one hand, as A.V. Kravchenko states, perception, segmentation and conceptualization of the world are reproduced in existence of universal conceptual categories which are typical of various languages. “These categories reflect that which we see” (the same source; p. 62). Here we are speaking of perception as a psycho-physiological process of “an objective nature”. At this stage of consciousness a component which forms the national linguistic view of the world is a sensory-receptive component which is responsible for perception and conceptualization of informs sense perception. Lexicalization of any of existing types of sensibilities (color, taste, sound) will conform one and the same thing: similar outer influences upon organs of sense of a human will in general be the same, will in the same way be perceived by brain at neuro-physiological level and then through the stage of categorization they will turn into national-specific concepts of perception which will be given new names in language which means they will be lexicalized. That is why in every language there is a system of specific concepts which is typical of only this certain language. Such notions reflect the way we see the world. In this way we mean a subjectified process of imposing conceptual structures upon objects and relations of reality which are being perceived at the moment. The logical-conceptual component of linguistic consciousness in a rather greater way that sensory-receptive influences the national singularity of verbalization of spatial-temporal continuum as namely it is responsible for conceptualization of discreet outer environment as a result of which the informational flow which is perceived by sensory-receptive components of consciousness turns into a combination of so-called informational condensations (or informs) which then become concepts of national linguistic consciousness as soon as they are given an adequate name. One and the same component of informational continuum can be divided by thy logical-conceptual component of various linguistic consciousnesses in quite different ways (4; p.183).

Revelation of ways of discretization and conceptualization of reality represents by itself a complex linguistic operation which demands, on the one hand, taking into account the formation of some semantic space – ideal matter, created by the human of “secondary reality”, and on the other hand – using semantic units (linguistic and speech facts) as material for defining the character and ways of representing the world through signs. The notion of ideal matter in related to the stock of meanings which appears in the result of practical and intellectual activity of subjects, emotional perception of some part of reality and which represents by itself complex social experience of people. Stocks of meanings accumulated by people in the process of cognition and mastering the world have their independent reality but in their manifestation they appear as invariably related to materiality of a different nature – with a surrounding world and sign system (6; p. 38).

While studying conceptual spheres of one or another category (spatial, time, color) which is fixed in consciousness by a word or word group, we think it necessary to understand how and why there happen changes in meanings of a certain word, the way they are interconnected and they way they form a mutual concept; if new meanings expressed by the word are occasional or natural and what influence they produce upon the concept as a whole. “In the natural language – linguists T.V. Bulygina and A.D. Shmelev write, – extra-linguistic reality represents a world borrowed from the interpretation of its people together with their attitudes to each other. And in this meaning the “ontology” of phenomena, as it is represented by the language, is defined by the way how people of this language conceptualize non-linguistic activity; on the other hand, any cobwebs are possible only on the background of a certain assigned way of linguistic conceptualization of the world” (2; p.7). That is why, developing the idea that one of the main functions of a language consists in translation of meaning which represents the basic measure of human existence and consciousness, researchers ask the same question what exactly defines the way of linguistic conceptualization.

The national image of the life of people forms first of all natural conditions, fauna and flora surrounding it. Nature stipulates the kind of labor of people (crafts and trades), customs and traditions of society. And in the process of practical reality nations work out their own moral categories in understanding the role and place of humans in the world (attitude to labor, interrelations in society, in family, ideas of good and evil, beauty, truth, etc.).

As it was shown in our research of the conceptual contents of color adjectives in the Kazakh language, in the process of conceptualization of the following categories there have been involved quite different in their essence layers of national consciousness (from subconscious to national psychology), world outlook, various types of knowledge (from mythic, sacral to domestic). Color is one of the constants of culture which cam serve as a peculiar model of its development and which can reproduce and reflect ways of formation, mastering, consolidation in cultural memory of not only common but nationally colored culturally important concepts. A lot of phenomena of culture cannot be understood without taking into consideration semantics of color. It plays one of the most important and pivotal categories of culture which registers unique information about the color of the surrounding nature, originality of the historical way of people, interactions of various ethnic traditions, peculiarities of the imagery view of the world. As an unchangeable component of culture, color becomes overgrown with a certain system of associations, semantic meanings, interpretations, and it becomes an embodiment of various moral and aesthetic values.

Color in culture is not only another objective reality of emotions, but as emotionality rich with various associations which are fixed in linguistic and social-cultural practice. Color in its “laid-up” type expresses he attitude of people to phenomena of the surrounding and own nature. It becomes a kind of substantive first element of culture due to which we can define and describe objects, social establishments, moral and aesthetic notions. Axiological aspect of color becomes evident when it “correlates with a certain subject contents as a result of stable meaningful associations which express important for people values of both biological and social essence as well as those reproduced in the form of spiritual experience”.

Per se, view of color is an unusual fanciful combination which reflects spatial-temporal, cultural, historical environment where Kazakh people and Kazakh language live and speak. That is why we find it interesting and perspective to compare and find any similarities and differences, conceptualization of basic colors, at least of two languages – Kazakh and Russian.

Thus, as we see it, there are substantial grounds to suppose that conceptualization of color in Kazakh (wider – Turkic) and Russian (Slavic) linguistic model of the world has differences which touch upon the deepest layers of consciousness and which reflect national culturally stipulated peculiarities.


1. Apressyan U.D. Integral description of language and systemic lexicography. Selected works. M.: Language of Russian Culture Press. 1995. – V. 2/ – 766 p.

2. Bulygina T.V., Shmelev A.D. Linguistic conceptualization (on the basis of Russian grammar): Pragmatics. Semantics. Lexicography. – M.: “Language of Russian Culture” School Press, 1997.

3. Conceptualization and meaning. A collection of scientific works. Novosibirsk: Science Siberian Department Press, 1990. – 238 p.

4. Kornilov O.A. Linguistiс pictures of the world as derivatives of national mentalities. M., 1999. – 341 p.

5. Kravchenko A.M. Language and perception. Cognitive aspects of linguistic categorization. Irkutsk: Irkutsk University Press, 1998. – 160 p.

6. Nalimov V.V. Spontaneity of consciousness: Probability theory of meanings and meaningful architectonics of personality. – M., 1989. – 403 p.

7. Pavilenis R.E. Problem of meaning: (Modern logical-philosophic analysis of the language). M., 1983.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010

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