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Akizhanova D.

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L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University, Astana, Kazakhstan


The paper provides an overview of research on cultural keywords. Application of keywords in different fields of science is analyzed and front researchers of domestic and foreign linguistics related to the problem of a keyword are named. Additionally, the author makes a hypothetical classification of keywords into universal and culture-specific; (shallow researches on this division can be seen in the works of other scholars).

The online resource Webopedia provides the following definition to the word “keyword”: "... (1) In text editing and database management systems, a keyword is an index entry that identifies a specific record or document; (2) In programming, a keyword is a word that is reserved by a program because the word has a special meaning. Keywords can be commands or parameters. Every programming language has a set of keywords that cannot be used as variable names. Keywords are sometimes called reservednames; (3) a word used by a search engine in its search for relevant Web pages." [1]

In other resources a "keyword" is defined as “informative word, having a standard lexicographical form and used for coordinate indexing" [2:14]. Thus, we can see that any text contains the keywords by which the information contained in the text is indexed and systematized. Whereas information according to Viener’s definition is a “designation of the content that we have received from the external world in the process of adapting it to us and our feelings." [3:31]. In other words, the key word bears information, and this function makes it valuable.

However, apart from this trend keywords are less relevant in other areas of science. For example, keywords in linguistics and literature are studied as a problem of the poetic text. Keywords of a text are referred to the dominant linguistic means (Yzerman L.S., Lukin V.A., Galeyeva N.L., Nikolaeva T.M., Karaulov Yu.N., Murzin L.N., Shtern A.S., etc). In the poetic idiolects, keywords are considered as indicators of author’s individual worldview peculiarities (Bayevsky V.S., Baturina E.N., Getman I.M., Koshelev A.D., Kubarev E.M., Kudashova O.I., Kuznetsov A.V., Lelis E.I., etc.). Scientists are increasingly paying attention to the hierarchy of language tools in the text: the dominant and subdominant language tools in the text.

In psycholinguistics the keywords are understood as words, a set of which reflects the core meaning of the text (Barinova I.A., Gorelov I.N., Sedov K.F., Leontiev A.A., Luria A.R., Smirnov A.A., etc).

Moreover, keywords are studied in the phonosemantic research; in this area a keyword usually means any quasi-word necessary for the experimenter to identify certain psycholinguistic realities (Krassnikova Ye.I., Valuytseva I.I., etc.).

In the theory of argumentation (in recent studies) keywords are studied as key components used to support and strengthen the approval process, i.e. accepting the standpoint by providing arguments. Providing supportive arguments "with intent to cause or strengthen empathy of the listener to uttered proposition" can show that keywords in argumentation are used as a tool for persuasion. It is safe to say that keywords play an important role in argumentation, because the decision of accepting or negating protagonist’s standpoint (premise) by the antagonist, to which all the arguments are directed in support of the standpoint, is entirely dependent on the efficiency of the use of key words [4:29]. In other words, the success in the argumentation process entirely depends on the right use of keywords. Thus, in addition to a broad function of a keyword as indexing and highlighting the main elements of the text, in the theory of argumentation keywords are the core elements of argumentation schemes.

Nowadays it is also popular to study keywords in the angle of linguo-cultural and semantic aspects of the key elements in a given national culture, including a specific moment (Wierzbicka A., Zemskaya E.A., Shmelyova T.V., etc.).

According to our hypothesis, there are universal and culture-specific keywords. Universal keywords are those words that carry the same meaning equivalent in all languages. That is, the words which bear the same connotative meanings in all languages. Wierzbicka A. calls such words as ‘semantic primes’. “All languages share a small set of 'universal concepts', which can provide a solid basis for cross-cultural understanding and for the culture-independent formulation of philosophical problems” [5:37].

“There are enormous differences in the semantic structuring of different languages and that these linguistic differences greatly influence how people think” – such words can be classified as culture-specific keywords [5:37]. Culture-specific keywords additionally to ‘universal’ meaning of a word have supplementary connotative, specific cultural sense and extra shade to a particular culture.

Polish-Australian linguist Wierzbicka A. defines keywords as "words which are particularly important and revealing in a given culture" [6:15]. For describing the culture of Russian people she highlighted such culture-specific keywords as sud'ba (roughly 'fate'), dusa (roughly 'soul'), and toska (roughly, 'melancholy-cum-yearning') xristosovat'sja, etc., and for Japanese culture - miai: “...For example, in Japan, people not only talk about "miai" (using the word miai), and practice the social ritual of miai, but also think about miai (using either the word miai or the concept associated with this word). For example, in Kazuo Ishiguro's novel (1986), the hero, Masuji Ono, thinks a great deal—in advance and in retrospect—about the miai of his younger daughter Noriko; and clearly, he thinks about it from the point of view of the conceptual category linked with the word miai (so much so that he retains this word in his English prose). Clearly, the word miai reflects not only the existence of a certain social ritual, but also a certain way of thinking about life's important events” [6:5].

For the Anglo-Saxon culture, as she calls it, Wierzbicka A. highlights such culturally specific keywords as fairness, reasonableness, homeland, etc.

Thus, we see a diverse interest in keywords, including various areas of science, the study of which makes invaluable contribution to the general study of keywords. And we can say that the keywords bear not only functional character in text or information systematizing and indexing, but also narrow specific properties that can affect the entire culture and language.


  1. What is a key word? [электронный ресурс] Режим доступа: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/K/keyword.html

  2. ГОСТ 7.74-96. СИВИД. Информационно-поисковые языки. Термины и определения. - Минск: Межгосударственный совет по стандартизации, метрологии и сертификации, 1996.

  3. Винер Н. Кибернетика и общество. -М.: Наука, 1958 [электронный ресурс]. Режим доступа: http://www.gumer.info/bibliotek_Buks/Science/viner/index.php

  4. Ивин А.А., Никифоров А.Л.. Словарь по логике. - М.: Туманит, изд. центр ВЛАДОС, 1997. - 384 с.

  5. Goddard C., Wierzbicka A. “Key words, culture and cognition”. Philosophica 55 (1995, 1) pp. 37-67

  6. Wierzbicka A. Understanding Cultures Through Their Key Words: English, Russian, Polish, German, and Japanese. -New York: OUP, 1997. – p. 317

Библиографическая ссылка

URL: http://econf.rae.ru/article/7827 (дата обращения: 19.05.2019).

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20:50, 28 ноября 2013
Отличный материал
Диана А.
09:50, 29 ноября 2013

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