Ming Zhao
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To study the laws of semantics and their deep evolutionary causes is to explore how and why semantics change. The traditional study of semantics mainly deals with the internal mechanisms of language. However, research on the cultural motivation for such change is still limited. The complexity of semantics stems from individual developmental diversity and only by examining cultural contexts can new trends and the deep laws of semantic development be discovered. The lexical-semantic system of a language is closely related to a speech community’s cultural identity, and semantics serve as the living fossils of culture in a language’s lexical system.

This book aims to fuse lexical semantics and cultural linguistics to systematically examine the influence of a speech community’s culture on the lexical semantics of its language. This is an attempt to systematically construct the discipline of Chinese lexical cultural semantics. Cultural semantics is a discipline that studies cultural phenomena in semantics and semantic phenomena in culture and the relationship between semantics and culture. Cultural semantics is also an important branch of cultural linguistics and is often associated with a people’s politics, history, geography, religious beliefs, and customs. Cultural semantics concerns the conceptual meaning of words and unique cultural meanings in concepts common to most languages. Without an understanding of a specific cultural background, it is difficult to understand the meaning of words from that culture. Understanding cultural semantics does not rely on general intelligence but requires a deep understanding of the intricacies of a particular culture. That is to say, the manifestations of cultural semantics created on the basis of national culture cannot be explained by simple metaphor and metonymy. The cognition of words laden with cultural semantics must be understood as relying on speakers’ specific shared cultural background. Unique cultural metaphors and cultural metonymic constructions play essential roles in forming word meaning.

The study of cultural semantics is based on the understanding of cognitive processes such as “conceptual gap,” “cultural metaphor,” and “cultural metonymy.” These three terms epitomize the relationship between language, culture, and cognition from the lexicon perspective. This book focuses on semantic changes brought about by social and cultural backgrounds and draws on analytical approaches and research methods from cultural linguistics, anthropological linguistics, comparative linguistics, and other disciplines.

Cultural semantics in the Chinese lexicon is a crucial subject that has been largely neglected by Chinese linguistics. This book provides a coherent analysis of lexical semantics and cultural linguistics that could be helpful in understanding cultural semantics that is significant in the fields of both general and applied linguistics.