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Words and MeaningsLexical Semantics Across Domains, Languages, and Cultures$
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Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199668434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199668434.001.0001

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Pain: is it a human universal?

Pain: is it a human universal?

The perspective from cross-linguistic semantics

(p.127) 6 Pain: is it a human universal?
Words and Meanings

Cliff Goddard

Anna Wierzbicka

Oxford University Press

While it may be true, in a sense, that all people can experience ‘pain’, this does not mean that they all interpret and conceptualise their experiences in the same way. This chapter explores “pain talk” in several languages (English, the Australian languages Pitjantjatjara and Warlpiri, French, Polish, and Russian), showing how subtle-but-real differences in meaning can be pinned down by using explanatory paraphrases phrased in simple universal words. A major theme of the chapter is that a better insight into semantics of pain concepts can lead to improved communication between medical professionals and their patients and clients, not only across linguistic and cultural barriers, but even within English itself.

Keywords:   pain, pain definition, medical communication, Anglocentrism, McGill Pain Questionnaire

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