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A Lexical Field Analysis of Culture-Specific Vocabulary Items in Australian English: With an Examination of Comparable Word Senses in American and British English
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
Responsible organisation
2008 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This essay presents a study of culture-specific vocabulary in Australian English (AusE) in the lexical fields of living spaces and family relations. It also examines how the senses of the chosen words used by AusE speakers correspond to comparable word senses used by British English (BrE) and American English (AmE) speakers respectively. The empirical material for the essay was collected through questionnaires filled in by native AmE, BrE and AusE speakers. 95 questionnaires were completed in total with 65 AusE, 20 BrE and 10 AmE informants taking part. Further interviews were carried out via telephone with 10 speakers from each English variety. A lexical field analysis was then carried out on the nouns apartment, flat and unit in the lexical field of living spaces and the word olds in the lexical field of family relations. These nouns are discussed in terms of sense relations, attitudinal meaning and figures of speech.

Answers from the questionnaires and interviews revealed significant differences between the informants of each English variety as regards the use and the senses of the nouns being analysed. For example, for the English translation of the Swedish word lägenhet, AmE speakers would normally use apartment, while BrE speakers would normally use flat and AusE speakers use unit. BrE and AusE speakers also use apartment as a word for a living space but associate it with higher standards of living. AusE speakers further tend to associate flat with lower standards of living. Syntagmatic sense relations also show differences as regards how the studied lexical items in the lexical field of living spaces are used in word combinations.

Words used in place of parents also showed differences among the three English varieties. The AusE speakers hardly use the word folks as much as the BrE speakers and especially not as much as the AmE speakers. The AusE speakers in this study are more likely to use olds, which is a word that demonstrates the use of mockery in Australian culture. Olds can be best understood as a figure of speech. It is a straightforward example of metonymy, but also has metaphoric and hyperbolic qualities.

Generally, this study shows how there are distinct differences between the informants of each English variety, even though all informants are native English speakers. Reasons for these differences include geographical location and cultural differences. Australians, for example, are known for their witty sense of humour.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. , 33 p.
Keyword [en]
: attitudinal meaning, Australian English, collocation, compound, culture specific vocabulary, figures of speech, hyperbole, lexical fields, meronymy, metaphor, metonymy, sense relations
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8679OAI: diva2:175196
2008-11-14, 00:00 (English)
Available from: 2009-03-19 Created: 2004-01-01 Last updated: 2009-03-19Bibliographically approved

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