Minimal English: The Science Behind It

  • Cliff Goddard


This chapter explains in an accessible way the linguistic research that underpins the specifics of Minimal English, that is, research by linguists working in the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) approach into which words and grammatical patterns match across the languages of the world.


  1. Amberber, Mengistu, ed. 2007. The Language of Memory in a Cross-Linguistic Perspective. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  2. Apresjan, Jurij. 2000. Systematic Lexicography. Trans. Kevin Windle. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Aristotle. 1928. Of Definitions. Extracts from Topica Book VI, Ch 1–4. In The Works of Aristotle, ed. W.D. Ross. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Arnauld, A., and P. Nicole. 1996 [1662]. Logic or the Art of Thinking. Trans. J. Buroker. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Berlin, Brent. 1992. Ethnobiological Classification. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bogusławski, Andrzej. 1966. Semantyczne pojęcie liczebnika i jego morfologia w języku rosyjskim. Wrocław: Ossolineum.Google Scholar
  7. Boguslawski, Andrzej. 1970. On Semantic Primitives and Meaningfulness. In Sign, Language and Culture, ed. A.J. Greimas, Roman Jakobsen, and M.A. Mayenowa, 143–152. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
  8. Bromhead, Helen. 2009. The Reign of Truth and Faith: Epistemic Expressions in 16th and 17th Century English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. ———. 2011. Ethnogeographical Categories in English and Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara. Language Sciences 33 (1): 58–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. ———. 2013. Mountains, Rivers, Billabongs: Ethnogeographical Categorization in Cross-linguistic Perspective. PhD Thesis, Australian National University.Google Scholar
  11. Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary. 1991.Google Scholar
  12. Enfield, N.J., and Anna Wierzbicka, eds. 2002. The Body in Description of Emotion. Special Issue of Pragmatics and Cognition 10(1/2).Google Scholar
  13. Gladkova, Anna. 2010. Russkaja kul’turnaja semantika: ėmocii, cennosti, žiznennye ustanovki [Russian Cultural Semantics: Emotions, Values, Attitudes]. Moscow: Languages of Slavic Cultures.Google Scholar
  14. Goddard, Cliff. 1989. Issues in Natural Semantic Metalanguage. Quaderni Di Semantica 10 (1): 51–64.Google Scholar
  15. ———. 1994. Semantic Theory and Semantic Universals. In Semantic and Lexical Universals – Theory and Empirical Findings, ed. Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka, 7–30. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. ———. 1996. Semantic Analysis: A Practical Introduction. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 2001. Lexico-Semantic Universals: A Critical Overview. Linguistic Typology 5 (1): 1–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. ———. 2002a. The Search for the Shared Semantic Core of All Languages. In Meaning and Universal Grammar – Theory and Empirical Findings, Volume I, ed. Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka, 5–41. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. ———. 2002b. The On-Going Development of the NSM Research Program. In Meaning and Universal Grammar – Theory and Empirical Findings, Volume II, ed. Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka, 257–300. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  20. ———, ed. 2006. Ethnopragmatics: Understanding Discourse in Cultural Context. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  21. ———, ed. 2008. Cross-Linguistic Semantics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2009. The Conceptual Semantics of Numbers and Counting: An NSM Analysis. Functions of Language 16 (2): 193–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 2010. A Piece of Cheese, A Grain of Sand: The Semantics of Mass Nouns and Unitizers. In Kinds, Things and Stuff. Mass Terms and Generics, ed. Francis Jeffry Pelletier, 132–165. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 2011a. Semantic Analysis – A Practical Introduction. Rev. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 2011b. The Lexical Semantics of ‘Language’ (with Special Reference to ‘Words’). Language Sciences 33 (1): 40–57.Google Scholar
  26. ———. 2012. Semantic Primes, Semantic Molecules, Semantic Templates: Key Concepts in the NSM Approach to Lexical Typology. Linguistics 50 (3): 711–743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. ———, ed. 2013. Semantics and/in Social Cognition. Special Issue of Australian Journal of Linguistics 33(3).Google Scholar
  28. ———. 2016. Semantic Molecules and Their Role in NSM Lexical Definitions. Cahiers de lexicologie 2016 (4): 13–36.Google Scholar
  29. ———. In press/2017. The Future of Lexicography: NSM Perspectives. In International Handbook of Modern Lexis and Lexicography, ed. Patrick Hanks and Gilles-Maurice de Schryver. Springer.Google Scholar
  30. Goddard, Cliff, and Anna Wierzbicka, eds. 1994. Semantic and Lexical Universals – Theory and Empirical Findings. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  31. ———, eds. 2002. Meaning and Universal Grammar – Theory and Empirical Findings. 2 vols. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  32. ———, eds. 2004. Cultural Scripts. Special Issue of Intercultural Pragmatics 1(2).Google Scholar
  33. ———. 2009. Contrastive Semantics of Physical Activity Verbs: ‘Cutting’ and ‘Chopping’ in English, Polish, and Japanese. Language Sciences 31: 60–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. ———. 2014. Words and Meanings: Lexical Semantics Across Domains, Languages and Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Goddard, Cliff, and A. Wierzbicka. 2016a. ‘It’s Mine!’. Re-thinking the Conceptual Semantics of “Possession” Through NSM. Language Sciences 56: 93–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Goddard, Cliff, and Anna Wierzbicka. 2016b. Explicating the English Lexicon of “Doing” and “Happening”. Functions of Language 23 (2): 214–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Goddard, Cliff, and Zhengdao Ye, eds. 2015. “Happiness” and “Pain” Across Languages and Cultures. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  38. Goddard, Cliff, Anna Wierzbicka, and Jock Wong. 2016. “Walking” and “Running” in English and German: The Conceptual Semantics of Verbs of Human Locomotion. Review of Cognitive Linguistics 14 (2): 303–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hanks, Patrick W. 2007. General Introduction. In Lexicology: Critical Concepts in Linguistics, ed. Patrick W. Hanks, vol. I, 1–23. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Harkins, Jean, and Anna Wierzbicka, eds. 2001. Emotions in Crosslinguistic Perspective. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  41. Hill, Deborah, Gabriel Ropovono, and Matilda Matala. 2016. Tangavulu u’unu ni Longgugi [10 Longgu Stories]. University of Canberra.Google Scholar
  42. Leibniz, G. 1903. Opuscules et fragments inedits de Leibniz. Ed. Louis Couturat. Paris.Google Scholar
  43. Levisen, Carsten. 2012. Cultural Semantics and Social Cognition. A Case Study on the Danish Universe of Meaning. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lyons, John. 1977. Semantics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mel’čuk, Igor. 1989. Semantic Primitives from the Viewpoint of the Meaning-Text Linguistic Theory. Quaderni Di Semantica 10 (1): 65–102.Google Scholar
  46. ———. 2012. Semantics: From Meaning to Text. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  47. Peeters, Bert, ed. 2006. Semantic Primes and Universal Grammar: Empirical Evidence from the Romance Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  48. ———, ed. 2015. Language and Cultural Values: Adventures in Applied Ethnolinguistics, Special issue of International Journal of Language and Culture 2(2).Google Scholar
  49. ———, ed. Forthcoming/2018. Words on the Move: English Key Word Exports Captured in Minimal English. Special Issue, Multilingua.Google Scholar
  50. Sadow, Lauren. 2015. Cultural Scripts in ESL Classrooms. Paper Presented at the Annual Applied Linguistics Association Australia Conference, Adelaide.Google Scholar
  51. ———. 2016. Teaching Invisible Culture in ESL Classrooms. Paper Presented at National University of Singapore Centre for English Language Communication Symposium, Singapore.Google Scholar
  52. Steiner, George. 1992 [1975]. After Babel. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Tien, Adrian. 2015. The Semantics of Chinese Music. Analysing Selected Chinese Musical Concepts. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  54. Tully, Alex. 2016. Minimal English Paraphrasing in Language Teaching. MA Thesis, Australian National University.Google Scholar
  55. Wierzbicka, Anna. 1999. Emotions Across Languages and Cultures: Diversity and Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. ———. 1972. Semantic Primitives. Frankfurt: Athenäum.Google Scholar
  57. ———. 1980. Lingua Mentalis: The Semantics of Natural Language. Sydney: Academic.Google Scholar
  58. ———. 1985. Lexicography and Conceptual Analysis. Ann Arbor: Karoma.Google Scholar
  59. ———. 1987. English Speech Act Verbs: A Semantic Dictionary. Sydney: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  60. ———. 1989. Semantic Primitives – The Expanding Set. Quderni Di Semantica X (2): 309–332.Google Scholar
  61. ———. 1991. Semantic Complexity: Conceptual Primitives and the Principle of Substitutability. Theoretical Linguistics 17: 75–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. ———. 1992. Semantics, Culture and Cognition: Universal Human Concepts in Culture-specific Configurations. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. ———. 1996. Semantics: Primes and Universals. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  64. ———. 2001. Leibnizian Linguistics. In Perspectives on Semantics, Pragmatics, and Discourse: A Festschrift for Ferenc Kiefer, ed. I. Kenesei and R. Harnish, 229–253. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. ———. 2003. Cross-Cultural Pragmatics: The Semantics of Human Interaction. Expanded 2nd ed. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  66. ———. 2006. English: Meaning and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. ———. 2008. Why There Are No ‘Colour Universals’ in Language and Thought. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 14: 407–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. ———. 2009a. The Theory of the Mental Lexicon. HSK (Handbücher zur Sprach und Kommunikationswissenschaft. Handbook of Linguistics and Communication Science) “Slavic Languages”, 848–863. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  69. ———. 2009b. All People Eat and Drink: Does This Mean That ‘Eat’ and ‘Drink’ Are Universal Human Concepts? In The Linguistics of Eating and Drinking, ed. John Newman, 65–89. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. ———. 2010. Experience, Evidence and Sense: The Hidden Cultural Legacy of English. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. ———. 2014. Imprisoned in English: The Hazards of English as a Default Language. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  72. ———. 2015. The Idea of a ‘Spoon’: Semantics, Prehistory, and Cultural Logic. Language Sciences 47: 66–83.Google Scholar
  73. ———. 2016. Back to ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’: Overcoming the Eurocentrism of Kinship Studies Through Eight Lexical Universals. Current Anthropology 57 (4): 408–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. ———. In press. I KNOW: A Human Universal. In Epistemology for the Rest of the World, ed. Masaharu Mizumoto, Eric McCready, Jason Stanley, and Stephen Stich.Google Scholar
  75. Wong, Jock O. 2014. The Culture of Singapore English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Ye, Zhengdao. 2010. Eating and Drinking in Mandarin and Shanghainese: A Lexical-Conceptual Analysis. In ASCS09: Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science, ed. E. Christensen, E. Schier, and J. Sutton, 375–383. Sydney: Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science.Google Scholar
  77. ———, ed. 2017. The Semantics of Nouns. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Zholkovsky A. 1974 [1964]. The Vocabulary of Purposeful Activity. In Machine Translation and Applied Linguistics, ed. Ju Rozencveig, vol. I, 197–234. Frankfurt am Main: Athenion [First Published in Russian 1964].Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cliff Goddard
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Humanities, Languages and Social ScienceGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations