Anthropocentrism as a new direction of modern linguistic paradigm

Language study has been conducted in new direction in linguistic science recently. Considerable changes of priorities in studying the language concerning the anthropocentric direction of modern science, which considers the nature of the language in close connection with the human being, the anthropocentric studies are gaining more popularity in comparison with studies on structural linguistics, whose object is systematic organization of the language. Anthropocentrism (from Greek word «anthropos» – «human being», Lat. «сentrum» – «centre») is a scientific direction, its main problem is human being as a centre of the universe. In anthropocentric scientific studies human being and all the things relating to him (society, nature, culture, cognition etc.) are considered in close interrelationship with each other. Nowadays different sciences (philosophy, ecology, linguistics, logic etc.) research human being in connection with their object of research. Nevertheless it is impossible to understand all the variety and essence of human activities, their cognitive mechanisms without the language as the main instrument of human activities. That is why «the language is the main activity of human spirits, which is the basis of all other sorts of human activities. It is the power, that makes one a man» [3].

Anthropocentric direction in linguistics considers the essence of human being in close connection with the language. It is known, that the interrelationship of the language and the nature of human being started with ideas of the great German scientist, philosopher, linguist Wilhelm Humboldt, who was the founder of philosophy of the language. According to the scientist the language is believed to be the continuous process of spiritual creative works, determining the spiritual attitude of human being towards the universe. Paying particular attention to the role of the language in cognition of human being themselves, he calls the language one of the factors, that determine the spiritual and creative individuality of human being, their self-determination and inner self-development. In his linguistic-philosophic works Humboldt considers the development of the language in connection with the inner world of the human nature and he put forward a thesis, that the language and folk spirit are indissoluble, identical and are in close interrelationship, being at the same time one unity: «The language is as external manifestation of the spirit of nations: the language of a nation is its spirit, and the spirit of a nation is its language, and it is difficult to imagine something more identical» [3]. According to the scientist, in this unity folk spirit has a leading position and namely the principle of the language formation depends on the folk spirit. «We should see in the folk spirit a real determining principle and the basis identifying differences between languages, as only the spiritual strength of a nation is the most vitally important and independent basis, and the language depends on it» [3]. At the same time he expresses the opinion that the folk spirit is expressed only with the help of the language: «Among the all manifestations, by which the spirit and character of a nation come to light, only the language can express the peculiar and refined features of the spirit and character of a nation and penetrate into their innermost mysteries» [3]. The assumptions advanced by the scientist deal with the fact that the essence of human being, his spirit is based on the language, in which interpretations of the world by human being are realized, that is why the language is the way of human thinking. These postulates make up the theoretical basis of the anthropocentric paradigm and are the methodological basis for numerous scientific research.

In research works of anthropocentric character the evolution of human nature is considered in connection with their intellectual abilities, world outlook and perception of the world. According to W. Humboldt: «… the language is the compulsory prerequisite of thinking even in conditions of full isolation of human being. But the language usually develops only in the society, and human be ing understand themselves only then, when they are convinced that their words are understandable to other people…» [3]. This way in his theory W. Humboldt restores the balance between the language and thinking. The idea of the scientist about the interrelationship between the language and thinking is also being reflected in research works of Kazakhstani linguists. So according to F. Orazbaeva «… despite the fact that thinking and consciousness of human being are a complex mechanism, thoughts can’t be expressed without the language. That is why the language is the means of cognition of social objective reality and its realization in reality» (our translation – N.Е.) [4:66]. Discussing the unity of the language and thinking, the researcher shows a complex interrelationship of triad: language-thinking-cognition. I. Gerder in his article «About the age of languages» writes:

«Thanks to languages nations gradually learnt to think, and thanks to thinking they gradually learnt to talk» [5:35].

The language is not only means of communication, but also it is a peculiar key to understanding the nature of human being, the means of keeping values of a nation. Life experience of any nation gained during its long period of historic development, all that it experienced and all the things that taught it a lesson, all the knowledge gained by different circumstances, are transmitted to future generations with the help of the language. The language is means of transmitting of cultural-historic experience and that is why it identifies language speakers with their cultural tradition. The language as cultural property and means of keeping information about any nation is realized more brightly in ethnic cultural units (idioms, proverbs and saying, epithet, metaphor, metonymy, symbol, comparison etc.), that reveal historic-cultural peculiarity of a nation, its world outlook and peculiarities of perception of the world. For example, wisdom and life philosophy of the Kazakh nation is reflected in the Kazakh language, and world picture described in the Kazakh language is closely connected with ethnocognitive nature of the nation. In spite of the fact that our ancestors did not use any devices of measurement and did not measure time from sunrise to sunset with any clockwork, volume with scales, distance and length with meters, they found their own ways of measuring of time, weight, length which are characteristic for style of life and way of life of a particular epoch. At that time when there were no concepts of measurement of such periods of time as an hour, a minute, a second, as a measurement of time was used a unique beginning of different natural phenomena and actions. Е.N. Zhanpeisov in his well-known work «Ethnic cultural lexis of the Kazakh Language» expresses such a point of view concerning national units of measurement: «In the Kazakh language as in any other Turkic languages for expressing the length and distance not the objects themselves are subjected to numerical expression, but their such physical properties as length, volume, weight etc.» [6, 142]. For example, notion «second» can be expressed by different movements of body parts: қас-қағым, кірпік қаққанша, көзді ашып-жұмғанша, табан аузында, synonym of all these expressions is the adverb «very fast» and all of them have functional equivalents in the Russian language such as в мгновение ока, не успел и глазом моргнуть, только рот открыл. Nomadic way of life of the Kazakh nation influenced on the peculiar measurement of time, connected with the way of life, and in connection with it the minute and the hour had their exact measurement of time, identical to expressions бие сауым – the period of time from one till next milking of a mare, сүт пісірім, шай қайнатым, ет асым – the approximate period of time equal to the period of boiling of milk, tea and cooking meat. M.A. Zhaksybaeva writes about the originality of measurement of periods of time in Kazakh culture «There is a great number of idioms in the Kazakh language whose main function is the measurement of periods of time. Among these idioms those expressing instant moments tend to be more frequently used in speech of language speakers. Short periods of time, seconds, instant moments were expressed by the time which is spent on eye movements, eyebrows, eyelashes «көзді ашыпжұмғанша, кірпік қаққанша, қас пен көздің арасында, дем арасында». Not a long period of time equal to some minutes was expressed by idioms such as «бір шай қайнатым, бір сүт пісірім, бие сауым» [7, 81].

The nature of cultural relevant lexis, which contain information about unique style and way of life as well as values of a nation can be revealed and identified by the use of anthropocentric methods (cognitive analysis, ethnolinguistic analysis etc.). At present in linguistic science has been created anthropocentric direction, whose object is the language as the main indicator of cultural-cognitive world picture of a particular nation. The founder of this direction became the great linguist-philosopher

  1. Humboldt. Ideas of this great scientist about the unity of a nation and the language were continued in works of foreign and Russian scientists: Boduen de Kurtene, A. Potebnja, I. Gerder, G. Steintal, М. Khaideger, D. Whitney, D.U. Pauell, L. Weissgerber, F. Boas, E. Sepir, B.L. Whorf, U. Stepanov,
  2. Теlija, Е. Кubrjakova, U. Аpresjan, U. Karaulov, D. Likhatchev, V. Demjankov, М.Мinski, N. Zhinkin, I. Galperin, V. Маslova etc.

Theoretical-cognitive research of paradigm of modern linguistics is getting more actual in the context of present time and is the main condition of modern scientific research works. Anthropocentric research works based on the consideration the language as a dialectical phenomenon are directed toward the determination of influence of the language on the essence of human being, his ability of thinking and way of life and vice versa the influence of human being on the language and determination of human factor in the language. The gained experience of each nation as a means of perception of the world and understanding the real world, at present is researched with other fields of science which confirms the interdisciplinary character of modern scientific spheres: «language and cognition», «language and ethnos», «language and culture», «language and psychology». As a result of combination of two disciplines were formed new directions of linguistic science having applied character: cognitive linguistics, ethnolinguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics etc. Nowadays each of these sciences has their own scientific-disciplinary character, their own object and subject of research, metalanguage and conceptual system and categories.

In Kazakh linguistics anthropocentric approach to the study of linguistic is used in works of such well-known scientists-linguists as А. Kaidar, R. Sysdyk, М. Кopylenko, Е. Zhanpeisov, G. Smagulova, Zh. Mankeeva, N. Ualiuly, E. Suleimenova,

B. Моmynova etc. Considering language and nation as identical concepts А. Kaidar writes «If we consider nation and language as one unity and interrelated phenomena, the language can be not only as a means of communication between representatives of a particular nation, but also it can as a «witness» of spiritual, cultural heritage of a nation absorb all the variety of way of life, national originality, world outlook and perception of the world, traditions and customs, can also transmit treasure of heritage of ancestors as a priceless gift, given from one generation to the next generation» (our translation – N.Е.) [8]. As Zh.А. Маnkeeva points out, «in modern linguistics the field of research of the language as spiritual-cultural treasure of a nation is getting wider and wider, the reason being: each language is sign system, which has kept in the integrated form history of a nation, its unique culture, cognition and selectivity, character and consciousness, way of life and customs, traditions and wisdom as manifestation of life experience. That is why in Kazakh linguistics continuity and interrelationship of language and culture, namely national character and national spirit, which are depicted in the language have become basis of cognitive linguistics and are widely spread in such fields of science as linguaculturology, ethnolinguistics etc.» (our translation – N.Е.) [9].

B. Моmynova writes about anthropocentric direction in linguistics: «Аnthropocentrism brings together linguistics with other scientific spheres and fields of science, since anthropocentric direction aims at the study of the language by means of human factor and namely human being makes up the main object of research works. The study of many-sided activity of human being and its essence is not only the prerogative of linguistics, but also the object of research of other fundamental sciences, which deal with the study and understanding the human phenomenon, which is getting special topicality in the context of contemporary scientific research works. The study of linguistic phenomena in the spectrum «language and human being» presupposes the study of nature of language on the basis of anthropocentric principle as well as revealing peculiar features of this principle.

Linguistic science of last decades (end XX century – beginning XXI century) is characterized by increased interest to the research of linguistic phenomena in anthropocentric direction, which deals with cognitive mechanisms of the language. The problem of human being in the language, hat is the study of the language in one hypostasis with human being has an influence on the development of linguistics in a new direction and extending object of its research more and more. In the paradigm of modern linguistics based on anthropocentric principles, anthropocentric principles have gained great topicality and are widely spread in comparison with systematic-structural research works.

There is much continuity in modern scientific anthropocentric studies with other past linguistic research works with a new tendency and a new approach in the description of values of a nation, its world outlook and perception of the world, world of thoughts and actions as well аs psychic peculiarities in the language. If in previous studies great importance was paid to structural peculiarities of the language and its functions, in modern scientific research works much attention is paid to the human factor in

the language that is vice versa nature of the language is determined by human being as a centre of the universe. This idea is fully covered in N.W. Tschesnokova’s in dissertation «Аnthropocentric conception of works of С.N.Sergeeva-Tsenski: linguistic aspect» . She writes: «Modern linguistics is based on the anthropocentric principle, which presents the linguistic system in maximal proximity to human being» [10].

The process of globalization , which involves all the world, has an impact on the science of language in connection with other fundamental sciences and on the basis of their important and significant achievements it is taking definite measures in solution of complicated and complex scientific problems (connection of the language with cognition, consciousness, thinking, intellect, memory and psychic state). Linguistics as supportive power of the whole many-sided activity of human being determines the necessity of the study of the language and its means. The fact that the language is generated by means of interrelationship of human being with the external environment (culture, civilization, rule of the society, politics etc.) and that the language s a special phenomenon identifying the perception of human being, who the action was done by, was noticed in ancient times and it can be seen nowadays in historic-linguistic works.



  1. Моmynova B. New directions and typical relations in the language. – Аlmaty: Аrys, 2009. – 160 p.
  2. Gurevitsch P.S. Anthropocentrism as philosophic position. Philosophical anthropology. – M., 2001. – 160 p.
  3. Аlpatov V.М. Wilhelm Humboldt. In Book: History of linguistic studies. Second edition. – М., 1999. – 368 p.
  4. Оrasbaeva F. Linguistic relation. – Аlmaty: Dictionary, 2005. – 272 p.
  5. Gylyga А.V. German classical philosophy. – М., 1986. – 334 p.
  6. Zhanpeisov Е. Ethnocultural lexis of the Kazakh language. – Аlmaty: Science, 1989. – 282 p.
  7. Zhaksybaeva М.А. Ethnographic phraseologisms of the Kazakh and Russian languages. Dissertation. – Аlmaty, 1997.
  8. Kаidar A. Current problems of the Kazakh Language. – Аlmaty, 1998. – 304 p.
  9. Маnkeeva Zh.А. Cognitive fundamentals of ethnocultural concepts in the Kazakh language. –Аlmaty: Zhybek Zholy, 2008.– 354 p.
  10. Tschesnokova N.V. Anthropocentric conception of works S.N.Sergeev –Tsenskogo: linguistic aspect: Dissertation. – Таmbov, 2003.
  11. Кubrjakova Е.S. Evolution of linguistic ideas in the Second part of XX century (paradigm analysis) //Language and Science of the end of XX century: Collection of articles. – М., 1995. – P. 144–238.
Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2015
City: Almaty
Category: Philology