The idea of relation between language and culture was initially put forth by V. Humboldt, who claims that language expresses “the objective reality of the nation” and “the national spirit” [Гумбольдт, 1985: 370-377]. Another scholar Levi-Strauss determines the language as “the product of the culture and its constituent” [Маслова, 2001: 26].
American anthropologist and linguist, E. Sapir, states that the language is tightly coupled with the culture and that the language is “germinated” from the culture and further reflects it [Сепир, 1993: 223]. Thus, according to the statements given, it follows that the language is the main means to store, transfer and reflect the culture. This postulate has become a substantial one to a new interdisciplinary study — linguoculturology which was formed at the turn of two independent sciences: linguistics and culturology at the last decades of the XX century.
Since linguoculturology is an independent study of the general linguistics, it has the object and the subjects of investigation. The object of the linguocultural study is the interaction of the language, which is regarded to be a “container” for culturally specific information, and the culture itself with its sets and the people, who create this culture, using the language [Маслова, 2001:35].
The subjects of the study are considered to be the language units (in any language levels: phonological, lexical, syntactical and etc.) which contain culturally specific information. Culturally specific units have been widely investigated by scholars; thus, Vorobev introduced the notion of “linguocultureme” to designate them. Linguocultureme as a complex interlevel unit combines linguistic and extralinguistic meanings.
If any word has verbal sign and semantic content, so linguocultureme as a “deep” one, beside these parameters, is accompanied by a cultural sense [Воробьев, 2006:44-45]. That is to say, linguocultureme is a nationally specific unit, which reflects the objects of culture both spiritual and material.
The sources for linguoculturemes can be regarded as follows: pieces of art; outstanding people who can be accepted as models for the whole nation; memorabilia of history and the pieces of work in social sciences: philosophy, sociology, literature etc.; quotations reflecting the specificity of a certain nation [Ibid: 56] With the reference to the source, linguoculturemes may be expressed within: non-equivalent lexicon (realia) and lacunas, mythologemes and archetypes, paroemia, stylistic devices, phraseological units, stereotypes and symbols, speech forms of etiquette [Маслова, 2001: 36-47].
Let’s analyze one of the linguoculturemes which is expressed in the form of “realia”. With the reference to the dictionary definition, realia is a culturally specific word or phrase which is often difficult, if not impossible to translate into target language. The term realia was initially brought into linguistics by E. M. Vereshchagin and V.G. Kostomarov. According to their definition, realia expresses the notions which are familiar to one culture and unfamiliar to another [Верещагин, 2005:11]. S. Vlahov and S. Florin proposed detailed classification of them [Влахов, 1980: 83-87]:
1. Geographic realia:
- Many people are spending the night in a respite centre after a tornado ripped through several streets in north-west London.[Ref: BBC NEWS]
- The pink iguana, named after its salmon-colored skin, lives only on the Wolf volcano on the island of Isabela[Ref: National Geographic News]
2. Ethnographic realia:
- A lorry driver caught steering with his knees while he ate spaghetti from a pan has been jailed for eight weeks after he admitted dangerous driving.[ Ref: BBC NEWS]
- Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.[ Ref: The Independent]
3. Political and social realia:
Gruesome evidence of medieval Japanese Samurai warriors being decapitated, so that their heads could be taken as trophies by their enemies, is being examined by Japanese and British scientists.[Ref: The Independent]
Inasmuch as linguoculturology is a relatively new study, it aims to investigate the following questions:
- What is the role of the culture in forming language concepts;
- How to organize the taxonomy of the study, which way would be more appropriate to overview the interaction of the language and culture: anthropological or anthropocentric;
- Does a native speaker competence of language and culture really exist;
- Is cultural sense realized by addresser and addressee; How does it influence the speech strategies;
- What place does cultural sense occupy in semantic content [Маслова, 2007: 30-31].
Hereby, the paradigm of modern linguistics requires a new science, which would provide “deeper” view on some of language phenomena. Such study is linguoculturology, which brings new sense in exploring the language units by investigating them from the angle of linguistics and culturology.