Linguoculturology is a rapidly expanding field at the interface between linguistics, cultural studies, ethnolinguistics and sociolinguistics. It deals with the “deep level” of semantics, and brings into correlation linguistic meanings and the concepts of universal and national cultures. One of the main tasks of linguoculturology is to define culturally important language units. The study of the linguistic literature shows that culture specific units are found in such groups of words as: non-equivalent lexicon, anthroponyms, mytholegemes, phraseological units, paronimia, speech formulas of etiquette, etc.
In every language there are definite lexical groups with a high culture specific potential. Our observations have shown that there are frequent correlations between stylistic and culture specific properties of language units. Therefore many phraseological units, derivatives, compound words, words differentiated according to register and genre belongings such as neologisms, archaisms, slang, jargonisms and terms are charged with cultural information. For example, American English, which is very much influenced by “consumer culture” is abundant in new terns, innovations, brand names, commercial expressions relating to various aspects of consumer industry and advertising. Of particular interest is the fact that popular literature of America is becoming “commercialized”. Many a word combinations are most illustrative of this tendency: “Marlboro man”, a “Palmolive complexion”, a “Telfon politician”, etc.
National-cultural specificity — culturally and nationally marked language units that transmit sociocultural, aesthetic, emotional and evaluative information, thus reflecting national views and vision of the world, traditions and customs, values and stereotypes. So, it is to be noted that through language units culture relevant ideas can be observed.
E.g., the proverb the last straw to break the camel's back — последняя капля, переполняющая чашу терпения: Etymology: Old English, from Latin camēlus, from Greek kamēlos, of Semitic origin; related to Arabic jamal (full version ‘It is the last straw that broke/breaks/ the camel’s back). It is obvious that the cultural value of the proverb is closely connected with the Arab bedouins’ life spending almost all their days on camels. Another modern saying borrowed from American English into the global English is “Time is money”, which reflects the strongest value of the American society — money.
So we can say that to these units belong language elements, including proverbs, describing certain cultural events, phenomena, attitudes, and containing culture specific language units and cultural concepts.
So, special mention must be made of the language units which are bearers of cultural information — linguoculturemes. Linguocultureme — is a complex, interlevel language unit, a dialectical unit of both linguistic and extralinguistic factors, the correlation between the form of a verbal sign, its semantic content and cultural sense. (Linguoculturemes can be expressed by a great variety of language forms including words, word combinations, phraseological units, stylistic devices, syntactical structures, text fragments and even the whole text. The sources of cultural information in a linguocultureme are specific for each culture: realia, outstanding people, myths, images, beliefs, customs and traditions.
Most illustrative of such linguoculturemes are:
- phraseological units:the apple of Sodom, in the arms of Morpheus, Hobson’s choice, rise from ashes, the colour bar, Smithfield bargain, the battle of the books, beauty and the beast, a bed of roses, Roman holiday, John Barleycorn, the land flowing milk and honey;
- proverbs and sayings: live not to eat, but eat to live; an Englishman’s house is his castle; a hedge between keeps friendship green; I it were not for hope, the heart woul break; never put off till tomorrow what you can today; he who would search for pearls must dive below; every dog is a lion at home; the devil is not so black as he is painted;
- aphorisms and quotations: A man can have but one life and one death//One heaven and one hell (R. Browning); An open foe may prove a curse// But a pretended friend is worse (J. Gray); All tragedies are finished by a death//All comedies are ended by a marriage (G. Byron); It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But… it is better to be good than to be ugly (O. Wilde).
These linguistic units characterized by the brevity of form and the depth of its content, reflect socio-historical, cultural experience of the people, their moral and spiritual values. Therefore they are regarded as culture relevant units, linguoculturemes, cultural models forming an essential part of the language national world picture.
So, the linguocultural approach to the problem of stylistic devices requires a new apprehension of this phenomenon, which is regarded as:
- a complex aesthetic sign which serves as a means of conveying aesthetic values to the mind of the reader;
- one of the main means of verbalizing cultural concepts including notional, emotive and evaluative components;
- a fragment of the conceptual world picture expressing certain knowledge structures;
- a cultural model manifesting elements of universal and national culture.
In conclusion it should be stressed that a literary text is the main source of cultural knowledge and information; it is imbued with multiple cultural codes of a certain nation, its mentality, lifestyle, traditions, etc.; and it is one of the most essential means of studying culture.