Cultural Linguistics Research Group

Cultural Linguistics is a multidisciplinary field of research that explores the relationship between language and cultural conceptualisations.

Resources on Cultural Linguistics


Professor Farzad Sharifian

Dr Alice Gaby

Dr Hui Huang

Dr Zhichang Xu

Associate Professor Sarah McDonald

Dr Howard Manns

Dr Gabriel Garcia Ochoa

Associate Professor Chandani Lokuge

Professor Ross Mouer

Dr Anna Gladkova

Dr Nadine Normand-Marconnet

Dr Robyn Spence-Brown

Dr Meredith Bartlett

Dr Yanying Lu

Dr Atefeh Hadi

Some current projects

Conceptualisations of life, fate, and the Universe in Khayyam’s Rubaiyat: A Cultural Linguistics perspective

Chief Investigator: Prof. Farzad Sharifian

This project explores conceptualisations (both cultural and idiosyncratic) of life, fate, and the Universe in Omar Khayyam’s Rubayiat. In particular, if focuses on the themes of life is too short; enjoy the moment; our fates are pre-destined; and the Creation is a secret (to us). For example, a particular Rubayi uses the metaphors of the Universe as a caravanserai, the Universe as a banquet, and the Universe as a palace. Rubayiat refers to mythological figures in Persian history, such as [king] Jamshid, as well as real people, such as the king, Bahram V (Bahram Gur). The life histories of these figures provide cultural schemas that are resources for many literary works in Persian. For example, Jamshid had the Jâm-e Jam, or Jâm-e Jahân namâ, a seven-ringed cup representing the seven heavens of the Universe. The cup was filled with the elixir of immortality and was used as a crystal ball in divination and allowed Jamshid to observe the Universe, including the seven heavens. Certain Rubayis (quatrains) draw on the cultural proposition schema: HUMAN FATE IS PREDESTINED AND IT IS WRITTEN ON OUR FOREHEAD. This belief dates back to the Proto-Indo Iranian religion, which existed prior to Zoroastrianism and Hinduism, before Khayyam was writing. Overall, the findings of the project reveal that the analytical framework of Cultural Linguistics provides a set of robust tools for in-depth explorations of poetry.


Project title: Improving Communication with Aboriginal English Speakers: A Study of cultural conceptualisations in Aboriginal English

Chief Investigator: Prof Farzad Sharifian

The project explores cultural conceptualisations in Aboriginal English. Often unfamiliarity with Aboriginal cultural conceptualisations on the part of non-Aboriginal people leads to miscommunication, disadvantaging Aboriginal speakers, especially in institutional contexts (for example, schoolrooms, courtrooms, Centrelink offices). The aim of this study is to alleviate such problems, and significantly advance Aboriginal English research, by exploring culturally constructed conceptualisations, in particularly cultural-conceptual metaphor, underlying the use of Aboriginal English, using the the analytical tools of Cultural Linguistics. The study will also make a significant contribution to the development of Cultural Linguistics.


Conceptualisations of PRIDE in Persian

Researchers: Marzieh Sadegh Pour

This project explores cultural conceptualizations of pride in Persian English, an emerging variety of English, from the perspective of Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017). Data for this study were collected from a number of online sources (e.g., weblogs, social media sites, and news websites) and a questionnaire. The analysis of the data revealed that L1 Persian speakers associate the English word ‘pride’ with some of the conceptualizations of qorur ‘pride/vanity’ and eftekhâr ‘pride’ in Persian. In contrast to its use in relation to others, self-reflexive qorur is predominantly negatively sanctioned as the word may be used to refer to a cultural category of emotion that is associated with the egoistic tendencies of excessive self-praise. This emotion cultural category is also conceptualised metaphorically as qorur is a fragile object.

Beyond the level of the individual, ‘pride’, usually encoded in words such as eftekhâr and qorur, is often used to refer to a positive emotion category where, for example, achievements by an individual member of the group (family, region, or country) lifts the collective face of the group, and therefore the members of the group feel proud of that individual, or refer to the positive feeling of pride that one feels due to being a member of a group due to its history, achievement, etc. like ‘national pride’ or qorur-e meli.


Address Terms in academic email communication: A study of student-to-academic staff emails in Australia.

Researcher: Dr Atefeh Hadi

address terms play a significant part in interpersonal and intercultural communication, and are closely associated with politeness norms across cultures. Previous research has revealed that the choice of address terms may be often influenced by factors such as the interlocutors’ relationship, the speakers’ intentions, the formality of the context, the topic of conversation, and social variables such as gender, age, and education. However, the influence of ‘culture’ on the choice of address terms in ‘academic emails’ has only been marginally investigated. As such, this study adopts Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017) as a framework to explore email communication in general and terms of address in particular. The study relies on naturalistic email communication as data, as well as semi-structured interviews with both students and lecturers. The email communication data is used to examine the patterns of use of address terms. The interviews explore the participants’ perceptions of the use of various address terms, their personal attitudes towards being addressed in certain ways in their capacity as academics, as well as the extent to which the practice and perceptions of address terms in academic email communications are associated with the interlocutors’ cultural conceptualisations.

Current PhD projects

Project title and description: Conceptualisations of SADNESS in Persian. (M. Bagheri)

This study explores linguistic expressions of sadness and their underlying cultural conceptualisations in Persian, using the theoretical and analytical frameworks of Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017). It is based on the premise that emotions are not universal but ‘ongoing, dynamic, and interactive processes that are socially [and culturally] constructed’ (Boiger and Mesquita 2012: 221). A variety of sources including Persian online data, narratives, and a questionnaire were utilized to address the following research questions: a) Which words, expressions, and metaphors are associated with expressing sadness in Persian?, b) Which cultural conceptualisations (schemas, categories, and metaphors) inform the verbal expressions of sadness in Persian, and c) what is the link (if there are any)_between the cultural conceptualisations of sadness and social-cultural factors, such as gender and religion? Analysis of the data have so far revealed that the verbal expressions of sadness in Persian are informed by conceptualisations which are culturally constructed. Additionally, the results demonstrated that these conceptualisations are distributed heterogeneously (Sharifian, 2011, 2017) across the individuals in the Persian speaking community. Finally, a number of socio-cultural factors such as religion, history, media, gender, and age were found to have a role in shaping the cultural conceptualisations of sadness in Persian.


Project title and description: Investigating the Transcultural Creativity of Second Generation Migrant Writers in Australia. (N. Fang)

This thesis examines the transcultural creativity (as opposed to ‘bilinguals’ creativity’ though not exclusively of) in Second Generation Migrant writing in Australia. As writers from the Inner Circle, SGMW do not seem to fit the category of writing in World Englishes even though many may be bi/multilingual or possess schemas highly saturated in their heritage cultures (though they may only speak English). Taking the theoretical frameworks of World Englishes and Cultural Linguistics, this thesis investigates the transcultural creativity of SGMW with data sourced from selected texts from Alice Pung, Benjamin Law, and Randa Abdel-Fattah. It will examine what linguistic strategies these authors use to creatively manipulate the language to depict culture-specific situations. Questionnaires and Interviews will also be employed to investigate reader responses to the transcultural creativity of the texts and the authors’ perspectives and creative processes.


Project title and description: Cultural Conceptualisations of Animals in Persian and English. (V. Nosrati)

Over the years there has been an interest in research about the cultural conceptualisations of schemas, metaphors, idioms, and symbols within different frameworks such as body organs, emotions, family, and kinship, but studies on animal expressions are few (e.g. Sharifian, 2011; Sharifian et al., 2008; Xu, 2014). Animal expressions have slowly become a significant member of the basic lexical items of many languages in the world and they have their own features and cultural conceptualisations which can result in misunderstanding in cross-cultural communication. Some of the cultural concepts of animals are the same, but most of them are different and make the vacancies between the languages. As an instance, a gutless individual may be referred as chickenhearted in English, and goat-hearted in Persian. When the meanings of words in two languages are assumed to be the same, but actually reflect different cultural patterns, it will lead to a great deal of cross-cultural misunderstanding. Because of these discrepancies, the differences and similarities of the cultural beliefs carried by the animal expressions should be taken into account. Therefore, this study is an attempt to focus closely on the identification of conceptualisations that might be specific to the culture of Persian and English language users through employing the analytical tools of Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017) to unpack the cultural conceptualisations (cultural schemas, cultural categories, and cultural metaphors) of animals in these speech communities.


Project title and description: Cultural Conceptualisations of Life and Death metaphors in Rumi’s Mathnavi. (S. Hozhabrossadat)

This study examines cultural conceptualisations of Life and Death metaphors in Mathnavi (Complete six books) using the theoretical and analytical frameworks of Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017). The study is motivated by an increasing number of Rumi readers all over the world, and specifically in Western contexts (Tompkins, 2002). Furthermore, the dearth of empirical research that addresses conceptual metaphors and their cultural roots in a literary context adds to the significance of such a study. There are four research questions in this study that look at the cultural schemas, categories, and metaphors of Life and Death. Moreover, the study seeks to find out possible external cultural influences on such conceptualisations. The study is conducted through the compilation of the corpus, identification of the metaphors, and the cultural analysis. The preliminary results of the data analysis suggested both universal and culturally-specific conceptualisations which are going to be coded for further future analysis.


Project title and description: Cultural Conceptualisations of SHAME in Persian. (S Ghazi)

The area of emotion expression and conceptualisation play important roles in cross-cultural communication. This thesis aims at unpacking the cultural conceptualisation of the emotion “shame” in Persian. Various sources of data including everyday language, literary works, and dictionaries and encyclopaedias are being used as samples to provide a set of lexical items and expressions related to the domain of “shame” in Persian. The study adopts Cultural Linguistics (Sharifian, 2011, 2017) as an analytical and theoretical framework to explore what cultural metaphors, values, and attitudes are associated with the emotion of “shame” among Persian speakers, along with an investigation on the influence that variables such as gender and religion have on its conceptualisation and expression in Persian culture.