This paper aims to explore personhood constructs of the Thai community in comparison to those of the Japanese community through heart-related terms. It attempts to take a linguistic inquiry into the historical perspective of the lexicon, as well as to compare the conceptualization of “heart” in Thai and Japanese in order to clarify the cognitive and conceptual similarities and differences in the underlying semantic structures. The framework for semantic analysis employed in this paper is the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM), a culture-free approach which provides a finite set of culture-neutral terms and grammatical patterns to avoid ethnocentrism and cultural bias within a study on foreign values. Literary samples are collected from a wide range of ancient and modern literature including lexicalized items in dictionaries, conventional phrases and idioms, as well as slang and new words in fiction and newspapers. A large number of heart/mind-related lexicons in Thai and Japanese show the similarities that are shared across the two communities, as well as the subtle cognitive and conceptual differences; for example, chai (Thai) and ki (Japanese) are relatively more dynamic and sensitive to mental / psychological changes when compared to kokoro (Japanese). They, linguistically, keep moving around, changing shape, size, color, and temperature. However, while the entities of chai and kokoro are cognitively more substantial as emotional containers of human beings, ki is treated more like the intangible energy wrapping around kokoro, and contains no intellectual element. The evidence from this study suggests that, a semantic explication of the personhood lexicalization is a practical approach to clarify the obscure entities and contribute to the understanding of the conceptuality of personhood constructs across language and culture.
|Keywords:||Personhood, Heart, Japanese, Thai, Semantic Explication, Cross-cultural Studies|
Lecturer, Department of International Studies, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia