Linguistic examples as carriers of socio-cultural information



Background: Illustrative material is an essential structural element of most types of linguistic texts where, depending on a nature of a text, it can fulfil various roles. Besides its linguistic functions proper, it can presumably perform other functions as well, in particular, that of a carrier of socio-cultural information. Usually assessed with regard to the former, linguistic illustrations, or examples, have never been studied from the viewpoint of the latter.

Purpose: The purpose of the author is to demonstrate the role of linguistic examples as signs that, operating in linguistic discourse, can, as a rule, additionally and purposely, convey sociocultural messages and perform various functions, in particular that of representing linguistic cultural codes, or secondary semiotic systems which are based on language, such as literature, ideology, and propaganda, and correspondingly project world views and pictures that are peculiar to such codes as well to individual languages; also, to compare roles of illustrations in similar kinds of discourse and texts differing, however, in their general sociocultural and sociopolitical background.

Results: The author demonstrates and analyzes several cases of linguistic illustration material conveying its message in linguistic texts of scholarly and methodic character; he shows how various linguistics-external factors can motivate the choice of text excerpts or even their alteration in order to adapt them to their secondary functions of socio-cultural signs. As such they can be regarded as items of a specific sign system, which in its turn provides evidence testifying to the need of a new linguistic discipline which may be termed exemplology, or theory of linguistic illustrative material. From a wider humanitarian perspective, linguistic illustrations are a rich source of factual material for the study of society’s orientations and preferences, highlighting these and providing interesting and valuable insights in society’s culture.

Key words: linguistics, illustrative material, discourse, secondary semiotic system, sign, sociocultural information, function, message, world view.

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