The pragmatics of enthusiasm: Intercultural, societal and Danish perspectives

01 Jun 2024
Conference Room

The pragmatics of enthusiasm: Intercultural, societal and Danish perspectives

The aim of this paper is to explore the “pragmatics of enthusiasm”, i.e. the language of eagerness and intensity, from an intercultural-pragmatic perspective. In the current era of multiple global crises and multiple “activisms”, the field of pragmatics needs to ask new questions (cf. Levisen and Ye, fortch.), and provide new studies on how different linguacultures conceptualize and evaluate the language of “wanting something very much”. In our study we provide (i) a general intercultural introduction to the pragmatics of enthusiasm, along with (ii) a specific case study on Danish in an intercultural context. Theoretically our study contributes to the understanding of how affective and expressive styles intersect with social organization, and society at large, and analytically, our study provides high-resolution accounts of meaning-making based on the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) approach to (inter)cultural pragmatics (Wierzbicka 1991; Goddard 2006; Levisen & Waters 2017). Our main empirical case focuses on the meaning of ildsjæl, literally ‘fire-souls’, a hard-to-translate concept which is important in Danish discourse social organization and the dynamics between individual engagement and collective action. Our analysis draws on data from the project “Danish in the Making”, which is an ongoing Danish research project in the field of Intercultural Pragmatics. From the vantage point of Danish-specific concepts related to “enthusiasm”, our paper opens new perspectives and connections to the language and sociality of action-orientated groups and the individuals they consist of, and in doing so, the paper bridges intercultural and societal aspects of pragmatics.


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Levisen, C. & S. Waters (eds.) (2017). Cultural Keywords in Discourse. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Levisen, C. & Z. Ye (eds.). (Forthc.). The Cultural Pragmatics of Danger. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Wierzbicka, A. (1991). Cross-Cultural Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.