The Trinidadian 'theory of mind': Personhood and postcolonial semantics

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In this paper, we study the cultural semantics of the personhood construct mind in Trinidadian creole. We analyze the lexical semantics of the word and explore the wider cultural meanings of the concept in contrastive comparison with the Angle concept. Our analysis demonstrates that the Angle concept is a cognitively oriented construct with a semantic configuration based on 'thinking' and 'knowing' whereas the Trinidadian mind is a moral concept configured around perceptions of 'good' and 'bad'. We further explore the Trinidadian moral discourse of bad mind and good mind, and articulate a set of cultural scripts for the cultural values linked with personhood in the Trinidadian context. Taking a postcolonial approach to the semantics of personhood, we critically engage with Angle-international discourses of the mind, exposing the conceptual strangle-hold of the colonial language (i.e., English) and its distorting semantic grip on global discourse. We argue that creole categories of values and personhood - such as the Trinidadian concept of mind - provide a new venue for critical mind studfies as well as for new studies in creole semantics and cultural diversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-193
JournalInternational Journal of Language and Culture
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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