Cross-Cultural Linguistics for Equal Dignity

•  Thomas Clough Daffern, Director and Coordinator
Director, International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy, Wales and London, UK, now France


•  Francisco Gomes de Matos, Director and Coordinator
An Applied Peace Linguist, Recife, Brazil, E-mail, currently also a Consultant to Associação Brasil América, a Binational Center

HumanDHS is primarily grounded in academic work. We are independent of any religious or political agenda. However, we wish to bring academic work into "real life." Our research focuses on topics such as dignity (with humiliation as its violation), or, more precisely, on respect for equal dignity for all human beings in the world. This is not only our research topic, but also our core value, in line with Article 1 of the Human Rights Declaration that states that every human being is born with equal dignity (that ought not be humiliated). We agree with Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, who advocates the building of bridges from academia as follows, "I have always believed that good scholarship can be relevant and consequential for public policy. It is possible to affect public policy without being an advocate; to be passionate about peace without losing analytical rigor; to be moved by what is just while conceding that no one has a monopoly on justice." We would like to add that we believe that good scholarship can be relevant and consequential not only for public policy, but for raising awareness in general.


Please note that the entire HumanDHS website is maintained by volunteers, since its inception in 2003, and this is mainly done by Evelin Lindner. Until 2012, she usually pasted interesting news into this Links section. From July 2012 until 2017, she tagged interesting information on From 2017 onward, you see Evelin's personal list of interesting web links on Twitter:

216 ‘Untranslatable’ Words Pertaining to Well-Being, by Tim Lomas
Lomas, Tim (2016). "Towards a positive cross-cultural lexicography: Enriching our emotional landscape through 216 ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to well-being." In Journal of Positive Psychology, 11 (5). doi: 10.1080/17439760.2015.1127993
Abstract: Although much attention has been paid to culture-specific psychopathologies, there have been no comparable attempts to chart positive mental states that may be particular to certain cultures. This paper outlines the beginnings of a positive cross-cultural lexicography of ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to wellbeing, culled from across the world’s languages. A quasi-systematic search uncovered 216 such terms. Using grounded theory, these words were organised into three categories: feelings (comprising positive and complex feelings); relationships (comprising intimacy and pro-sociality); and character (comprising personal resources and spirituality). The paper has two main aims. First, it aims to provide a window onto cultural differences in constructions of wellbeing, thereby enriching our understanding of wellbeing. Second, a more ambitious aim is that this lexicon may help expand the emotional vocabulary of English speakers (and indeed speakers of all languages), and consequently enrich their experiences of wellbeing. The paper concludes by setting out a research agenda to pursue these aims further.

Takis Ioannides
Takis Ioannides kindly shared on 8th November 2014: In my humble opinion, if we assume that ego is a little creek, arrogance a second creek, fanaticism a third creek, lack of education a fourth creek, lack of social education (in Greek = 'Paideia") a fifth creek, predisposition for humiliation a sixth creek, et.c. , then, if all these creeks join their flow of waters within the human soul, a powerful river is created, sweeping the life values and the moral inhibitions, making consciousness inactive. Then human treat his fellow humans with violence and humiliation, in an effort to impose their (useless and foolish) superiority, or even, the imposition of his power.
Humility and humilitaion:
- Humility: According to the philosophical and religious consideration, humility is the culmination of spiritual fight, fights and conquers the anger, the sloth, the grudge, the falsehood, the indifference, the gluttony, the vanity, the pride, the selfishness. Thus human reaches the top. On this top human is free from his defects, and only then he will be able to distinguish "good" from "evil", and serve his fellow humans, with the maximum yield of love. At the same time, he tries to keep his acquired, otherwise, threatens to fall back into his wild instincts.
- Humiliation is the moral decline of humanity via the violence, via the debasement, via the reduction of the human personality, resulting in its degradation and destruction.
Please see also Takis Ioannides paper on Human Dignity, written on 15 July 2011.

Avoiding Unduely Ethnocentric Wishes
December 2013: Linda Hartling and Evelin Lindner had a long dialogue on ethnocentricity and how Western traditions dominate the world. To avoid undue ethnocentricity, at least to a certain extent, we try to congratulate our network members to their birthdays, since this is more or less independent from the cultural context and it also highlights our network's relationship with this particular member, rather than with a larger group. Even though, clearly, all this only works as long as a person does indeed resonate with the concept of birthday, which is not the case everywhere either. A number of our members do not know their birthdays, for instance, since there was no tradition of documenting births in the world region where they were born.
• China: Lynn King responded on 24th December 2013 to the question as to what would be a Chinese traditional festivity that would equal Western Christmas: "Solstice, just celebrated with some Taiwan friends two days ago here in Bama, China's "longevity village" where a high number of people are over 100 years old. ... We ate the sweet rice dumplings and discussed global paradigm shift from our various perspectives. To my great surprise they said they were "light workers" and as we spoke we were in complete agreement and spiritual alignment! A joy to be with Chinese spiritual warriors on Solstice and Christmas!"
On 25th December 2013, Lynn kindly added: "Actually not all Chinese celebrate birthdays. There is a tradition in China (my parent's generation, where everyone's 'birthday' is 'passed' at the next Chinese New Year after they were born. Also there is the custom still followed by some where babies are 1 year old at birth, and 2 years old at the next Chinese new year. That means if someone was born in June, lets say, they are 1 at birth and the next January Chinese New Year they will be considered '2' years old, while in the United States that same child would be considered 7 months old. Also there is a tradition that the 'big birthdays' are celebrated when someone becomes an 'elder' or 'senior' like 60, 70, 80, 90, etc. These are just the traditions I know. Among younger people, if they celebrate their birthdays at all, it is usually an invitation to a dinner at a nice restaurant, where the birthday person treats their friends, just the opposite from the United States!
The biggest festivity in China that rivals Xmas is Chinese New Year - a 1 to 3 week holiday time in January or February where everyone goes back to their hometowns to be with family and do lots of eating, giving gifts, and visiting with friends."
• India: Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra responded on 26th December 2013: Dear Evelin, In India Christmas is getting popular nowadays though it is not a major event. The government of India has announced it a public holiday, hence offices, schools, etc., are closed on Christmas. As India is very diverse, there are many festivals celebrated by people. The good thing is that people participate in festivities across religious divides. Among Hindus, the major festivals are Holi and Diwali, and perhaps Dussehra. Even among Hindus, you will find a lot of regional variations in celebrating festivals.
I want to make another observation not to counter your argument but to add another dimension to it. You mentioned that in order to avoid ethnocentrism you congratulate members on birthdays. But even on dates of birthdays there are lot of variations from religion to religion. For instance, some Hindus (I included, but not all obviously) celebrate birthdays according to Tithi (roughly translated as a day as per Hindu calender, which varies from year to year as per the positions of stars), not as per the English calender. The universe is so diverse!! 'universe is a multiverse'.
• Japan: Tohru Tada responded on 26th December 2013: From late 19th century, Japan uses the solar calendar. Before that, we used the solar-lunar calender. Now we celebrate the new year according to the solar calender.

Francisco Gomes de Matos:
One of the serious gaps in the preparation of researchers is TERMINOLOGY SCIENCE. Since we deal with concepts-terms, we should be minimally knowledgeable about the form-meaning-use of terms in our specific areas! FREQUENCY, too, is important (the DICTIONARIES OF FREQUENCY are being published, see the Frequency Dictionary of Contemporary American English, by Mark Davies and Dee Gardner, published by Routledge, 2010, and, also by the same publisher, Frequency Dictionary of Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.)

Humiliation in a Terminological Dictionary of Mundurukú, a Brazilian indigenous language
News item sent by Francisco Gomes de Matos, a peace linguist, Co-founder of the World Dignity University initiative, on 9th June 2012.
Dioney Moreira Gomes, an ethnolinguist, chair of the Graduate Program in Linguistics, University of Brasília, Brazil is nearing completion of his Dicionário Terminológico Escola Bilingue Português/Mundurukú, Mundurukú/Português: Agroecologia, Enfermagem e Magistério (Agroecology, Nursing and Teaching). That bilingual, terminological dictionary project is supported by a grant from CNPq, the National Research Council of Brazil's Ministrry of Education. In that pioneering lexicographical work, Dr. Moreira Gomes deals with the occurrence of the concept of Humiliation in the culture of that indigenous people who live in the Amazon River Basin (for details, cf. Wikipedia article on Munduruku ). The research done on humiliation in Mundurukú school contexts shows there are three lexical entries for humiliation:
1. dadaybotap (humiliation)
2. imudadadaybotap (humiliating a person)
3. jewemudadaybotap (humiliating oneself )
The dictionary will include bullying as a Portuguese language borrowing from English and will provide the Munduruku equivalents. In the culture of the Munduruku people humiliation is associated to not having respect, not having pity.
Source for this news item: Chapter "Terminologia e Educação Bilingue Pluralista e Funcional: O Dicionário Escolar Mundurukú (Tupi)," by Dioney Moreira Gomes, Universidade de Brasília. In the (forthcoming) book Português como Língua (Inter)Nacional: Faces e Interfaces, edited by Kleber Aparecido da Silva & Danúsia Torres dos Santos, Editora Pontes, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil.

When the words injustice and indignity entered written English:
Justice made itself visible in English from 1175
Injustice entered written English from 1350 (Humiliation, too!)
Dignity was born visually in English from 1150
Indignity made its written debut from 1575
- Francisco Gomes de Matos, 15th January 2011. His source: The Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 1997. Published by Random House, New York.
Mercy - 1120; Pity - 1175; Compassion -1300; Humaneness - 1500; Sympathy - 1560; Commiseration - 1585.
- Francisco Gomes de Matos, 24th March 2011.
Self-worth was coined in 1960, self-respect appeared in writing from 1650, self-regard 1585.
- Francisco Gomes de Matos, 16th July 2011.

Let's never harm
Let's never hate
Let's never hurt
Let's never humiliate!
- Francisco Gomes de Matos, 11th January 2011

Everybody let's respect
and Dignity we'll perfect
- Francisco Gomes de Matos, 7th February 2011

As the concept of EQUALITY is central to DEMOCRACY,
so the concept of  DIGNITY is central to HUMANITY.
As the concept of SOLIDARITY is central to SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY,
so the concept of HUMILITY is central to TRANQUILITY
- Francisco Gomes de Matos, 11th March 2011

The FDCAE says that DIGNITY is among the 5,000 most frequently used words in English.
•  The ADJECTIVES that cooccur with DIGNITY: human, great, personal, quiet, EQUAL, inherent
•  The VERBS most frequently used together with DIGNITY: treat, maintain, die, restore, lose, RESPECT, preserve, uphold, constitute
•  The NOUNS that collocate (hang out together with) DIGNITY: sense, RIGHT, person, honor, freedom, worth, grace, value, BEING
(Capitalization by Francisco Gomes de Matos)
- Francisco Gomes de Matos, 16th May 2011

10 Pillars of Human Knowledge by Chaim Zins
10 Pillars of Knowledge is a systematic map of human knowledge. It presents, at a glance, the structure of knowledge and the meaningful relations among the main fields. Human knowledge is composed of 10 pillars:
• Foundations
• Supernatural
• Matter and Energy
• Space and Earth
• Non-Human Organisms
• Body and Mind
• Society
• Thought and Art
• Technology
• History
This is a database of words as found in the 15 million books scanned for the Google Books project. On the website one can check how often a chosen word or phrase appears in that set of books. Here is an example for "human dignity."
- We thank Uli Spalthoff for making us aware of this project.

Google Labs
Type in a word or phrase in one of seven languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian, Chinese) and see how its usage frequency has been changing throughout the past few centuries.

The Tagalog term for "nonviolence," or alay dangal, means to "offer dignity"
- We thank Michael Nagler for making us aware of this connection! (The standardized form of Tagalog is commonly called Filipino.)

When the words injustice and indignity entered written English
Justice made itself visible in English from 1175
Injustice entered written English from 1350 (Humiliation, too!)
Dignity was born visually in English from 1150
Indignity made its written debut from 1575
- Francisco Gomes de Matos, 15th January 2011. His source: The Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 1997. Published by Random House, New York.
Mercy - 1120; Pity - 1175; Compassion -1300; Humaneness - 1500; Sympathy - 1560; Commiseration - 1585.
- Francisco Gomes de Matos, 24th March 2011.

Humiliation in Russian
Humiliation in Russian: унижение (uneejenije), or "making low" (Olga Botcharova, December 2006)

Japanese Expressions of Humiliation
Assembled by Midori Suzuki, Tokyo, 2004.

Universality of Humiliation
by Bill Templer (2006)
Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna
Bankrang village
Phitsanulok province, Thailand.

Cross-Cultural Linguistics
Thomas Clough Daffern
works on cross-cultural linguistics. His work was first published in the Muses Journal, Issue 6, 1999. Please see also Appendix 5 in Thomas Daffern's PhD thesis: Multilingual Dictionary for Multifaith and Multicultural Mediation and Education

Comparative Analysis of the Philosophies of Enlightenment
Please see here other work by Thomas Clough Daffern:
Enlightenments: Towards a Comparative Analysis of the Philosophies of Enlightenment in Buddhist, Eastern and Western Thought and the Search for a Holistic Enlightenment Suitable for the Contemporary World
Paper prepared for the SOAS Buddhist Conference for Dongguk University on Global Ecological problems and the Buddhist Perspective, February 2005

International Institute for Peace Studies and Global Philosophy
Please see here the International Institute for Peace Studies and Global Philosophy (IIPSGP) Newsletter, Summer 2005 and Summer 2006 by Thomas Clough Daffern