Ethnolinguistic research has gained substantial popularity over the last two decades. A leading metaphor for the focus of these research efforts is that of the ‘linguistic picture of the world’. As large-scale comparative projects on ‘linguistic pictures of the world’ are taking shape, it might be worth reflecting on what this conceptualisation of ethnolinguistics excludes. The visual metaphor of pictures implies that speakers can step out of the world and view (and name) it from outside. Two problematic consequences of this metaphor are discussed. Firstly, the detachment of language from the world of activities of which it is part leads to the adoption of a cognitivist model of linguistic meaning as a separate stream of communication. Such a model is inconsistent with the experienced transparency of language in everyday life. Secondly, the detachment of language from life supports the use of ‘timeless’ methods, the study of words outside of their situation (if not out of their ‘context’) of use. Adopting these metaphors and methods, we might miss large parts of the significance of language for everyday life – the object of ethnoscience.
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|Published - 2008