On Monday 17 May, around fifty people gathered at the Menzies library for the launch of Meaning, Life and Culture: In conversation with Anna Wierzbicka. The volume is dedicated to SLLL’s Emeritus Professor Anna Wierzbicka who has been an integral part of ANU linguistics since 1973. Attendees ate cake and sipped tea while four well known ANU academics gave short speeches. James Fox (anthropology, CAP) told of gaining Russian linguist Roman Jakobson’s approval to join ANU because of Anna’s presence there. Elizabeth Minchin (classics, SLLL) traced Anna’s eventful life stories. Nicholas Evans (linguistics, CAP, CoEDL) described the volume as a large family’s lively conversation around the dinner table. Jane Simpson (linguistics, SLLL, CoEDL) highlighted Anna’s role in mentoring and encouraging women in linguistics. The editors also said a few words before Anna responded to the speakers emphasising her sources of inspirations, including her mentors in Poland and Russia and her Christian faith. We were also joined by seven of the volume’s contributors from ANU, Griffith University and University of Canberra—Avery Andrews, Cliff Goddard, Deborah Hill, Harold Koch, David Nash, Andy Pawley, and Kevin Windle. It was an occasion of great talks, warm words and delicious cake.
Meaning, Life and Culture: In conversation with Anna Wierzbicka spans 26 chapters, includes over 20 languages from around the world, and features topics from the grammar of action verbs to communicative style. The deep humanistic perspective, wide-ranging themes and interdisciplinary nature of Anna Wierzbicka’s research are reflected in the contributions. The common thread running through all chapters is the importance of meaning to the understanding of language and culture. The book is available through ANU Press either as online open access (i.e. for free!) or as hard copy on order.