What makes a good life? A cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspective

Anna Wierzbicka*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    The question of 'what makes a good life' is loaded with cultural assumptions. It sounds simple and natural in English but is not translatable into most other languages. This paper argues that to connect this question with universal human concerns we need to examine the question itself, and it offers a methodology for doing so. This methodology (NSM; from natural semantic metalanguage), developed and perfected within linguistics, relies on a set of universal human concepts, discovered through empirical cross-linguistic research. It offers a simple, universal mini-language which allows the researchers to think and talk about psychological and philosophical issues in a new conceptual space. This paper shows that this methodology can help to free 'positive psychology' from Anglocentric biases and assumptions and to look at questions such as 'what makes a good life?' from a universal, language- and culture-independent perspective.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)260-272
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
    Issue number4 SPEC. ISS.
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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