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Anna Wierzbicka
Born (1938-03-10) 10 March 1938 (age 84)
Awards Prize of the Foundation for Polish Science (2010)
Dobrushin Award (2010)
Academic background
Alma mater Warsaw University
Academic work
Main interests semantics, pragmatics and cross-cultural linguistics
Notable ideas natural semantic metalanguage

Anna Wierzbicka FAHA FASSA [ˈanna vʲɛʐˈbʲitska] (born 10 March 1938 in Warsaw) is a Polish linguist who is Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University, Canberra. Brought up in Poland, she graduated from Warsaw University and emigrated to Australia in 1972, where she has lived since. With over twenty published books, many of which have been translated into foreign languages, she is a prolific writer.

Wierzbicka is known for her work in semantics, pragmatics and cross-cultural linguistics, especially for the natural semantic metalanguage and the concept of semantic primes. Her research agenda resembles Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's original "alphabet of human thought". Wierzbicka credits her colleague, linguist Andrzej Bogusławski, with reviving it in the late 1960s.


Wierzbicka was born in 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II. She received her PhD from the Institute of Literary Research, Polish Academy of Sciences in 1964 and subsequently her habilitation degree five years later. Since 1973 she has been working at ANU, from 1989 as a professor. 1988 saw her elected fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. In 1996 she was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Throughout her career she has collaborated closely with Polish researchers, and was awarded the Prize of the Foundation for Polish Science for developing the theory of the natural semantic metalanguage and discovering a set of elementary meanings common to all languages. Her work spans a number of disciplines, including anthropology, psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, and religious studies as well as linguistics.

Natural semantic metalanguage

In her 1972 book Semantic Primitives, she launched a theory of natural semantic metalanguage, a theory of language and meaning.


  • Honorary degree from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University (2004)
  • Honorary degree from Warsaw University (2006)
  • Prize of the Foundation for Polish Science (2010)
  • Dobrushin Award (2010)
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