Sympathy, compassion, and empathy in English and Russian: A linguistic and cultural analysis

Anna Gladkova

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29 Citations (Scopus)


In this corpus-based study I contribute to the description and analysis of linguistic and cultural variation in the conceptualization of sympathy, compassion, and empathy. On the basis of a contrastive semantic analysis of sympathy, compassion, and empathy in English and their Russian translational equivalents, sočuvstvie, sostradanie, and sopereživanie, I demonstrate significant differences in the conceptualization of these words, which I explain by reference to the prevalence of different models of social interaction in Anglo and Russian cultures, as well as different cultural attitudes towards emotional expression. As a methodology I apply the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM), which is based on empirically established lexical and grammatical universals, and argue that it is a powerful tool in contrastive studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-285
Number of pages19
JournalCulture and Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Culture
  • Emotions
  • Empathy
  • English
  • Natural Semantic Metalanguage
  • Russian
  • Sympathy

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