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A View on Worldview
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

I received an email from a reader asking about the term worldview, which we deal with extensively on the website.  Why is this one word instead of two?

To understand the history and development of this term and the concept it represents, I would suggest the book Worldview:  The History of a Concept, a study of the history and usage of the technical term "worldview."  The word worldview has a history of about 50 years technical use across academic disciplines internationally.  It is a key word in my discipline of anthropological linguistics and cross-cultural communication.  But much of my focus and the practical implications from worldview concepts are interdisciplinary.

The term worldview refers to a critical characteristic inherent in cultural identity and social cohesion.  On occasion one does still find the concept referred to in the two-word term world view.  This is uncommon, in my experience.  There maybe some contexts I am unaware of that prefer to retain the double concept indicated by the double word.

The less common term "world view" would refer to something different.  I don't see this phrase much, if at all, in the current literature.  I would think the word "view" in this phrase would be similar to "viewpoint."  That is not what we mean by cultural worldview.  I define and detail what is entailed in the concept and practical components of a cultural worldview.  (See What is Worldview?)

In this context, the concept seemingly intended by the older two-word term "world view" has been replaced by the set of terms using the word global.  In international business and political studies, the term "globalization" has become popular for carrying the concept of a global view, and the growing interconnection of all peoples and nations of the globe over the last 50 years.  Interestingly, under the influence of the term worldview from cultural studies, I have even seen a current trend to use the single form for the more general simple meaning of "global perpective".

Hundreds of books have been written on the topic of cultural worldview and literally thousands of individuals in various disciplines reference or focus on the term in their study of the related cultural dynamics.  Besides anthropological and related studies of peoples and ethnicity, which is where I primarily focus, the term is heard in sociological studies, but I especially see it in the business arena in regard to cross-cultural dynamics in business communication and training.  The term comprehends a core concept in basic Communication Theory.  I have in fact used Communication Theory in my courses as one strong model for understanding what is involved in worldviews.

In early years of its use, the term "Worldview" as used in the social and communication disciplines was written as two words sometimes.  More commonly the term was hyphenated in earlier years.  In fact in looking back over my early writings on the topic from the early 80s, I find that the hyphenated form is what commonly appears.  When this was the commonly-used form, this appeared in my general cultural surveys and profiles or training materials.  But for years, I have followed the "industry standard" of using the single word worldview for this shared mental concept of reality within a defined social or ethnic community.

Its usage is comparable to the term interdisciplinary which I used earlier.  You will often see this word as a single word, but will occasionaly still see it written with a hyphen:  inter-disciplinary.  The trend in word development and writing style in the English language indicates that the hyphenated form will gradually drop fully out of use.

Germanic Streamlining
The hyphenated form world-view became widely known, and as the term gained more general usage, and as the concept came into greater focus for more disciplines, the preferred form came to be the single word worldview.  This follows the normal pattern of new-concept references in the English language but especially in technical terms that then take on a meaning and grow to common popular use.  This is actually an ancient Germanic pattern common to all the Germanic languages.  The original German term that was translated world-view or worldview (and occasionally as world view) was the single word Weltanschauung.

You can reference many of the readings in my Reading Lists for some examples of other writers who address the term and dynamic of cultural worldview.  You can also check my book reviews for various books that deal with the concept and the term.  I have extensive links on most of my resources to other sources related to the investigation of ethnic worldviews.  Many of the almost 700 articles and essays on my resource site deal with cultural worldview.

I have been involved in worldview investigation training, studies of ethnic histories, writing of people profiles and other activities involving cultural worldview for about 35 years.  I have been active primarily in North America and Africa, but also in European venues, but within a working worldwide network involving academics and active professionals in various categories of cross-cultural communication and multi-cultural living.

These comments present only a simple focus on the term worldview.

Also related:
[Menu] Cognitive and Social Culture
[review] Cultural Insights in World Migration
[TXT] Language as Worldview Window
[TXT] Questionnaire For World-View Analysis
[review] A Review of Worldview:  The History of a Concept
[Menu] What is Worldview?

Also view related PowerPoint Presentations:
[PowerPoint Presentation] What is Worldview
[PowerPoint Presentation] Worldview Contrast Chart

Related on the Internet:
Worldview – Wikipedia
Worldviews–An Introduction – project WORLDVIEW
Worldview (International Perspectives)


First written in an email exchange 2 November 2009
Developed into an article for Thoughts and Resources 3 November 2009

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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