Definition of emic in US English:



  • Relating to or denoting an approach to the study or description of a particular language or culture in terms of its internal elements and their functioning rather than in terms of any existing external scheme.

    Often contrasted with etic
    • ‘This semantic field reveals an emic understanding of blindness, which involves the importance of everything visual in ancient Mediterranean culture.’
    • ‘Ethnographers commonly make a distinction between the etic and emic dimensions of the study of cultural practices, which reflects the difference between the structural and reflective dimensions of meaning.’
    • ‘This research method relies primarily on interviews and participant observation to access the emic or native perspective.’
    • ‘In ethnographic studies, the orientation of the researcher is termed etic or emic.’
    • ‘Related to the problems of anachronism and ethnocentrism is the distinction between emic and etic terms.’
    • ‘We contend that, if they had used an emic approach (subjective, phenomenological), numerous differences in fathering would likely emerge.’
    • ‘In addition, it is important to note that because each author has been either a teacher or parent at the school, we approach the study from an emic perspective.’
    • ‘The open-ended interview questions allowed people to use their own words to describe their knowledge, and particular words and expressions were often written verbatim to preserve their emic nature.’
    • ‘Some anthropologists address the problem of determining from whose perspective an observation is meaningful and against which set of standards it should be validated by calling attention to the emic or etic status of data.’
    • ‘Also included in this broad category is the field of ethno-ecology which focuses on the emic understandings of human-environmental relationships.’


1950s: abstracted from such words as phonemic (see phoneme) and systemic.