Lie as a communication model and concepts of lying in the Serbian language and culture

  • Ivana Bašić Institute of Ethnography SASA, Belgrade,
semiotics of lying, concepts of lying, linguistic anthropology, Sebian culture


A lie is a cultural and semiotic fact – as it exists only in the society where truthfulness is mandatory. Although lying has been negatively judged in various ethical and religious systems, under the certain circumstances, it has always been perceived even as ethical or at least permitted. In the contemporary society, together with various variants of truth, lying too has been relativised. We are witnesses, at present, of the change in the communication protocol; where lying has been permitted only in the sphere of arts and play, it begun to be permitted in the sphere of social reality. In fact, with the loss of concrete conceptions of reality and truth, blatant lies have become, according to reticent convention, permitted or have been mildly judged in the public or political discourse. The concepts of lying and the stance towards it in the Serbian language and culture have been changing with cultural and social changes. The original concept of lying in the Serbian language, as it has been the case in the majority of IE languages, was closely related to the concept of error and shortcoming as well as with a joke and shenanigans. In the conscience of general public, as it has been recorded in Serbian epic poetry and folk tales, lying has been labeled as something fantastic, a fiction, or jolly exuberance as well as witticism with positive connotations.  The research has shown that in the Serbian culture lying has a negative attribute, usually given to an archenemy or representatives of other nations, or a representative of the ruling class, or even a woman that symbolically represents a potential danger in a society with patriarchal worldview. A harmless joking lie that is told in entertainment purposes is peculiar for the members of the ‘own’ community. This concept of a liar as ’someone else’ could have roots in the Christian culture, where God is the guarantor of the truth while the archenemy (Devil) from within is the liar and the father of lies (Diablous mendax est et pater ejus.)  The concept of lying in the contemporary era has been labeled as “powerful Other” and is most commonly related with the media pictures that create a parallel and deceitful reality because of the various interests of the powerful lobby or groups (politicians, corporations, banks etc.) that are the archenemy of the populous or a helpless individual. The omnipresence of lying, and weakening of the definition of truth, in the contemporary society, leads to a paradoxical situation where the concept of lying may not exist in the future because the necessary presumption of its existence is in fact the social and communicational obligation of telling the truth.


Bodrijar, Žan. 1991. Simulakrumi i simulacija. Novi Sad: Svetovi.

Buck, Carl Darling. 1965. A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages. The University of Chicago Press.

Debor, Gi. 2003. Društvo spektakla. Porodična biblioteka br. 4,, pristupljeno 06.06. 2017. 2017.

Ditmarsch van, Hans, Jan van Eijck, Floor Sietsma and Yanjing Wang. 2012. On the Logic of Lying. In Games, Actions and Social Software, Hans van Ditmarsch (ed.), 41–72. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag Berlin.

Eco, Umberto. 1976. A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Eco, Umberto. 1984. Semiotics and Philosophy of Language. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,

Festini, H. 2012. Istina u znanosti. Filozofska istraživanja 32: 403–409.

Filipović, Vladimir (ur). 1965. Filozofijski rječnik. Zagreb: Matica Hrvatska.

Frojd, Sigmund. 1986. Budućnost jedne iluzije i drugi spisi. Zagreb: ITRO „Naprijed“.

Kembel, D. 2005. Lažljivčeva priča. Beograd: XX vek.

Koen, Moris i Ernest Nejgel. 2004. Uvod u logiku i naučni metod. Nikšić: Jasen.

Kvas, Kornelije. 2011. Istina i poetika. Novi Sad: Akademska knjiga.

Lotman, Jurij.2004. Semiosfera. Novi Sad: Svetovi.

Niče, Fridrih. 1984. Knjiga o filozofu. Beograd: Grafos.

Skok, Petar. 1971–1988. Etimologijski rječnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika (I-IV), Zagreb: JAZU.

Ten Brinke L., J.J. Lee, D.R. Carney. 2015. The Physiology of (Dis)Honesty: Does it Impact Health?. Current Opinion in Psychology 6: 177-182. COPSYC., pristupljeno 02.07. 2017.

Tolstaja S. M. 1995. Magija obmana i chuda v narodnoj kul'ture. U Logicheskij analiz jazyka: Istina i istinnost' v kul'ture i jazyke, red. Arutjunova, N. D., Rjabceva, N. K. Moskva: Institut jazykoznanija RAN.

Tolstoy, N. I. (ed.). 2004. Slavyanskie drevnosti: Etnolingvisticheskii slovar', Vol. 3. Moscow: Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya Publ.

Vuksanović, Divna. 2007. Filozofija medija. Ontologija, estetika, kritika. Beograd: Čigoja.

Weinrich, Harlad. 2005. The Linguistics of Lying and Other Essays. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.
Other Humanities and Social Sciences