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«Foreigners», «Ausländer», «Extranjeros»

Cultural and Linguistic Representations- Kulturelle und Linguistische Darstellungen


Edited By Mariann Larsen

The book investigates the European debate on culture and identity by pointing to those uses of language that shape the image and perception of migrants in host societies. The term ‘foreigner’ is highly sensitive to changes experienced by communities. Its meanings transcend its traditional semantic scope and lead to the discussion of notions such as nation, nationality, immigration, integration, citizenship, nationalism and multiculturalism. The words ‘foreigner’, ‘Ausländer’, ‘extranjero’ and the network of related terms are discussed from a multidisciplinary approach with the aim of identifying the core features of the concept of ‘foreignness’ in German, Spanish and English.
Dieses Buch untersucht die europäische Diskussion über Kultur und Identität. Im Zentrum steht dabei derjenige Sprachgebrauch, der das Bild und die Wahrnehmung hinsichtlich der Migranten in den Gastgeberländern prägt. Bei gesellschaftlichen Veränderungen wandelt sich auch der Gehalt des Begriffs «Ausländer». Seine Bedeutung geht über den traditionellen semantischen Rahmen hinaus und führt zur Diskussion über Konzepte wie Nation, Nationalität, Migration, Integration, Bürgerschaft, Nationalismus und Multikulturalität. Die Wörter ‚foreigner‘, ‚Ausländer‘, ‚extranjero‘ und deren semantisches Umfeld werden fachübergreifend behandelt, um die Grundmerkmale des Begriffs ‚Fremdartigkeit‘ auf Deutsch, Englisch und Spanisch zu identifizieren.
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Understanding the semantic field of “foreignness” in English: a cognitive-semantic study of the term “foreigner” and other related ones



The issue of “identity” has been a major concern in fields such as discourse analysis and intercultural studies. The perception individuals have of themselves and others has been significantly changing in the past decades as a result of the socio-cultural and economic transformation our modern society has experienced. In Europe, the blurring of national frontiers, the increase of mobility opportunities and the effects of globalization are, indeed, affecting our worldview and, consequently, the way we categorize elements from our reality.

Cognitivists such as Lakoff 1987; Cuenca/Hilferty 2000; Croft/Cruse 2004; Kristiansen/Driven 2008 among others, have evidenced the need humans have to categorize1 elements in order to understand the surrounding reality and to assign terms and referents to it. Using categories allows to activate conceptual domains2, which help to contextualise any reality perceived (Cuenca/Hilferty 2000) according to the individual’s previous encyclopaedic knowledge, thus, greatly contributing human understanding.

← 183 | 184 →The categories and conceptual domains associated to the term “foreigner” enable to classify people according to the group they belong to, i.e., those who belong to one same national group or national affiliation: “the natives”, and those who ascribe to a different nationality: “foreigners”. Nevertheless, as in all categories, boundaries are not clear-cut and some elements seem to convey the core meaning of the category, while others tend to be more peripheral and overlap with elements in other categories.

From this cognitive perspective, language is perceived not as an autonomous and independent...

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