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Evolving Nature of the English Language

Studies in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

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Edited By Robert Kiełtyka and Agnieszka Uberman

This volume presents a collection of interdisciplinary papers pertaining to the most thought-provoking problems in the areas of both theoretical and applied linguistics. The contributors focus on contemporary developments in morphological, semantic and pragmatic theorizing. The contributions are also devoted to various aspects of the methodology of teaching English as well as some intricacies of translation.

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On Dagos, Limeys and Yankees: Semantic Evolution of Attributive Ethnonyms (Marcin Kudła)

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Marcin Kudła

On Dagos, Limeys and Yankees: Semantic Evolution of Attributive Ethnonyms

Abstract: The present paper focuses on the phenomenon of attributive ethnonyms, that is, ethnic terms which ascribe a particular characteristic to the target group. Such terms may be based on various submodels of the idealised cognitive model (cf. Lakoff 1987) – or stereotype – of ETHNICITY. For example, in different points of history native speakers of English have referred to the French as wooden shoes, oui-oui and frog-eaters, alluding to the submodels of CLOTHING, LANGUAGE and CUISINE, respectively. Interestingly, while many terms have been relatively stable in terms of their meaning, others evolved with time and came to denote a different target group than in their early days. As the examples of limey, Dago and Yankee show, in some cases attributive ethnonyms followed quite unexpected paths of semantic change.

Keywords: attributive ethnonym, categorial zooming, idealised cognitive model, semantic change, stereotype

Introduction

Ethnicity is one of the basic dimensions along which human beings perceive and cut up the surrounding world. As Hutchinson and Smith (1996, 3) put it, “though the term ethnicity is recent, the sense of kinship, group solidarity, and common culture to which it refers is as old as historical record.” In the process of ethnic categorisation the social landscape is divided into “us” (the in-group) and “them” (out-groups). The resulting picture is by no means symmetrical, not only in terms of size – the former...

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