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A Study of «Attributive Ethnonyms» in the History of English with Special Reference to «Foodsemy»


Marcin Kudła

The author studies ethnic stereotypes in the history of English from the perspective of Cognitive Linguistics. He views an ethnic stereotype as an idealised cognitive model (ICM) which consists of a cluster of metonymic submodels (such as BODY, CUISINE, NAME, etc.). Each submodel may trigger the formation of an attributive ethnonym, which ascribes some attribute to the target group. While such terms are mostly derogatory, context plays a crucial role in their perception. The analysis proper focuses on foodsemic ethnonyms (most of which activate the submodel of CUISINE). Out of 168 items, above 50% follow the «FOODSTUFF FOR ETHNIC GROUP» or «FOODSTUFF EATER FOR ETHNIC GROUP» metonymy. Most examples come from Am.E., with Mexicans being the most frequently described target group.
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Chapter 2: Ethnic Otherness and Foodsemy


2.0 Introduction

The present chapter constitutes an attempt at providing a detailed onomasiological analysis of the linguistic manifestations of stereotypes relating to ethnic otherness in English. Thus, the guiding question is: How do (or did) native speakers of English describe a particular ethnic group?210 It is not argued here that this approach can exhaust all possible aspects of the phenomenon. It should be born in mind that there are various linguistic exponents of ethnic stereotypes, ranging from individual lexical items, to idioms and proverbs, to features of discourse.211 However, as will become evident in the course of the present chapter, an onomasiological study can contribute to a better understanding of ETHNICITY by providing valuable information on how the concept under discussion is conceptualised and expressed.

As mentioned in the introductory part of the present work, a cursory analysis of a sample of ethnic terms (Am.E. ethnonyms describing Mexicans, to be more specific) has revealed that about one-third of them are based on names of foodstuffs and thus may be classified as instances of foodsemy. Therefore, in the following sections special attention will be paid to the interface between the concepts of ETHNICITY and FOOD, both of which play a crucial role in the life of individuals and societies, yet in different ways. Specifically, section 2.1, which deals with the phenomenon of foodsemy, discusses the role of food in the lives of humans, as well as the axiological aspects of food and foodsemic terms....

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