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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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In 1493 Nuremberg saw the publication of a book authored by a German humanist named Hartmann Schedel (1493). The book, known as Liber Chronicarum, or the Nuremberg Chronicle, offers a description of the history of the world from its creation to the ‘present day’. It also includes a geographical account of the known world (with a focus on central Europe), accompanied by woodcut illustrations of cities and provinces, ranging from England and Portugal to Lithuania and Turkey. Interestingly, the chronicle – in its totality – provides a description of the unknown world as well. In particular, two of its folios are devoted to human-like creatures inhabiting distant lands, such as India, Scythia, Libya, Ethiopia and [sic] Sicily. Among the twenty one types described in the chronicle some are without a nose or head, others have a single eye or foot, yet others have four eyes or six arms (see Figure 0.1). There are also figures with a dog’s head, horse’s legs or reversed feet, and many other peculiarities. Although we cannot state with certainty to what extent Schedel and his readers believed in the existence of the above-mentioned menagerie,1 the mere fact that the author of Liber Chronicarum saw it fit to include the account in his book illustrates the feeling of curiosity or even fascination that ‘the unknown’ has always inspired in humans. In this case, we might argue, the feeling was strengthened by the fact that the object of description were other people. Obviously, to say that...

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