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Linguistic Manifistation of the Concept of Immigration in the English and American Press

Kirichenko Natalia Rostislavovna

PhD in Philology

Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages № 2, Irkutsk National Research Technical University

664071, Russia, g. Irkutsk, ul. Lermontova, 83

Other publications by this author








Abstract: The article aims at examining the concept of immigration in the American and English linguistic consciousness, conceptual immigration metaphors and their manifistation in the English and American press. The subject of the work is linguistic means which verbalize the above mentioned concept in the English and American linguistic consciousness. The object of the work is the concept of immigration. The analysis of the concept has been carried out in the framework of the conceptual metaphor theory. By analyzing the language material and describing metaphoric models the author has defined attitudes to immigration at the modern state of society's development. The research is based on the continuous sampling method applied to English and American press examples. Kirichenko has also used the definition analysis method. Immigration is a key concept of a modern political discourse. The content analysis of the lexeme immigration, which verbalizes the discussed concept, has been made. Three models representing the concept of immigration have been described in the article, namely anthropomorphic model, the model of nature and artifactural model. The analysis reveals that these models have negative connotation.


concept, immigration, conceptual metaphor, metaphorical model, anthropomorphic model, the model of nature, artifactural model, immigrant, definitional analysis, lexeme immigration

Introduction. In comparison with other demographic phenomena immigration is a concept which is difficult to ignore. Addressing this concept in political debates nowadays is as frequent as addressing such problems as demographic ageing or birth inclination. It goes without saying that social and political life are the main constituents of national culture. With the help of regular used lexical means a person interprets their environment, which represents the referential sphere of any communicative element. The concept of immigration in the English and American linguistic consciousness is of intrinsic interest as it denotes the phenomenon which is in the centre of modern society’s attention. It makes the mentioned concept socio-culturally important, that leads to oftentimes usage in different types of discourse connected to some extent with the problems of immigration. Thus, the aim of this article is to describe the concept of immigration in the English and American press.

The sociological researches show that people’s attitudes towards immigration and immigrants change depending on economic, political and other circumstances. Analysis undertaken by Brookings Institution researcher E.J. Dionne demonstrates that when unemployment rose, more Americans thought immigration should be cut back, and when it dropped, fewer felt that way [19]. A 2007 Gallup Poll sought to get a handle on the subject of immigration’s contribution and its benefits, they got the following results showing that forty percent of the respondents indicated immigrants had made things better, 46 percent concluded there had not been much of an effect, and only 9 percent felt they had made things worse [19]. But these changes and positive attitudes are practically not reflected in the language, as our paper shows, because the lexemes verbalizing the concept of immigration mostly couple with the words of negative semantics. It proves the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis according to which people’s ideas are determined by the language they use and they perceive. We fully agree with Michelle Lawson’s opinion who thinks that “the reader may not be consciously aware of patterns of association, but examination of keywords and how they collocate can reveal underlying semantic roles and associated ideology that is promulgated with cumulative use” [14, P. 85]. Thus, to have an independent idea of the concept of immigration it’s quite useful to be wary of the vocabulary being bandied about it.

The aim of this article is to describe some aspects of the concept of immigration in the English and American linguistic consciousness. First, let’s take into consideration the content analysis of the lexeme immigration, which verbalizes the discussed concept.

Method. The definitional analysis shows that on the conceptual level the content of the lexeme immigration is revealed through the following meanings:

1. the movement of non-native people into a country [3].

2. for a permanent living [1].

3. for many reasons, including economic, political, family re-unification, natural disaster, poverty or the wish to change one's surroundings voluntarily [1].

The given lexeme has also the semes of “immigrational (=passport) control” [3] and “a group or number of immigrants” [18, 5].

In the word-formation nest two nouns immigration and immigrant, one verb immigrate, and one adjective immigrational are registered.

The usage of the word immigration reflects social attitudes to this concept. Let’s consider the lexical compatibility of the word immigration. The following examples show that immigration is perceived as a turmoil, as a source of public disorder:

But these assumptions are flawed, and the government can solve the immigration mess as soon as it decides to do so [17].

Qualitative adjectives give the concept of immigration additional evaluative characteristics from the speaker’s point of view:

First and foremost is the danger of uncontrolled hostile immigration [10].

The negative public attitude towards immigration is revealed through the compatibility of this word with the words of negative semantics, such as fear or fearful in the next examples:

The greatest fear about immigration (legal or illegal) is the “crowding-out” effect [22].

For completely understandable reasons, people grow more fearful about immigration during periods of rising unemployment [22].

Results. The semantics of the analyzed concept is better revealed through metaphors. Having analyzed the conceptual metaphors we can distinguish the following models representing the concept of immigration.

Anthropomorphic model. In this case the speaker endues immigration with human characteristics, that is the so-called personification, the basic model of the understanding of reality. Thus, immigration is associated with human activities, for example suicide:

Uncontrolled immigration is economic suicide [12].

One of the common metaphors for immigration is that of war. Military terms are not new to describe this phenomenon. It’s evident, especially in the last years, that political and economic situation connected with immigrants is far from peaceful. Thus, military lexis (army, attack, invasion, war, fight) is quite frequent among politicians and mass-media:

Migrant wave is an invading army of young men, ready to pick up arms, warns journalist [16].

He suggests Latinos legally living in the United States take the lead in attacking illegal immigration, advocating, they point their fingers at illegals living in their communities [21].

Illegal Immigration Is Not Immigration – It’s an Invasion [11].

Toroczkai decided to start a war on illegal immigration. He wanted a fence, and the government agreed [9].

Since last year, legislators in 21 states, from New York to Alabama, have debated dozens of bills designed to deputize public employees for a new kind of immigration fight [20].

Metaphors of criminality and crime are based on the actualization of the connotative component of “threat”, “danger” and “harm”:

Illegal immigration is actually GENOCIDE [11].

Thousands of migrants streamed across the border every day as they made their way north to Austria, Germany and Scandinavia. “It was an invasion,” Laszlo Toroczkai, the mayor of Asotthalom, told The DCNF. “Illegal immigration is a crime in a normal country. It’s not a normal thing to break into a country.” [9].

The model of nature. The sources of metaphorical expansion here are the conceptual sphere of “animate life” and “inanimate world”.

Thus, in the below given example immigration is perceived as an animal. Here the model of animate life is realized:

Latino immigration is a different animal than earlier immigrant flows [21].

In the next example David Cameron associates immigration with insects:

We’ve got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life and wanting to come to Britain [2].

The model of inanimate world actualizes the associative connections which represent immigration in the image of nature. Immigration is perceived as a massive, great outpouring. The negative perception of the concept of immigration is realized through the following means:

1. flow/inflow:

But while this finding and conclusion are based on the U.S. maintaining a relatively steady flow of illegal immigrants of 250,000 to 300,000 per year from countries all over the world, the actual immigration rate is an estimated one to three million per year, mainly poor Hispanics [13].

In this paper we evaluate the stability of the determinants of immigration inflows to Switzerland in the face of changes in immigration policy [13].

2. wave:

In fact, large-scale waves of poor immigrants are devastating our country's coffers through their use of means-tested programs (government handouts), causing hardships for Americans [12].

Early immigrant waves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries came largely from European stock [22].

3. flood:

The true cost of 'cheap' labor: the costs associated with uncontrolled immigration and flooding the U.S. job market with foreign, low-wage laborers far outweigh any savings to be gained… [23].

The flood of illegal immigrants across U.S. borders enrages many native-born residents who believe that immigrants compete for jobs, unfairly draw on government benefits, and fundamentally alter the social fabric of America [22].

4. pool:

But the older the immigration pool, the more likely individuals are to be beyond their prime working years and to require expensive government health and pension benefits [22].

5. inundation

It would take a rapid inundation of immigrants and replacement of natives to change institutions in most places [7].

6. swamp

It will do nothing to avert a catastrophe that is not only causing the deaths of thousands of migrants, drowning at sea, but could splinter the Continent, fostering xenophobic nationalism, as immigration swamps individual countries [2].

Thus, words, denoting massive or destroying streams of water are frequently used to describe the movement of people from one country to another. According to Word Frequency List of American English by Mark Davies and Dee Gardne [4] the above-mentioned words have negative connotations, among them are:

* adjectives: bad, severe, heavy, massive, major, flash, widespread, extensive;

* nouns: problem, storm, damage, hurricane, risk, erosion;

* verbs: cause, prevent, occur, affect, damage, reduce, destroy, control.

Artifactural model.

People realize themselves through objects (=artifacts) that they have made. These artifacts reflect the results of human mental and physical activities. Thus, artifactural model is one of the major sources of metaphorical expansion. As it was shown above immigration is conceptualized in terms of an object, which can be visible:

Yet despite the visibility of illegal immigration in Fresno, Autry backs the local statute that prohibits cops like Farmer from reporting undocumented workers to the feds [20].

And this object has dimensional characteristics:

Similarly, the Cato report contends that past large-scale immigration of poorly educated immigrants has not hurt native workers [12].

This hesitancy continues despite the fact that even strong immigration rights advocates have admitted the adverse impact of mass immigration [15].

Immigration has its own structure with own sources, ramifications and levels:

The largest sources of immigration in recent years have been Asia, South and Central America, and Africa [22].

These projects look at the ramifications of immigration for use of government services, tax payments, health care utilization, Social Security contributions, labor force participation, wage levels, and gross domestic product [22].

Over the course of the twentieth century, the level of American immigration has fluctuated considerably depending on political and economic circumstances [22].

As it was mentioned above, people comprehend immigration as substance, which can spread:

Immigration has spread from the traditional cities to venues such as Dallas, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, and Atlanta [22].

The data we have as well as the examples given in the article by I. Dervinyte [5] show that there is a tendency to controlling immigration. The most frequent are the linguistic means as control, restrict, regulate, check, tighten, limit, impact, curb, manage, for example:

The fact that we need to regulate and limit immigration is common sense [17].

Conclusion. Thus, our research proves that most people comprehend immigration via conceptual metaphors. Our collection of passages shows that immigration is compared to a number of things. In our paper we described only three metaphorical models which highlight that all comparisons evoke negative feelings.

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