National Identity: Conceptual models, discourses and political change. 'Britishness' in a social cognitive linguistics

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Cognitive Linguistics has demonstrated the applicability of a conceptual approach to the understanding of political issues, cf. Lakoff (2008) and many others. From a different perspective, critical discourse analysis has approached political concepts with a focus on issues involving potentially divisive features such as race, class, gender and ethnic identity. Although discourses are not identical to conceptual models, conceptual models are typically manifested in discourse, and discourses are typically reflections of conceptualizations, a theme explored e.g. in Hart and Lukes (2007). As argued in Harder (2010), however, both the analytic stance of critical discourse analysis (based on the hermeneutics of suspicion), and the cognitivist stance of Lakoff (2008) are too narrow: The understanding of political language requires a wider framework of social cognitive linguistics. Essential features of such a framework are a basis in collaborative intersubjectivity and the inclusion of causal factors in the social domain that impinge on conceptualization. This enables politically salient conceptualizations to be understood in the light of different types of input to conceptualization, rather than solely in terms of conceptual models or discourses. This is especially important in cases that involve conflictive political issues such as national and ethnic identity. The article reports on a historical project with a linguistic dimension in my department (PI Stuart Ward, cf. Ward 2004), which aims to throw light on the interplay between conceptual, geopolitical and social factors in shaping the ongoing change in the role and nature of ‘Britishness’. A key question for this article is: What are relations between conceptual models and macro-social, causal factors in shaping the intersubjective status of Britishness?
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalCognitive Linguistics Studies
Pages (from-to)22-54
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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