JOPOL 2(2020)

‘Country’, ‘Land’, ‘Nation’: Key Anglo English Words for Talking and Thinking About People in Places

The importance of the words ‘country’, ‘land’ and ‘nation’, and their derivatives, in Anglophone public and political discourses is obvious. Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that without the support of words like these, discourses of nationalism, patriotism, immigration, international affairs, land rights, and post/anticolonialism would be literally impossible. This is a corpus-assisted, lexical-semantic study of the English words ‘country’, ‘land’ and ‘nation’, using the NSM technique of paraphrase in terms of simple, crosstranslatable words (Goddard & Wierzbicka 2014). It builds on Anna Wierzbicka’s (1997) seminal study of “homeland” and related concepts in European languages, as well as more recent NSM works (e.g. Bromhead 2011, 2018; Levisen & Waters 2017) that have explored ways in which discursively powerful words encapsulate historically and culturally contingent assumptions about relationships between people and places. The primary focus is on conceptual analysis, lexical polysemy, phraseology and discursive formation in mainstream Anglo English, but the study also touches on one specifically Australian phenomenon, which is the use of ‘country’ in a distinctive sense which originated in Aboriginal English, e.g. in expressions like ‘my grandfather’s country’ and ‘looking after country’. This highlights how Anglo English words can be semantically “re-purposed” in postcolonial and anti-colonial discourses.

Keywords: lexicalsemantics, NSM, ‘nation’ concept, Anglo English, Australian English, Aboriginal English