The Development of Dominant Concepts within the Lexical-Semantic Field BRASIL

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National identity presupposes not only geographical and political-administrative but also cultural-historical and linguistic unity. The country’s name, usually developed from an inderived toponym, can acquire the characteristics of a concept with a wider range of meanings that spreads onto neighbouring spheres and becomes ethnonym, linguonym and, furthermore, a name for a whole group of concrete and abstract notions sharing a common semantic core. As a result, one can observe the formation of a lexical-semantic field with a clear-cut core, secondary dominants, and periphery. Its development is gradual and proceeds as a kind of centrifugal movement: first comes the core and its nearest surroundings, then one can see the periphery grow and become more and more multifarious in terms of parts of speech division. The present study shows how the lexeme BRASIL, that by the time Brazil was colonized (in the first half of the 16th century) had the only meaning - ‘mahogany’, gradually became widely-used and acquired such meanings as “territory”, “indigenous people”, “indigenous language”. These meanings influenced the development of derived words sharing the meaning “related to Brazil”, “Brazilian” and “native of Brazil” - brasílico, brasiliense, brasiliano, brasílio, brasileiro (Portugese). Their use, initially almost interchangeable, became more specific with time; later some of them have become obsolete. As a result, brasileiro became secondary dominant that, alongside with BRASIL, served to widen the corresponding lexical-semantic field. The process of consolidation of the core and central dominants having considerable semantic potential coincided with the process of Brazil’s cultural emancipation from its ex-metropolis.

About the authors

Dmitry L. Gurevich

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1941-8226

Candidate of Philological Sciences (PhD), Associate-Professor, AssociateProfessor of the Department of Ibero-Romance Linguistics, Faculty of Philology

51, Leninskie Gory str., Moscow, Russian Federation, 119991


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