National stereotypes, mentalities and discourse

Anatolij Dorodnych (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

In this paper I would like to discuss questions pertaining to several perspectives on the agenda of the session on pragmatics and sociolinguistics.

First, I would like to show that national stereotypes relate to national mentality and they find a not unambiguous representation in discourse. Hence, outsiders, even if they are linguists of considerable reknown, often engage in generalizations about another nation on the basis of discourses about a certain nation originating both within and outside that nation. A good example is Wierzbicka's (1991) attempt to fathom the mentalities of speakers belonging to Polish, Russian and Australian cultures. I previously tried to show it in previous publications (see, e.g. Dorodnych 1999).

Second, asymmetry of the representation of self and other is present not only on the individual level. Judgements of groups of people about themselves are biased mostly positively while other groups are judged more critically or even negatively. At the time of conflict, one can observe a revival of old, dormant, stereotypes (of course negative) whipped up by the propaganda in the media. This also finds expression in the jokes (old and new) circulated about the 'adversary'.

Some examples will be supplied from recent conflict discourses.


Dorodnych, Anatolij, 1999. "National mentality through language: Contrasting associative networks". In: Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, Barbara (ed.), Cognitive Perspectives on Language. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 217-223.

Wierzbicka, Anna, 1991. Cross-cultural Pragmatics: The Semantics of Human Interaction. New York: Mouton.