Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. April 2006

13.1. Migration als Faktor sozio-kultureller Innovationen
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The Notion of Migration: On Its Reflection in the Mind of an English Native Speaker

M. G. V. Belau (Tambov, Federation of Russia)



Das Ziel der Wissenschaft ist nicht der unendlichen Weisheit eine T ür zu öffnen, sondern eine Grenze zu setzen dem unendlichen Irrtum...

B. Brecht(1)


Migration is a rather complicated phenomenon that has been going on in society as part of society’s own development. By the use of a conceptual analysis - which is, perhaps, the key method of Cognitive Linguistics - it becomes clear that migration is none other than the physical or mental process of somebody’s or something’s move. Analyzing the concept of "MIGRATION" and then its conceptual characteristics, it becomes obvious as well that for native speakers of English the essence of migration consists of: a) somebody’s or something’s physical move from one geographical and social environment to another; and b) the mental move of such things as cultural wealth, customs and traditions, modes of life and ways of thinking. In addition, it must be said that migration causes different changes in the cultural, social and political life of society. It should be noted that these changes too are conceptualized by the mind as physical or mental processes of moving in a different direction. It means that migration could cause both innovations and a certain regression as well.

This paper deals with the notion of migration via its conceptual analysis and ways of its representation in Modern English.

Migration is a rather complicated phenomenon that has been going on in society as part of society’s own development. A great number of well-known writers, such as A. Kuprin, V. Nabokov, A. Solzhenitsyn, R. Kipling, A. Seghers, B. Brecht, and Ch. Conrad for various reasons left their homes and gave their talent to other countries and cultures, filling them with new features. It is true that nowadays migration reflects the reality of globalization. During this epoch of open dialogue, many contacts are being made between people of different nationalities and cultures all over the world. In education and science, for instance, this is represented through a system of international grants, interchange programs and a great variety of symposia such as "The Unifying Aspects of Culture" or "The Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies" organized by INST. Many people in the twenty-first century choose to study, work, or live for a time outside their homes; thousands of people spend periods of time overseas before coming back again.

Society’s attitude toward migration and, especially, toward migrants has been ambivalent. Alongside those who consider that a country needs migration - as soon as migrants make a valuable contribution to the economy and culture, enrich it financially, promote international dialogue between nations and mentalities - there are points of view which draw attention to the pernicious influence of migration on society that leads to loss of national identity, the so-called ‘brain drain’, and economic crisis. Certainly, any opinion could be discussed. The British newspaper "The Sunday Telegraph", quoting an official English source, suggests that Britain needs a certain amount of immigrants but that numbers should be controlled. In fact, the population of England has topped 50 million and that of the UK has probably risen above 60 million, so immigration has added 1.2 million in seven years.

: People [omit who were] born overseas make up 7.53% of the UK population [The Guardian - 07/10/2005].

What forces people to move to other countries? Is it true that migrants have a huge influence upon a country? Do modes of life and ways of thinking change much under the influence of migration? What is the role of migration in socio-cultural innovations?

This research aims to answer these questions about the role of global migration in social and cultural innovations in society. We believe it would be more enlightening to study the problem, which seems to be sociological at first, by the use of conceptual analysis, perhaps, the key method of Cognitive Linguistics. The aim is to show that language is a system that collects and transfers information and knowledge in forms of categories and concepts. Obviously a migrant is a speaker of a certain language, which is involved in the process of migration as well. Speaking about the influence of this process on culture and community, it is necessary to conceptualize the phenomenon of migration as perceived by an English native speaker, and to touch upon the problem of verbalization of the concept of "migration" in modern English literature and the media.

The process of migration - derived from Latin (< migratio) - is associated with change of a residence. Migration is classified as: a) irrevocable (a complete change of a residence); b) temporary (resettlement for a rather long, but restricted period); c) seasonal (according to seasons). In addition there is an external - immigration and emigration - and internal migration when people travel inside their country, for example, from villages or towns to big cities and vice versa. Another type of migration is the so-called oscillating migration, which covers some regular trips of people to areas where they work or study. In addition, the movement or migration of animals and birds should be mentioned. Migration, in short, is none other than the physical or mental process of somebody’s or something’s transference.

Information acquired by physical, social and cultural experience is kept in mind as a number of concepts. Having analyzed a great number of definitions of the term "concept", it is possible to define "concept" as a complex of associations arising in the mind of a speaker. Thus, the process of migration is conceptualized in the consciousness of an English native speaker as a concept "migration". Taking into account the complicated structure of any concept, together with the fact that it can represent the conceptual frame, which includes some other concepts, we suppose that "migration" can be regarded as a brick of a frame structure "move". Besides the concept "migration" covers many characteristics that can be otherwise seen as components or conceptual tags, which will allow us to uncover the essence of the process of migration.

In modern English any transference is mainly represented by means of a verb of motion. That is why in the research the verbal unities among them: "migrate", "move", "go", "shift", " tour", "come", "journey", "travel" are particularly taken into account. This list could be supplemented by some other verbs, which are synonymous with the verb "to migrate": "advance", "arrive", "bolt", "career", "change", "climb", "dart", "develop", "escape", "flee", "flock", "fly", "herd", "improve", "innovate", "leave", "progress", "roam", "rove", "run", "south", "speed", "stroll", "transit", "transfer", "vest" " wander".

Many verbs, for example "flock" or "south", include some special "semantic components", underlining the type of migration. It confirms the idea of American linguist L. Talmy, that in a sentence describing some motion, the main verb expresses the process itself, the way of shifting, and also the reason of it.

: Hundreds of British people with hearing problems are flocking to Denmark where they can have a short holiday and be fitted with the latest technology for a fraction of the price they would have to pay in this country [The Sunday Telegraph - 04/11/2001, p. 11].

From the meaning of the verb "flock" we can learn about the direction of this temporary resettlement and about its characteristic, that is, the movement of groups of people. Also the sentence quoted reveals one of many reasons for migration, which is the possibility of obtaining a service or satisfying a need in the foreign country.

The analysis of these words' definitions, which are given in the dictionaries of the English Language [Hornby, 1998; BBC English Dictionary, 1992], makes it possible to list the components of the concept "migration".

These are the components:

  1. Resettlement from one geographical area to another:
    1. Resettlement of animals or birds from one climatic zone to another;
    2. Resettlement of a person or group of people for living in another geographical area;
    3. Temporary resettlement of a person or group of people to another geographical area for work or study;
    4. Search for political asylum;
    5. . Change of living conditions;
    6. . Search for new opportunities and perspectives.
  2. Socio-cultural changes and innovations in society:
    1. Various changes in the cultural, social and political life of society
    2. Move of the national language from one cultural environment to another;
    3. Move of cultural wealth, customs and traditions, modes of life and ways of thinking.
    4. Development of international and intercultural dialogue;
    5. Coexisting of various cultural traditions and mentalities;
    6. . Building of a united European society and globalizatio

The analysis of all these allows us to reveal the main characteristic of the concept "migration" that is - a move which can be considered a physical or mental process. Such a sequence of characteristics is not accidental. The first group of conceptual components is nuclear. It consists of those that can be described as concrete. The periphery is occupied by the abstract characteristics, which derive from the nuclear and reflect some special notions. It is necessary to note that the nuclear components characterize physical processes, while the periphery illustrates mental processes (which means the object moves mentally).

Analyzing the first group of components - resettlement from one geographical area to another - it becomes clear that the process of migration, first of all, is represented as the deliberate change of a residence of people, animals and birds. Probably, the original use of such definitions as migrant and migration were applied only to flora and fauna.

: They <a monstrous, grunting tide of wildebeest> are moving down from the Moru Kopjes <...>The wildebeest are not the only migrants. Moving with them are troops of zebras <...> and herds of eland with heavy dewlaps that swing with their cantering gait. And migrant birds <...> from the roofs of Spain and Portugal <...> [The Sunday Telegraph - 06/08/2005]

: Up here reindeer are plentiful and the numbers roaming the barren Mager ø ya landscape increase each summer when thousands migrate from eastern Norway, close to the Finnish border [The Sunday Telegraph - 06/09/2005].

: Every autumn more than a million dunlins, knots, and Brent geese arrive from the Arctic to overwinter at coastal salt marshes, estuaries and other wetlands of Britain...[The Independent - 04/11/2001, p. 12]

Later on, as a result of metaphorical and metonymical transference the term "migration" acquired a new meaning referring to the resettlement of people.

: Normally, all EU nationals are free to move anywhere in the Union to look for work and settle [The Sunday Telegraph - 24/08/2005].

Like animals, people tend towards more favourable conditions of life. So, one of main reasons people migrate is in search of high-paying jobs and opportunities to improve their living standard. This factor is one of the peripheral tags of the concept "migration".

: Nearly a quarter of a million workers from the east European countries that joined the EU in 2004 have arrived to work in Britain over the past year[The Sunday Telegraph - 24/08/2005].

Resettlement of people with the purpose of employment in other country is typical for migrants representing various trades: workers, teachers, servants, men of art and science, and the representatives of the sports world. Well-known football players migrate to different countries of all over the world, signing new contracts.

: Crespo says he received no help or guidance from Chelsea when he arrived in England... [The Sunday Telegraph - 07/08/2005]

: After playing in the European youth championship in Israel in 2000, where Russia reachedthe quarterfinals, Sychev moved to 2 nd division side Spartak Tambov [BBC Sport - 15/04/2002].

It goes without saying that such moves of people require social, cultural and economic reorganization. The influx of the large number of workers from Poland, Lithuania and other countries has had a positive impact on the economy of Britain. It has provoked the formation of a new term in the English language, economic migration.

Alongside economic migration there is another subtype, called skilled migration. The basic criteria for skilled migration into the United Kingdom, for instance, are that you have to be under 45 years of age, have a designated skill, speak reasonable English, and have recent and relevant work experience. The foreign employer is interested in the qualified immigrant worker. Before going overseas a migrant has to take a special examination. According to British media a million Brits left home for Australia and also for Canada that expects the people they recruit to make major contribution to business.

: Australia is aiming to increase the size of its skilled migra programme by 20,000 places [The Observer - 25/08/2005].

: Due to growth in the Canadian economy and a shortage of skilled workers the Canadian Government seeks skilled workers to live and work in Canada [The Sunday Times - 11/10/2005].

Another important component of the concept "migration" is a search of a political asylum in the foreign country. Political systems, heterodoxy, instability and crisis of authority, and the restriction of human rights are the major factors of politic migration. Among political migrants are many scientists, public benefactors, men of art, and public figures. This category of migrants also includes refugees from the developing countries or the countries that are at war.

: Mohammed Ali Karim was five years old when he came to Britain from Karachi in 1953 with his father [The Independent - 04/11/2001, p. 19].

This brings us to some other components of the notion of migration - the coexistence of various cultures and mentalities, and the intercultural dialogue. A native of Pakistan, who has been living in Birmingham from an early age, considers that home is where you have been brought up, where you played cricket in the street. He says that England is his home; he always misses the country whenever he goes abroad. Of course, a migrant could be very much English in the way he behaves and speaks. But at the same time there is a great difference between the two cultures.

Special attention should be paid to the problem of innovations in language under the influence of migration. Language, according to S. Johnson, is a dress of thought. Language is an instrument of international dialogue; it transfers knowledge from one generation to the next, from one nationality to another. It comes as no surprise that intercultural communication and coexistence of mentalities are impossible without language, which reflects the characteristic traits of a nation. Innovations in language are an integral part of the notion "migration". Language is deeply imbedded in this process. It migrates together with its speaker and pulls a huge mass of culture, customs, traditions, and national wealth behind itself. The peripheral component illustrates the mental process when imagined objects mentally change their place. These objects are the English words that migrate in the world. As an example, modern German is full of English words and expressions.

: Jackpot bei Tatjana Lebedewa geknackt [Kicker, 5. September 2005: 76].

: Jörg Böhme plant Comeback [Kicker, 5. September 2005: 76: 46].

Such "English migrants" are rather frequent in the German language: "das Handy", "die League", "Ok" and many others. In the German-language "Bayern Magazin" one can read a slogan: "Die Lady Collection - Einkaufen per Mausklick". It is obvious that the word "Magazin" in the name of this journal itself and some words in the slogan are not of a German origin. A sensational and ambiguous reconstruction of German is also dictated by the influence of English culture. There are signs that Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Dutch are being similarly re-formed.

It should be noticed that some German words move to English too. A sequel to "Three Men in a Boat", written by J. K. Jerome, tells of a hilarious cycling tour through Germany’s Black Forest, was entitled "Three Men on the Bummel". There are many others German "language migrants" in the novel.

: There was a shop near the Altmarkt, in the window of which were exhibited some cushions [J. K. Jerome, 1994: 102].

Such language innovations could be termed language migration. As we suppose, "language migration" is a main promoter of double vocabulary.

Certainly, in this time of globalization, when Europeans are building a common European society - the common European home - the process of unification at all levels is inevitable. At the same time, a hybridization of languages will inevitably lead to the loss of national and cultural identity that is determined by language. English builds a notion of Britishness; the German language makes its speakers German. The coexistence of cultures and mentalities should not be regarded as their merger, but a mixture of customs and traditions, whose preservation is provided mostly by a national language.

That brings us to the conclusion that the concept "migration" contains the following components: economic migration, skilled migration, political migration, language migration, interaction of mentalities, intercultural dialogue and others. These components show the essence and the content of the notion "migration". Analyzing these components it becomes clear that the process of migration stimulates social and cultural changes in society. In particular, the national language and national identity of a country is updated under the influx of migration. The concept is verbalized in modern English by verbs of motion. Having observed the Modern English press and literature, we can point to some typical units: "migrate","come", "move", "arrive", and "flock". It proves that the phenomenon is none other than the physical or mental processes of somebody’s or something’s motion, while the concept "migration" itself is a part of a frame "move". It should be noted as well that the verb "migrate" from the list above can be used for representation of the action of moving that has nothing in common with some resettlement.

: Dr Kolar said: "The ink, originally blue when used, turns brown as it starts to oxidize. The acid starts to migrate through the paper, degrading it and forming brown degradation products until the paper is completely brittle and it breaks" [The Sunday Telegraph - 06/09/2005].

The process of migration is worth discussing and researching. It is interesting and fascinating. That’s because there are questions, which could not be answered at once. It makes this phenomenon enigmatic. It is still impossible to understand why people from all over the world leave their home countries, and after a while come back. For example, why does a teacher of music from a Russian province dream of coming home after eight years spent in Spain?

A prominent English philosopher G. Moore said it best: "A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it".

© M. G. V. Belau (Tambov, Federation of Russia)


(1) The aim of science is not to open the door to infinite wisdom, but to set a limit to infinite error... B. Brecht


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13.1. Migration als Faktor sozio-kultureller Innovationen

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M. G. V. Belau (Tambov, Federation of Russia): The Notion of Migration: On Its Reflection in the Mind of an English Native Speaker. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 16/2005. WWW: ../../../index.htmtrans/16Nr/13_1/belau16.htm

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