Patterns of metaphysical discourse in West-African migrants’ ELF-mediated trauma narratives


This chapter focuses on an ongoing ethnographic research enquiring into West-African migrants’ and refugees’ trauma narratives mediated by a use of English as a ‘lingua franca’ (ELF) in Italian contexts of intercultural communication. The six case studies under investigation apply a construct built on models of Cognitive-Experiential Linguistics, Possible-Worlds Semantics and Modal Logic to the discourse analysis of Nigerian migrants’ ELF-mediated trauma narratives. Ethnographic data show that such trauma narratives are prevalently characterized by features from the migrants’ typologically-different native languages which come to be transferred into their ELF variations at the levels of: ergative clause structures, modality, idiomatic lexicon, and metaphorical patterns of a metaphysical kind. More specifically, it has been observed that, in such narratives, migrants often employ modal operators in the description of much- desired ‘possible worlds’ projected into a transcendental dimension triggered by their strong feelings and emotions which transfigure traumatic events and their effects into personifications of supernatural entities taking the animate agentive shapes, in ergative- subject position, of cruel Yoruba deities, or imaginary monsters often generated by a process of hybridization between parallel mythological creatures in both native and host cultures. In the case studies in point – making reference to a wider corpus of ELF- mediated West-African migrants’ and refugees’ trauma narratives (Guido 2018) – it has been noticed that the Nigerian migrants’ degree of psychological resilience to traumatic experiences is determined by their more or less optimistic prospects on the achievement of the much-desired ‘possible worlds’ which they represent in their minds as a sort of ‘utopia’, in contrast with the ‘dystopian real world’ that they have sadly experienced. In particular, the corpus of trauma narratives reveals the frequent occurrence of specific patterns in association with a four-level gradient ranging from possible, unreal, and impossible utopian worlds up to – as a more recent development triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic – a much-too-real dystopian world. Each of these degrees have been defined as trauma narratives of, respectively: ‘hope’, ‘frustration’, ‘despair’, and ‘urge of stampede’.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v38p43


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