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Proximizing the Ukraine conflict: The case of the United States and the Czech Republic

Martina Berrocal

Martina Berrocal is a Research Assistant in the Department of Slavonic and Caucasian Studies at Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany. Her research interests include political discourse, (im)politeness and spoken language

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From the journal Lodz Papers in Pragmatics


The conflict in Ukraine has been in the focus of the international politics for the last four years. The fact that it takes place not only on the battlefield but also in form of a discursive war has become strikingly evident. An inherent part of a conflict construction is the legitimization of one’s own positions and actions. According to Chilton (2017: 237, see also Chilton 2004, 2014), the discursive construction of events is “fundamentally grounded in spatial cognition, projected at various levels of abstraction and intimately bound up with human social relations”. This idea is crucial to “the systematic rhetorical arrangement” known as proximization (Cap 2008, 2013, 2017). It aims to “picture the occurring events and their actors as directly affecting the addressee” (Cap 2008, 2013, 2017). It is “a discursive tool [that allows] for the reduction of the temporal, spatial, axiological, cognitive [epistemic] and emotional distance” (Kopytowska 2013, 2015a, 2015b, 2015c) between the speaker and his/her audience. This paper draws on these approaches and examines the modalities of the threat representation. Apart from the spatial-temporal grounding, the analysis dedicates a special attention to the axiological, epistemic and emotional dimensions which are projected into the modalities of construction of fear and the argumentative use of historical parallels. We examine the commonalities and the differences of the discursive construction of the Ukraine conflict in the US and the Czech official political discourses. The US discourse is rather transparent and homogenous with clearly defined positive –negative roles, values and actions within IDC and ODC. In contrast, the Czech “Ukraine discourse” is polyphonic and echoes both the Euro-Atlantic and the Russian way of thinking and value judgements, which leads quite inevitably to a discursive clash. Due to the cognitive and also physical closeness of the conflict, there is a lesser need to proximize the conflict in such a powerful and determined way as it is done in the US narrative.

About the author

Martina Berrocal

Martina Berrocal is a Research Assistant in the Department of Slavonic and Caucasian Studies at Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany. Her research interests include political discourse, (im)politeness and spoken language


I would like to thank Viktoria Kerry, Liudmila Arcimaviciene and two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and comments on the earlier drafts of this paper.


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Published Online: 2017-12-19
Published in Print: 2017-12-20

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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