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Antonomasia in BCMS and a woman’s place in the Balkan society

Deja Piletić and Milica Vuković Stamatović

Summary

Antonomasia implies two opposing semantic mechanisms: the replacement of a proper name by an appellative, epithet or periphrasis (e. g. the Iron Lady standing for Margaret Thatcher), or the attribution of a proper name to an appellative or a set of certain personality traits (e. g. a Penelope standing for a faithful, devoted wife). The aim of this paper is to show that studying antonomasia as a figure of speech driven by a cognitive metonymic and metaphoric mechanism can contribute to revealing how women are conceptualised and consequently talked about. We do so by analysing figurative antonomasia in a dataset of 307 examples extracted from Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian (BCMS) webpages, although the findings are generisable to other languages as well. We show that antonomasia is frequently based on entrenched stereotypes about women and that in the collective consciousness of the BCMS speakers women are often conceptualised as (sexual) objects, typically valued by aesthetic criteria, as well as in relation to their possession of certain stereotypical female traits (self-sacrifice or subordination to others, excessive emotion but also cruelty, manipulativeness, showiness, talkativeness, etc.). In addition, the analysis also revealed that a woman is principally identified through her relations with other beings (as a mother, sister, wife or lover). Our study thus confirms that studying antonomasia within gender and language studies is a goal well worth pursuing.

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Published Online: 2021-06-11
Published in Print: 2021-06-26

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