Trauma-Narrative Analysis at the Level of Lexis

  • Maria Grazia Guido


This chapter starts by examining the PTSD lexis established by the APA, clinically describing trauma as it is conventionally perceived and experienced in the Western world as a psychiatric problem of the individual, and providing categorizations of trauma symptoms that are resistant to semantic change and meaning negotiation. Then, the chapter moves to the analysis of native idioms of distress as they are conveyed by West African migrants in their narratives which, through the use of their ‘transidiomatic’ ELF variations, represent trauma symptoms metaphorically—for instance, as animate subjects affecting the traumatized migrants and compelling them to take socio-political action aimed at recovery (in the case of trauma narratives of ‘hope’) or at revenge (in case of narratives of ‘despair’). The chapter also describes cases of ‘hybridization’ of idioms of distress as the migrants appropriate the idioms of the host country, assimilating them to their traumatic experiences so as to recontextualize them within the new community they belong to. Finally, the chapter introduces a case study on the native metaphorical uses of verbs of mental processes to describe psychological abuse, which are first transferred into the West African migrants’ ELF variations, and then they are literally misinterpreted by Western experts in charge of the interactions as verbs of material processes erroneously signalling physical abuse. Misinterpretations of this kind may trigger in interpreters of migrants’ trauma narratives quite dangerous ‘schema-biased presuppositions’ liable of causing serious social and political injustice.


Idioms of distress APA lexis Schema-biased presupposition L1→ELF transfer processes Mental processes metaphorically rendered as material processes 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Grazia Guido
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SalentoLecceItaly

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