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Mangova O.B. et al. "VERBALIZATIONS OF THE OPERATIONAL CONCEPT “DEMOCRATIZATION” IN THE POLITICAL DISCOURSE". Meždunarodnyj naučno-issledovatel’skij žurnal (International Research Journal) № 4 (106) Part 4, (2021): 28. Mon. 19. Apr. 2021.
Mangova O. B. VERBALIZATIONS OF THE OPERATIONAL CONCEPT “DEMOCRATIZATION” IN THE POLITICAL DISCOURSE / O. B. Mangova, D. V. Shirokov // Mezhdunarodnyj nauchno-issledovatel'skij zhurnal. — 2021. — № 4 (106) Part 4. — С. 28—31. doi: 10.23670/IRJ.2021.106.4.109




Научная статья

Мангова О.Б.1, *, Широков Д.В.2

1, 2 Московский Государственный Лингвистический Университет, Москва, Россия

* Корреспондирующий автор (o_kassandra[at]


Цель данного исследования заключается в описании пропозиционально-фреймовой модели и полевой организации операционного концепта «демократизация» и выявлении языковых средств, вербализующих его в политическом дискурсе и входящих в его номинативное поле.

Авторы поставили перед собой задачу рассмотреть функционирование операционного концепта «демократизация» в политическом дискурсе посредством анализа метафорических моделей, актуализирующих его.

Научная новизна исследования состоит в том, что в нем впервые построена пропозиционально-фреймовая модель операционного концепта «демократизация» и приведены примеры вербализаций фреймового состава данного концепта.

Актуальность исследования обусловлена повышенным интересом к данному концепту со стороны специалистов в области политических наук и международных отношений.

Практическая ценность исследования определяется возможностью использования его результатов в дидактическом плане в преподавании английского языка для специальных целей при подготовке специалистов в упомянутых выше областях.

Ключевые слова: политический дискурс, демократизация, операционный концепт, номинативное поле, метафорическая модель.


Research article

Mangova O.B.1, *, Shirokov D.V.2

1, 2 Moscow State Linguistic University, Moscow, Russia

* Corresponding author (o_kassandra[at]


The aim of the research consists in describing the propositional frame model and field structure of the operational concept “democratization” with a view of unravelling the linguistic means, verbalizing it in the political discourse and constituting its nomination field.

The authors strive to examine the functioning of the operational concept “democratization” in the political discourse through the metaphoric models actualizing it.

The scientific novelty of the research consists in the fact that it the first time that the propositional frame model of the operational concept “democratization” is created and the examples of verbalizations of the frame structure are provided.

The topicality of the research is defined by the growing interest of specialists in political sciences and international relations in this concept.

The practical value of the research lies in the possibility of using its results in teaching the English language for specific purposes to train specialists in the domains mentioned above.

Keywords: political discourse, democratization, operational concept, nomination field, metaphoric model.


The originality of the research consists in the fact that it is the first time the concept “democratization” is analyzed as an operational concept with its well-defined frame structure and nomination field. Previously it was analyzed from other standpoints, for example, by T. V. Jarovova, L. K. Mihina, who focused on the democratic process as a political phenomenon [7].

Democratization has been drawing attention of many political scientists like E.V. Krjukova, Terry L. Karl, Philippe S. Schmitter and others. It was the core idea of the policies of political leaders, such as M. S. Gorbachev, M. Buhari, M. Djukanoviс and others. Many scholars of political science (J. Baylis, S. Smith, P. Owens and others) maintain that “democratization” is one of the most important concepts in the political discourse, stressing that the process of democratization is a decisive trend of modern political architecture as an increasing number of states are restructuring their systems of government in accordance with the principles of democracy [8, P. 243].


In their research the authors assume a cognitive approach with reliance on Lakoff’s theory of conceptual metaphor [10]. Besides, such methods as cognitive modelling, frame analysis are applied. These methods have been devised and extensively applied by such prominent cognitive linguists as E. S. Kubryakova [1], N. N. Boldyrev [6] and others.

Modern cognitive linguistics regards any language material as a part of a particular discourse: economic, political, medical, religious and others. Every discourse corresponds to a particular conceptual domain, that represents a complex of concepts. These concepts reflect this domain in man’s mind. The given research focuses on political discourse. Political discourse is most commonly realized in educational books on political science and mass media texts, dedicated to political issues. It is assumed that

It is assumed that political discourse comprises a large number of operational concepts, for example, “regulation”, “nationalization”, “negotiating”, “liberalization”, “militarization” and others, among which the concept “democratization” occupies a special position. All operational concepts represent domains relevant in political relations. Every operational concept is verbalized by a wide array of linguistic means. By analyzing these verbalizations we can unveil the significance of operational concepts. Cognitive approach to political texts reveals the way of presenting a certain political phenomenon actualized by the operational concept as it helps to discover the verbalizations of operational concepts [4, P. 56].

The term “operational concept” together with its definition was devised by V.G. Kuznetsov, who described it as a mental complex representing accumulated knowledge of some fragment of reality [3, P. 136]. In fact, it represents an operational action, by which we understand a purposeful action performed by the subject over the object.

Operational concepts possess a number of relevant features: objectiveness, flexibility, dynamics, recent emergence, institutionality and some others [3, P.137]. Besides, they have a regular pattern of arrangement of their obligatory and non-obligatory slots. Most commonly, operational concepts are verbalized by terms.

The propositional frame model of the operational concept has been elaborated by V. G. Kuznetsov [2]. The proposition, into which obligatory elements are incorporated, has a fixed structure: subject-predicate-object. It reflects the framework of the ideal situation of any operational action. Non-obligatory slots possess a certain degree of flexibility and convey detailed information of the operational action. Typically, non-obligatory slots include aim, methods, instruments, outcome.


Let’s analyze the operational concept “democratization” and give examples of nominations of its slots. The material for this research has been collected from didactic literature on political science, periodicals, dictionaries, on-line encyclopedia, and other resources.

Subject. The subject of democratization is any political actor, that contributes to the democratic process, a so-called democracy promoter: nation-states, IOs (international organizations), MNCs (multinational corporation) and others.

Object. The object of democratization is the political regime of a state.

Predicate. The process of democratization: democratic transition, going democratic and others.

Aim. The aim of democratization is setting up democracy as a regime. For example, democratization of the whole world is the chief priority of the USA’s foreign policy.

Instruments. Instruments include a range of rules and principles promoting democracy: fair elections, social liberties, equality, human rights, toleration, representation, rule of law, pluralism, government accountability, open market separation of powers, press freedom and the legal protection of migrants, and others.

Methods. Methods are procedures, policies and activities that are used to promote democracy: election observation, referendum, plebiscite, recall, consensus, popular initiatives, citizens’ activism, liberalization, deregulation, the Miracle on the Hangang River, and others.

Outcome. These are the effects of democratization: wealth, growth, development, peace and others.

Usually, the nomination field of operational concepts is described in terms of the nucleus and periphery [5]. The nucleus of the operational concept contains a lexical unit that reflects the general idea of the operational action without highlighting any particular conceptual features. Generally, the nuclear units are verbs and verbal nouns, that verbalize the predicate. Thus, the nuclear units of the operational concept “democratization” are to democratize, democratization, going democratic.

The close periphery comprises nominations of all other obligatory and non-obligatory slots, that possess the terminological status: referendum, consensus, rule of law and others. The far periphery comprises non-terminological units, including metaphors that verbalize various slots of the operational concept: miracle, tool, Russian roulette. Metaphors are particularly important because they possess a number of expressive features that present the nominated phenomenon more prominently in the political discourse as they convey the author’s pragmatic intentions.

Here is a bright example of the metaphoric nomination of the slot method:

Popularly known throughout the world as the “miracle on the Hangang River”, the transformation of one of the world’s poorest agrarian societies, i.e. South Korea, into a modern democratized nation has captured the imagination of all development agents. ” [13].

The Miracle on the Han River is the economic policy that ushered in an era of industrialization and democratization. Once South Korea took path of democracy, it has followed it ever since. The government of the country followed the formula that the economic growth is a prerequisite for democratization. The metaphor implies complete transformation and beneficial results of the efficient industrialization policy in South Korea.

Conceptual metaphors, extensively explored by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, are frequently used to give insight into complex things and phenomena [10, P. 27]. Thus, the concept “democratization” is actualized by conceptual metaphoric models in the political discourse, which makes the essence of this process more transparent to the reader.

The operational concept “democratization” is characterized by high recurrence, which is a clear sign of its social relevance. Many scholars stick to the view that democratization is an important prerequisite for global peace and well-being.

“Democratization … is undoubtedly an important tool in achieving equality, decreasing conflict, and increasing civic engagement, making it the best available system of government.” [11].

Here we can see the conceptual metaphor democratization is an important tool, which implies its utility.

Democratization is a foundation for global peace. Democratization of post-conflict states reaps dividends in peacecompared with the cost of dealing with hostile and unstable authoritarian states.” [8, P. 125].

The authors of the text stress the idea of the instrumental role of democratization in peace building. This statement is reinforced by the well-known Democratic peace theory which propounds the axiom that democracies don’t go to war with one another. Thus, the operational concept “democratization” is actualized by the conceptual metaphoric model democratization is a peace-builder.

However, some scholars argue that while there is an absence of inter-democratic wars, democracies are highly war-prone, as they have a long record of initiating wars against illiberal states:

Promoting democracy may not promote peace because states are especially war-prone during the transition toward democracy… This concoction of nationalism and incipient democratization has been an intoxicating brew, leading to ill-conceived war of expansion.”

Here we can see verbalization of the slots subject, predicate, outcome. The author uses metaphors concoction, incipient, intoxicating brew to actualize the conceptual model democratization is witch’s brew. The model implies that democratization is evil and it is only beneficial for the subject of democratization, who pursues personal interest (political expansion), while the outcome is war.

A similar view is supported by the authors of other publications that strive to convey the idea of insecurity and danger of democratization:

Pushing nuclear-armed powers like Russia or China toward democratization is like spinning a roulette wheel: many of the outcomes are undesirable… The roulette wheel is already spinning for Russia and perhaps will be soon for China. Washington and the international community need to think about … helping to smooth the transition in ways that minimize its risks…”

The predicate is verbalized by the metaphor spinning a roulette wheel which implies the authors apprehensions concerning the outcome of democratization. Thus, the metaphoric model democratization is a Russian roulette manifests itself.

It is a well-known historical fact, that the process of democratization that was launched after Nuremberg Trials as a part of 4D plan, triggered a chain of economic reforms, the so-called German economic miracle, and restored Germany’s credibility, giving it a chance of integration into the global community [14, P. 32]. Thus, we can state, that the slot outcome is verbalized by the word credibility.

On the other hand there are scholars who assert the opposite: “The loss of credibility of democracy promoters is palpable across the board and is often accompanied by a diminished will and ability to pursue democracy promotion which needs to be addressed.” [12, P. 5]

So, the findings of this research do reveal the pessimistic mood and substantial problems that are faced by democracy promoters.

All these models can be confined to the following conceptual opposition: democratization is beneficial versus democratization is harmful. However, this opposition is not accidental, as it reflects the current debate of the scholars over the efficiency of democratization. 


The research has resulted in the description of the propositional frame model of the operational concept “democratization” which includes the slots: subject, predicate, object, aim, methods, instruments, outcome. These slots are verbalized by a number of nominations, that constitute the nucleus, the close and far periphery of its nomination field. The variety of verbalizations of the operational concept “democratization” is derived from its high social value.

The authors analyzed the functioning of the operational concept “democratization” in the political discourse and discovered several metaphoric models that actualize the concept: democratization is a peace-builder, democratization is a Russian roulette, democratization is an important tool, democratization is witch’s brew. This analysis reveals the contradictory nature of democratization as a process, while giving a more profound understanding of the segment of knowledge represented by this operational concept.

Конфликт интересов

Не указан.

Conflict of Interest

None declared.

Список литературы / References

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  8. Baylis The globalization of world politics. An introduction International Relations / J. Baylis, S. Smith, P. Owens– Oxford University Press, 2017. – 610 p.
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  11. Mork A. Why Democracy is the best we’ve got / A. Mork [Electronic resource]. – URL: (accessed: 15.03.2021)
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Список литературы на английском языке / References in English

  1. Kubrjakova E. S. Jazyk i znanie: Na puti poluchenija znanij o jazyke: Chasti rechi s kognitivnoj tochki zrenija. Rol’ jazyka v poznanii mira [Language and knowledge: On the way to obtaining knowledge about language: Parts of speech from a cognitive point of view. The role of language in the knowledge of the world] / E. S. Kubryakova Ros. akademija nauk. In-t jazykoznanija. – M.: Jazyki slavjanskoj kul’tury, 2004. – 560 p. [in Russian]
  2. Kuznetsov V. G. Tipologija konceptov [Typology of concepts] / V. G. Kuznetsov // Kognitivnye issledovanija jazyka: sb. mat-lov Mezhdunarodnogo kongressa po kognitivnoj lingvistike [Cognitive studies of language: collection of materials of the International Congress on Cognitive Linguistics]. Tambov: Publishing House of TSU named after G. R. Derzhavin, 2010. – P.316 – 318. [in Russian]
  3. Kuznetsov V. Tipologicheskij aspekt kategorizacii [Typological aspects of categorization] / V. G. Kuznetsov // Kognitivnye issledovani-ja jazyka [Cognitive research of a language]. – 2017. – № 30. – P. 135-138 [in Russian]
  4. Mangova O. B. Dissertacija na soiskanie stepeni kandidata filologicheskih nauk na temu “Reprezentacija operacionnogo koncepta ” gosudarstvennoe regulirovanie” v jekonomicheskom diskurse anglijskogo i russkogo jazykov” [Dissertation for the degree of candidate of Philological Sciences «Representation of the operational concept of ‘the state regulation’ in the economic discourse of English and Russian». – M. – 2011. – 179 p. [in Russian]
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  6. Principy i metody kognitivnyh issledovanij jazyka [Principles and methods of the cognitive study of language]. Collection of papers. Tambov: The publishing House of TSU named after G. R. Derzhavin, 2008. – 308 p [in Russian]
  7. Jarovova T. V. Sravnitel’nyj analiz processov demokratizacii v Rossii i Francii [Comparative analysis of the processes of democratization in Russia and France] / T. V. Yarovova, L. K. Mikhina // Mezhdunarodnyj zhurnal gumanitarnyh i estestvennyh nauk [International Journal of Humanities and Natural Sciences]. 2020. – 254 p. [in Russian]
  8. Baylis The globalization of world politics. An introduction International Relations / J. Baylis, S. Smith, P. Owens– Oxford University Press, 2017. – 610 p.
  9. Cambridge Dictionary. Democratization [Electronic resource]. – URL: (accessed 12.03.2021)
  10. Lakoff G. Metaphors we live by / G. Lakoff, M. Johnson– The University of Chicago Press, 1980. – 256 p.
  11. Mork A. Why Democracy is the best we’ve got / A. Mork [Electronic resource]. – URL: (accessed: 15.03.2021)
  12. PRIF Report 13/2018. Peace research Institute Frankfurt: Democracy promotion in times of uncertainty. Trends and challenges – 2018. – 5 p.
  13. Saleheen A. M. Learning from the Miracle on Han River / A. M. Saleheen [Electronic resource]. – URL: print/learning-from-the-miracle-on-han-river (accessed: 15.03.2021)
  14. Walt S. International relations: One World, Many Theories. Foreign policy / S. Walt. – 1998. – P. 29-46.

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