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Cognitive linguistics as represented in this book is an approach to the analysis of natural language that originated in the late s and early s in the work of George Lakoff, Ron Langacker, and Len Talmy, and that focuses on language as an instrument for organizing, processing, and conveying information. This introductory article sketches the theoretical position of cognitive linguistics together with a number of practical features of the way in which research in cognitive linguistics is organized.

Three fundamental characteristics of cognitive linguistics can be derived: the primacy of semantics in linguistic analysis, the encyclopedic nature of linguistic meaning, and the perspectival nature of linguistic meaning. This article also discusses how cognitive linguistics and generative grammar can both proclaim themselves to be cognitive enterprises.

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The book deals with different conceptual phenomena that are recognized by cognitive linguistics as key concepts: prototypicality, metaphor, metonymy, embodiment, perspectivization, mental spaces, and the like. Each constitutes a specific principle of conceptual organization as reflected in the language. Keywords: Ron Langacker , cognitive linguistics , natural language , semantics , linguistic meaning , generative grammar , metaphor , metonymy , mental spaces , perspectivization.

Cognitive Linguistics as represented in this Handbook is an approach to the analysis of natural language that originated in the late seventies and early eighties in the work of George Lakoff, Ron Langacker, and Len Talmy, and that focuses on language as an instrument for organizing, processing, and conveying information. Given this perspective, the analysis of the conceptual and experiential basis of linguistic categories is of primary importance within Cognitive Linguistics: the formal structures of language are studied not as if they were autonomous, but as reflections of general conceptual organization, categorization principles, processing mechanisms, and experiential and environmental influences.

Edited by Dirk Geeraerts and Hubert Cuyckens

In this introductory chapter, we will sketch the theoretical position of Cognitive Linguistics together with a number of practical features of the way in which research in Cognitive Linguistics is organized: Who are the people involved in Cognitive Linguistics? What are the important conferences and the relevant publication channels? Are there any introductory textbooks? This recognition also determines the practical p. The penultimate and the final sections deal with two specific questions: can we explain the apparent appeal of Cognitive Linguistics, and what would be important questions for the further development of the framework?

Because Cognitive Linguistics sees language as embedded in the overall cognitive capacities of man, topics of special interest for Cognitive Linguistics include: the structural characteristics of natural language categorization such as prototypicality, systematic polysemy, cognitive models, mental imagery, and metaphor ; the functional principles of linguistic organization such as iconicity and naturalness ; the conceptualinterface between syntax and semantics as explored by Cognitive Grammar and Construction Grammar ; the experiential and pragmatic background of language-in-use; and the relationship between language and thought, including questions about relativism and conceptual universals.

Crucially, there is no single, uniform doctrine according to which these research topics all of which receive specific attention in the chapters of this Handbook are pursued by Cognitive Linguistics. In this sense, Cognitive Linguistics is a flexible framework rather than a single theory of language. In terms of category structure one of the standard topics for analysis in Cognitive Linguistics , we might say that Cognitive Linguistics itself, when viewed as a category, has a family resemblance structure Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, this volume, chapter 6 : it constitutes a cluster of many partially overlapping approaches rather than a single well-defined theory.

Even so, the recognition that Cognitive Linguistics has not yet stabilized into a single uniform theory should not prevent us from looking for fundamental common features and shared perspectives among the many forms of research that come together under the label of Cognitive Linguistics. Terminologically, a distinction imposes itself between Cognitive Linguistics the approach represented in this Handbook , and uncapitalized cognitive linguistics all approaches in which natural language is studied as a mental phenomenon.

Cognitive Linguistics is but one form of cognitive linguistics, to be distinguished from, for instance, Generative Grammar and many forms of linguistic research within the field of Artificial Intelligence. What, then, determines the specificity of Cognitive Linguistics within cognitive science? The question may be broken down in two more specific ones: what is the precise meaning of cognitive in Cognitive Linguistics , and p. The latter question will be answered specifically with regard to Generative Grammar.

Against the background of the basic characteristics of the cognitive paradigm in cognitive psychology, the philosophy of science, and related disciplines see De Mey , the viewpoint adopted by Cognitive Linguistics can be defined more precisely. Cognitive Linguistics is the study of language in its cognitive function, where cognitive refers to the crucial role of intermediate informational structures in our encounters with the world.


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Cognitive Linguistics is cognitive in the same way that cognitive psychology is: by assuming that our interaction with the world is mediated through informational structures in the mind. It is more specific than cognitive psychology, however, by focusing on natural language as a means for organizing, processing, and conveying that information. Language, then, is seen as a repository of world knowledge, a structured collection of meaningful categories that help us deal with new experiences and store information about old ones.


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From this overall characterization, three fundamental characteristics of Cognitive Linguistics can be derived: the primacy of semantics in linguistic analysis, the encyclopedic nature of linguistic meaning, and the perspectival nature of linguistic meaning. The first characteristic merely states that the basic function of language involves meaning; the other two characteristics specify the nature of the semantic phenomena in question. The primacy of semantics in linguistic analysis follows in a straightforward fashion from the cognitive perspective itself: if the primary function of language is categorization, then meaning must be the primary linguistic phenomenon.

The encyclopedic nature of linguistic meaning follows from the categorial function of language: if language is a system for the categorization of the world, there is no need to postulate a systemic or structural level of linguistic meaning that is different from the level where world knowledge is associated with linguistic forms.

The perspectival nature of linguistic meaning implies that the world is not objectively reflected in the language: the categorization function of the language imposes a structure on the world rather than just mirroring objective reality. Specifically, language is a way of organizing knowledge that reflects the needs, interests, and experiences of individuals and cultures. The idea that linguistic meaning has a perspectivizing function is theoretically elaborated in the philosophical, epistemological position taken by Cognitive Linguistics see Johnson ; Lakoff ; Geeraerts Given this initial characterization of the cognitive nature of Cognitive Linguistics, we can now turn to the second question: how can it be that Cognitive Linguistics and Generative Grammar both proclaim themselves to be cognitive enterprises?

Essentially, the two approaches differ with regard to the epistemological role of natural language.

Discourse Grammar and Ideology Functional and Cognitive Perspectives by Hart & Christopher

They both agree and this is their common cognitive parentage that there can be no knowledge without the existence of a mental representation p. But while, according to Cognitive Linguistics, natural languages precisely embody such categorial perspectives onto the outside world, the generative linguist takes natural language as the object of the epistemological relationship, rather than as the intermediate link between subject and object. Cognitive Linguistics is interested in our knowledge of the world and studies the question how natural language contributes to it.

The generative linguist, conversely, is interested in our knowledge of the language and asks the question how such knowledge can be acquired given a cognitive theory of learning. As cognitive enterprises, Cognitive Linguistics and Generative Grammar are similarly interested in those mental structures that are constitutive of knowledge. For the Cognitive approach, natural language itself consists of such structures, and the relevant kind of knowledge is knowledge of the world.

For the generative grammarian, however, the knowledge under consideration is knowledge of the language, and the relevant mental structures are constituted by the genetic endowment of human beings that enables them to learn the language. Whereas Generative Grammar is interested in knowledge of the language, Cognitive Linguistics is so to speak interested in knowledge through the language.

In the first place, taking into account the formalist stance of Generative Grammar, Cognitive Linguistics should try to show that an adequate description of the allegedly formal phenomena at the core of generative theory formation involve semantic and functional factors that are beyond the self-imposed limits of the generative framework. In this sense, Cognitive Linguistics is characterized by a specific working hypothesis about natural language, namely, that much more in natural language can be explained on semantic and functional grounds than has hitherto been assumed a working hypothesis that it shares, to be sure, with many other pragmatically and functionally oriented linguistic theories.

Any time a particular phenomenon turns out to involve cognitive functioning rather than just formal syntax, the need to posit genetically given formal constraints on possible syntactic constructions diminishes. A prime example of this type of argumentation can be found in van Hoek's chapter 34 of this Handbook. In chapter 41 of the present Handbook , Tomasello illustrates how this program is actually carried out. Scientific frameworks are not just sets of concepts, models, and techniques: they also consist of people, activities, and channels of communication. Langacker, and Leonard Talmy.

Around this core of founding fathers, who originated Cognitive Linguistics in the late s and the early s, two chronologically widening circles of cognitive linguists may be discerned.

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A first wave, coming to the fore in the second half of the s, consists of the early collaborators and colleagues of the key figures, together with a first generation of students. Simultaneously, a number of people in mostly Western and Central Europe took up the ideas of Cognitive Linguistics and contributed to their international dissemination. The s witnessed a second wave of expansion, directed largely toward Asia and the south of Europe.


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  5. Sociologically speaking, cognitive linguists would be those people who belong to the Cognitive Linguistics community—who interact with like-minded researchers and who attend the ICLC conferences. But if we think in terms of common perspectives and purposes, even if only partially shared, many more names could be mentioned. For instance, in terms of seminal ideas and actual influence, Charles Fillmore should be considered on a par with the three founding fathers, even though he would probably not describe himself as a cognitive linguist.

    Book series dedicated to Cognitive Linguistics are published by two major publishing houses in linguistics: Mouton de Gruyter of Berlin publishes the Cognitive Linguistics Research series, and John Benjamins Publishing Company of Amsterdam publishes the Cognitive Linguistics in Practice series.

    Volume 5 (2) 2012

    Primers in Cognitive Linguistics, in the form of introductory textbooks, include in chronological order of first appearance , Taylor , Ungerer and Schmid , Dirven and Verspoor , Lee , Croft and Cruse , and Evans and Green The Dirven and Verspoor volume has been translated in several languages. A collection of basic texts by leading representatives of Cognitive Linguistics may be found in Geeraerts a. The Cognitive Linguistics Bibliography CogBib consists of a database covering monographs, journal articles, book series, dissertations, MA theses, proceedings, working papers, and unpublished work relevant to the study of Cognitive Linguistics and adjacent disciplines.

    It consists of 7, entries and aims at an annual growth of 1, items. The first release of the database is fully indexed and will be available for subscribers to Cognitive Linguistics. The organization of the present Handbook reflects the prototypical structure of Cognitive Linguistics that was described above. In terms of people, the contributions come predominantly from first-generation cognitive linguists, together with p.

    And, of course, the key figures are represented. We regret that George Lakoff was not able to contribute to this Handbook with a projected chapter on the relationship between Cognitive Linguistics and neuroscience. Many of these notions are far from exclusive for Cognitive Linguistics, but even then, Cognitive Linguistics subjects them to specific forms of analysis.