Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics
Graduate Institute of Linguistics Fu-Jen University 2005
September 28, 2005
Overview of the course; Theoretical foundations and early research: The importance of theory, history, and research methods
Required readings: de Saussure, F. (1972). Linguistic value. In C. Bally & A. Sechehaye (eds.), Course in general linguistics. Open Court La Salle, Illinois. pp. 111-120 Wang, W. S-Y. (1978). The Three Scales of Diachrony. In B. B. Kachru (ed.). Linguistics in the Seventies: Directions and Prospects. Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois. pp. 63-76. Dirven, R. & Verspoor, M. (1998). Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins. Chapter 1: The cognitive basis of language: language and thought. pp. 1-24 Recommended readings: Evans, V., & Green, M. (2005). Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics. Chapter 1. pp. 1-33. Janda, L. (2000). Cognitive Linguistics. SLING2K Position Paper
What is Cognitive Linguistics
• Cognitive Linguistics is a new approach to the study of language that emerged in the 1970‟s as a reaction against the dominant generative paradigm (Ruiz de Mendoza 1997).
– Some of the main assumptions underlying the generative approaches to syntax and semantics are not in accordance with the experimental data in linguistics, psychology and other fields – E.g., Mental images, general cognitive processes, basic-level categories, prototype phenomena, the use of neural foundations for linguistic theory and so on, are not considered part of these grammars.
The Line of Research in Cognitive Linguistics
• To examine the relation of language structure to things outside language:
– cognitive principles and mechanisms not specific to language
• including principles of human categorization • pragmatic and interactional principles • functional principles in general – e.g., iconicity and economy
.• Cognitive Linguistics is not a totally homogeneous framework. • Three main approaches:
– Experimental view – the Prominence view – the Attentional view of language (Ungerer and Schmid.
1978) • The knowledge and experience human beings have of the things and events that they know well is transferred to those other objects and events.The Experiential view
• This view pursues a more practical and empirical description of meaning • It is the user of the language who tells us what is going on in their minds when they produce and understand words and sentences.. and even to abstract concepts.the study of cognitive categories led to the prototype model of categorisation (Eleanor Rosch et al. • The first research within this approach . • Lakoff and Johnson (1980) were among the first ones to pinpoint this conceptual potential. which they are not so familiar with.
.1977. especially in the case of metaphors.
. Casad 1982. especially. among others). 1991) grammar. Vandeloise 1991. we single it out as a perceptually prominent figure standing out from the ground. a phenomenon first introduced by the Danish gestalt psychologist Rubin (1886-1951). Lindner 1982. 1993. when we look at an object in our environment.The Prominence view
• It is based on concepts of profiling and figure/ground segregation. 1988. where profiling is used to explain grammatical constructs and.
– This principle can also be applied to the study of language. • The prominence principle explains why. to the study of local relations (cf. Herskovits 1986. figure and ground for the explanation of grammatical relations. Brugman 1981. – It is also used in Langacker‟s (1987.
The classic example:
. It was first introduced by the Danish phenomenologist Edgar Rubin (1886-1951).Figure-ground is another Gestalt psychology principle.
i. and 1996). different aspects of this frame are highlighted. • A main concept of this approach is Fillmore‟s (1975) notion of „frame‟. resulting in different linguistic expressions (Talmy 1988. an assemblage of the knowledge we have about a certain situation.The Attentional view
• This view assumes that what we actually express reflects which parts of an event attract our attention.
– Depending on our cognitive ability to direct our attention. 1991.
contextual and functional parameters (Barcelona 1997: 8). together with our cultural. kinaesthetic abilities. and our ability to learn and use them are accounted for by general cognitive abilities.
.The Tenets to Follow in Cognitive Linguistics
– The design features of languages. our visual and sensimotor skills and our human categorisation strategies.
.• The Modularity Hypothesis (cf. Chomsky 1986. as a special innate mental module – Language is understood as a product of general cognitive abilities. Fodor 1983)
– The ability to learn one‟s mother language as a unique faculty.
Embodiment as the most fundamental tenet in the Modularity Hypothesis
• According to Johnson 1987.
. Lakoff and Johnson 1980. Lakoff 1987. disembodied and human independent categories – We create them on the basis of our concrete experiences and under the constraints imposed by our bodies. 1999
– Mental and linguistic categories are not abstract.
. and the way in which things appear to us.Three levels . our environment.
• This is the level at which one can speak about the feel of experience. and our physical and social interactions” (1999: 103).the „embodiment of concepts‟ (Lakoff and Johnson. 1999)
• The „phenomenological level‟
– “consists of everything we can be aware of. the distinctive qualities of experiences. especially our own mental states.
the „embodiment of concepts‟ (Lakoff and Johnson.
.Three levels . 1999)
• The ‘neural embodiment’
– deals with structures that define concepts and operations at the neural level
• The ‘cognitive unconscious’
– concerns all mental operations that structure and make possible all conscious experience
It is only by the descriptions and explanations at these three levels that one can achieve a full understanding of the mind.
– All linguistic forms do not have inherent form in themselves.
• because meaning is based on individual experience as well as collective experience (Barcelona 1997: 9). they act as clues activating the meanings that reside in our minds and brains. meanings do not exist independently from the people that create and use them (Reddy 1993).The theory of linguistic meaning
• For Cognitive Linguistics. – This activation of meaning is not necessarily entirely the same in every person.
according to cognitive linguists.
• Semantic structure reflects the mental categories which people have formed from their experience and understanding of the world.Thus. • we have no access to a reality independent of human categorisation. •
. and that is why the structure of reality as reflected in language is a product of the human mind.
• The ability to categorise.
. when in fact they are categories of abstract entities. to judge that a particular thing is or is not an instance of a particular category.e. • Categorisation is often automatic and unconscious..Methodological Principles
• Human categorisation is one of the major issues in Linguistics. • How human beings establish different categories of elements has been discussed ever since Aristotle. is an essential part of cognition. except in problematic cases. the ability to categorise becomes indispensable.
– This can cause us to make mistakes and make us think that our categories are categories of things. i.
• When experience is used to guide the interpretation of a new experience.
• The microhistory of language
– Is reckoned across a very thin slice of time.
• The mesohistory of language
– deals with the middle time scale..
• The macrohistry of language
– In considering language change within the largest time perspective
. in years or decades.The Three Scales of Diachrony (Wang. A classic question in language mesohistory has been the manner or means by which a change is implemented.
. M.The Cognitive Basis of Language: Language and Thought (Dirven. & Verspoor. R. but also impose a certain way of understanding the world.
Some fundamental aspects of language and linguistics • Semiotics .the systematic study of signs which analyzes verbal and non-verbal systems of human communication as well as animal communication. • Semiotics distinguishes between three types of signs: – indices – icons – symbols • They represent three different structural principles relating form and content. • Linguistic categories not only enable us to communicate. 1998).
.What is a sign?
• In its widest sense. which we understand as its meaning. • Different types of signs in sign systems
– raising our eyebrows -> indexical – drawing the outline of a woman by using our hands -> iconic – expressing our thoughts by speaking -> symbolic
• All these methods of expression are meaningful to us as “signs” of something. a sign may be defined as a form which stands for something else.
An indexical sign/index
• An indexical sign/index (meaning „pointing finger‟ in Latin) .points to something in its immediate vicinity • e.
– a signpost for traffic pointing in the direction of the next town – facial expressions – raising one‟s eyebrows or furrowing one‟s brows – “point” to a person‟s internal emotional states of surprise or anger.g.
An iconic sign/icon
• • • An iconic sign/icon. Temporary Conditions
Information and Direction Signs • •
These images are only vaguely similar to reality but their general meanings are very clear.g.
.. (from Greek eikon „replica‟) provides a visual. e.g. a woman‟s shape with one‟s hands) with one‟s finger is an iconic sign. auditory or any other perceptual image of the thing it stands for. The gestural drawing of something (e. is similar to the thing it represents.
• only has a conventional link.
• signs for money
.g. e. • the traffic sign of an inverted triangle:
– does not have a natural link between its form and its meaning “give right of way.A symbolic sign/symbol
• does not have a natural link between the form and the thing represented.” – the link between its form and meaning is purely conventional.
Most of language has no natural link at all between the word form and its meaning.
“symbolic” used in linguistics
• understood in the sense that. people have “agreed” upon the pairing of a particular form with a particular meaning
. by general consent.
g. traffic and advertising
. in body language.A hierarchy of abstraction amongst the three types of signs
Indexical signs • “primitive” and the most limited signs
– restricted to “here” and “now”
• very wide-spread in human communication
• more complex
– their understanding requires the recognition of similarity.
• may be fairly similar as with icons or may be fairly abstract
• probably not found in the animal kingdom.g. cars or planes in road signs. pictures of men and women on toilet doors. – The iconic link of similarity needs to be consciously established by the observer.
• Humans have more communicative needs than pointing to things and replicating things • Humans want to talk about things which are more abstract in nature • The most elaborate system of symbolic signs is natural language in all its forms
– A spoken language as the most universal form – a written form of language develops due to civilization and intellectual development – a sign language largely based on conventionalized links between gestures and meanings.Symbolic signs
• The exclusive prerogative of humans.
.The three types of signs are illustrated in Table 1 and reflect general principles of coping with forms and meanings.
Principles of indexicality.
. • Symbolic signs allow the human mind to go beyond the limitations of contiguity and similarity and establish symbolic links between any form and any meaning. • Iconic signs reflect the more general principle of using an image for the real thing. whereby things that are contiguous can stand for each other. iconicity and symbolicity
• Indexical signs reflect a more general principle.
• The EGO serves as the “deictic centre” for locating things in space.g. this. today.
– the bicycle and tree example – deictic orientation changes – the car and bicycle examples – inherent orientation stays constant
. there. who imposes his perspective on the world. go. – depend for their interpretation on the situation in which they are used. • We consider ourselves to be at the centre of the universe – everything around us is seen from our point of view. – relate to the speaking EGO. • The EGO serves as the “deictic centre” for locating things with respect to other things as well. then. come. now. etc. • e. that.
– The ego-centric view shown in language – Deictic expressions: here.g. • e.Structuring Principles in language
• Principle of indexicality in language • The principle of indexicality in language means that we can “point” to things in our scope of attention.
– Personal pronouns for males and females as opposed to it – Special interrogative and relative pronouns referring to humans as opposed to things – A special possessive form for human (the man’s coat but not * the house’s roof)
.Anthropocentric perspective – a more general level led by human psychological proximity
• Our anthropocentric perspective of the world follows from the fact that we are foremost interested in humans like ourselves. • e.
• She knows the poem by heart. • We human beings always occupy a privileged position in the description of events. • *The poem is known by heart by her.
– A human subject is very often used in expressing events and states.g.
vici „I came. pick and mix. OVS.The principle of iconicity in language
• The principle of iconicity in language means that we conceive a similarity between a form of language and the thing it stands for. – the principle of iconicity determines the order of two or more clauses. I conquered‟ – the principle of iconicity also determines the sequential order of the elements in “binary” expressions which reflect temporal succession: e. hit and run. trial and error. verb and object in a sentence in a language: – SVO. • Three sub-principles: – the principle of sequential order • a phenomenon of both temporal events and the linear arrangement of elements in a linguistic construction. wait and see. give and take. VOS
. day and night – cause and effect. now and never. VSO. cash and carry. I saw. vidi. park and ride • a possible word order of subject. • Julius Caesar‟s historic words: veni. SOV.g. OSV. now and then. sooner or later.
g. types of subordinate clause:
– I made her leave – I wanted her to leave – I hoped that she would leave.
.The principle of distance
• accounts for the fact that things which belong together conceptually tend to be put together linguistically • things that do not belong to together are put in a distance • e.
g. will you?
.The iconic principle of quantity
• accounts for our tendency to associated more form with more meaning e. No smoking. Don‟t smoke.
. the whole range of new words or new senses of existing words are motivated.The principle of symbolicity in language
• Refers to the conventional pairing of form and meaning as is typically found in the word stock of a language. • The link between the form and the meaning of symbolic signs was called arbitrary (Saussure 1916) • However.
• Languages only covers part of the world of concepts which human have or may have. • The world is not some kind of objective reality existing in and for itself but is always shaped by our categorizing activity. or linguistic signs. • The notion of concept may be understood as “a person‟s idea of what something in the world is like‟.Linguistic and conceptual categories
• Such concepts which slice reality into relevant units are called categories. • Conceptual categories which are laid down in a language are linguistic categories. conceptual categories and linguistic signs are interlinked (see Table 2 on page 15)
. • Conceptual categories are concepts of a set as a whole. • The human conceptualizer.
• Alongside prototypical members of a category and less prototypical ones.Lexical categories • Lexical categories are defined by their specific content. we also hve more peripheral or marginal members. • The best member. the prototypical member. the most prominent member of a category. while grammatical categories provide the structural framework for the lexical material.
. • The conceptual content of a lexical category tends to cover a wide range of instances. is the subtype that first comes to mind when we think of that category.
. tense. • Prototypical nouns denote time-stable phenomena. etc. adjectives and adverbs denote more temporary phenomena.Grammatical categories • The structural framework provided by grammatical categories include abstract distinctions which are made by means of word classes. • The meanings traditionally associated with word classes only apply to prototypical members. • Most of the words classes were first introduced and defined by Greek and Roman grammarians as partes orationis „parts of speech‟. while verbs.
Saussure's most influential work is the Course in General Linguistics (1916).Linguistics Value (Saussure)
• Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) . he further opposed what he named langue (the state of a language at a certain time) to parole (the speech of an individual).He is universally regarded as „the father of structuralism.‟ His structural study of language emphasizes the arbitrary relationship of the linguistic sign to that which it signifies. Saussure distinguished synchronic linguistics (studying language at a given moment) from diachronic linguistics (studying the changing state of a language over time).
. a compilation of notes on his lectures.
.e. language is the social manifestation of speech. • language is a borderland between thought and sound. any sound-image can conceivably be used to signify a particular concept.Saussure’s general view about linguistics and language
• There is a distinction between language (langue) and the activity of speaking (parole). i. The combination of the signifier and the signified is arbitrary. • Speaking is an activity of the individual. • A linguistic sign is a combination of a concept and a sound-image. • Language is a system of signs that evolves from the activity of speech. where thought and sound combine to provide communication. and the sound-image is the signifier.
. • The concept is what is signified.
the signifier and signified. • Language has an inner duality. which is manifested by the interaction of the synchronic and diachronic. the syntagmatic and associative. 2001)
. • Diachronic reality is found in changes of language over a period of time. • Synchronic reality is found in the structure of language at a given point in time.Saussure’s general view about linguistics and language –cont’d
• Nothing enters written language without having been tested in spoken language. • The meaning or signification of signs is established by their relation to each other. • The relation of signs to each other forms the structure of language. • The units of language can have a synchronic or diachronic arrangement. (Scott.