Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics by kks12463


									Introduction to Cognitive
Graduate Institute of Linguistics
      Fu-Jen University
 Lecture 1                                                                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
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, 1997)
            The Experiential view
• This view pursues a more practical and empirical description of

• 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.

• The first research within this approach - the study of cognitive
  categories led to the prototype model of categorisation (Eleanor
  Rosch et al.,1977, 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, which they are not so familiar with, and even to abstract

• Lakoff and Johnson (1980) were among the first ones to pinpoint
  this conceptual potential, especially in the case of metaphors.
           The Prominence view
• It is based on concepts of profiling and figure/ground
  segregation, a phenomenon first introduced by the
  Danish gestalt psychologist Rubin (1886-1951).
• The prominence principle explains why, when we look at
  an object in our environment, we single it out as a
  perceptually prominent figure standing out from the
   – This principle can also be applied to the study of language;
     especially, to the study of local relations (cf. Brugman 1981,
     1988; Casad 1982, 1993; Lindner 1982; Herskovits 1986;
     Vandeloise 1991; among others).

   – It is also used in Langacker‟s (1987, 1991) grammar, where
     profiling is used to explain grammatical constructs and, figure
     and ground for the explanation of grammatical relations.
Figure-ground is another Gestalt psychology principle. It
was first introduced by the Danish phenomenologist Edgar
Rubin (1886-1951).
The classic example:
          The Attentional view
• This view assumes that what we actually
  express reflects which parts of an event attract
  our attention.
• A main concept of this approach is Fillmore‟s
  (1975) notion of „frame‟, i.e. an assemblage of
  the knowledge we have about a certain
  – Depending on our cognitive ability to direct our
    attention, different aspects of this frame are
    highlighted, resulting in different linguistic expressions
    (Talmy 1988, 1991, and 1996).
The Tenets to Follow in Cognitive Linguistics

  – The design features of languages, and our
    ability to learn and use them are accounted
    for by general cognitive abilities, kinaesthetic
    abilities, our visual and sensimotor skills and
    our human categorisation strategies, together
    with our cultural, contextual and functional
    parameters (Barcelona 1997: 8).
• The Modularity Hypothesis (cf. Chomsky
  1986; Fodor 1983)
  – The ability to learn one‟s mother language as
    a unique faculty, as a special innate mental
  – Language is understood as a product of
    general cognitive abilities.
Embodiment as the most fundamental tenet
in the Modularity Hypothesis
• According to Johnson 1987; Lakoff 1987;
  Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 1999
  – Mental and linguistic categories are not
    abstract, disembodied and human
    independent categories
  – We create them on the basis of our concrete
    experiences and under the constraints
    imposed by our bodies.
Three levels - the „embodiment of concepts‟
(Lakoff and Johnson, 1999)
• The „phenomenological level‟
  – “consists of everything we can be aware of,
    especially our own mental states, our bodies,
    our environment, and our physical and social
    interactions” (1999: 103).
     • This is the level at which one can speak about the
       feel of experience, the distinctive qualities of
       experiences, and the way in which things appear
       to us.
Three levels - the „embodiment of concepts‟
(Lakoff and Johnson, 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.
The theory of linguistic meaning
• For Cognitive Linguistics, meanings do not exist
  independently from the people that create and use them
  (Reddy 1993).
   – All linguistic forms do not have inherent form in
     themselves, they act as clues activating the meanings
     that reside in our minds and brains.
   – This activation of meaning is not necessarily entirely
     the same in every person,
      • because meaning is based on individual experience as well
        as collective experience (Barcelona 1997: 9).
Thus, according to cognitive linguists,

• 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.
• Semantic structure reflects the mental
  categories which people have formed from their
  experience and understanding of the world.
           Methodological Principles

• Human categorisation is one of the major issues in Linguistics.
• The ability to categorise, i.e., to judge that a particular thing is or is
  not an instance of a particular category, is an essential part of
• Categorisation is often automatic and unconscious, except in
  problematic cases.
    – This can cause us to make mistakes and make us think that our
      categories are categories of things, when in fact they are categories of
      abstract entities.
• When experience is used to guide the interpretation of a new
  experience, the ability to categorise becomes indispensable.
• How human beings establish different categories of elements has
  been discussed ever since Aristotle.
The Three Scales of Diachrony (Wang, 1978)

• The microhistory of language
   – Is reckoned across a very thin slice of time, in years or decades.

• The mesohistory of language
   – deals with the middle time scale.. A classic question in language
     mesohistory has been the manner or means by which a change
     is implemented.

• The macrohistry of language
   – In considering language change within the largest time
The Cognitive Basis of Language: Language and
Thought (Dirven, R. & Verspoor, M. 1998).

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,
  but also impose a certain way of understanding the
               What is a sign?
• In its widest sense, a sign may be defined as a form
  which stands for something else, 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 ->
   – expressing our thoughts by speaking -> symbolic
• All these methods of expression are meaningful to us
  as “signs” of something.
        An indexical sign/index
• An indexical sign/index (meaning „pointing finger‟
  in Latin) - points to something in its immediate
• e.g.
  – a signpost for traffic pointing in the direction of the next
  – facial expressions
  – raising one‟s eyebrows or furrowing one‟s brows
  – “point” to a person‟s internal emotional states of surprise or
                    An iconic sign/icon
•   An iconic sign/icon, (from Greek eikon „replica‟)
-   provides a visual, auditory or any other perceptual image of the thing it stands for.
-   is similar to the thing it represents.
•   e.g.
                    Temporary Conditions

                    Warning Signs

                    Information and Direction Signs

•   These images are only vaguely similar to reality but their general meanings are very
•   The gestural drawing of something (e.g., a woman‟s shape with one‟s hands) with
    one‟s finger is an iconic sign.
     A symbolic sign/symbol
• does not have a natural link between the form
  and the thing represented,
• only has a conventional link.
• the traffic sign of an inverted triangle:
  – does not have a natural link between its form and its
    meaning “give right of way.”
  – the link between its form and meaning is purely
• signs for money
  –£ $
 military emblem                    flag

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, by general
  consent, people have “agreed” upon the
  pairing of a particular form with a particular
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
  – e.g., in body language, traffic and advertising
Iconic signs
• more complex
  – their understanding requires the recognition of
  – The iconic link of similarity needs to be consciously
    established by the observer.
• may be fairly similar as with icons or may be
  fairly abstract
  – e.g. pictures of men and women on toilet doors, cars
    or planes in road signs.
• probably not found in the animal kingdom.
Symbolic signs

• The exclusive prerogative of humans.
• 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.
The three types of signs are illustrated in Table 1 and reflect
general principles of coping with forms and meanings.
Principles of indexicality, iconicity and symbolicity

• Indexical signs reflect a more general principle,
  whereby things that are contiguous can stand for
  each other.

• Iconic signs reflect the more general principle of
  using an image for the real thing.

• 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.
  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.
• We consider ourselves to be at the centre of the universe – everything
  around us is seen from our point of view.
• e.g.
    – The ego-centric view shown in language
    – Deictic expressions: here, there, now, then, today, tomorrow, this, that, come,
      go, etc.
    – relate to the speaking EGO, who imposes his perspective on the world.
    – depend for their interpretation on the situation in which they are used.
• The EGO serves as the “deictic centre” for locating things in space.
• The EGO serves as the “deictic centre” for locating things with respect to
  other things as well.
• e.g.
    – the bicycle and tree example – deictic orientation changes
    – the car and bicycle examples – inherent orientation stays constant
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.
• We human beings always occupy a privileged position in
  the description of events.
• e.g.
   – A human subject is very often used in expressing events and
       • She knows the poem by heart.
       • *The poem is known by heart by her.
   – 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)
 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.
• Three sub-principles:
   – the principle of sequential order
       • a phenomenon of both temporal events and the linear
          arrangement of elements in a linguistic construction.
   – the principle of iconicity determines the order of two or more
       • Julius Caesar‟s historic words: veni, vidi, vici „I came, I saw, I
   – the principle of iconicity also determines the sequential order of the
     elements in “binary” expressions which reflect temporal succession:
       e.g. now and then, now and never, sooner or later, day and night
   – cause and effect, hit and run, trial and error, give and take, wait
     and see, pick and mix, cash and carry, park and ride
• a possible word order of subject, verb and object in a sentence in a
            The principle of distance

• accounts for the fact that things which belong
  together conceptually tend to be put together

• things that do not belong to together are put in a

• e.g. types of subordinate clause:
   – I made her leave
   – I wanted her to leave
   – I hoped that she would leave.
       The iconic principle of quantity

• accounts for our tendency to associated
  more form with more meaning

e.g. No smoking.
      Don‟t smoke, will you?
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
• However, the whole range of new words or new
  senses of existing words are motivated.
Linguistic and conceptual categories

Conceptual categories
• Such concepts which slice reality into relevant units are
  called categories.
• Conceptual categories are concepts of a set as a whole.
• Languages only covers part of the world of concepts
  which human have or may have.
• The notion of concept may be understood as “a person‟s
  idea of what something in the world is like‟.
• The world is not some kind of objective reality existing in
  and for itself but is always shaped by our categorizing
• Conceptual categories which are laid down in a
  language are linguistic categories, or linguistic signs.
• The human conceptualizer, conceptual categories and
  linguistic signs are interlinked (see Table 2 on page 15)
Lexical categories

• Lexical categories are defined by their specific
  content, 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.
• The best member, the prototypical member, the
  most prominent member of a category, is the
  subtype that first comes to mind when we think
  of that category.
• Alongside prototypical members of a category
  and less prototypical ones, we also hve more
  peripheral or marginal members.
Grammatical categories

• The structural framework provided by
  grammatical categories include abstract
  distinctions which are made by means of word
  classes, number, tense, etc.
• Most of the words classes were first introduced
  and defined by Greek and Roman grammarians
  as partes orationis „parts of speech‟.
• The meanings traditionally associated with word
  classes only apply to prototypical members.
• Prototypical nouns denote time-stable
  phenomena, while verbs, adjectives and
  adverbs denote more temporary phenomena.
 Linguistics Value (Saussure)

• Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) - 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); he further
  opposed what he named langue (the state of a language
  at a certain time) to parole (the speech of an individual).
  Saussure's most influential work is the Course in
  General Linguistics (1916), a compilation of notes on his
Saussure’s general view about linguistics and
• There is a distinction between language (langue) and the
  activity of speaking (parole).
• Speaking is an activity of the individual; language is the
  social manifestation of speech.
• Language is a system of signs that evolves from the
  activity of speech.
• language is a borderland between thought and sound,
  where thought and sound combine to provide
• A linguistic sign is a combination of a concept and a
• The concept is what is signified, and the sound-image is
  the signifier. The combination of the signifier and the
  signified is arbitrary; i.e., any sound-image can
  conceivably be used to signify a particular concept.
Saussure’s general view about linguistics and
language –cont’d
• Nothing enters written language without having been
  tested in spoken language.
• The units of language can have a synchronic or
  diachronic arrangement.
• 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
• Synchronic reality is found in the structure of language at
  a given point in time.
• Diachronic reality is found in changes of language over a
  period of time.
• Language has an inner duality, which is manifested by
  the interaction of the synchronic and diachronic, the
  syntagmatic and associative, the signifier and signified.
  (Scott, 2001)

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