Cognitive Linguistics

This module introduces the field of Cognitive Linguistics with a particular focus on Cognitive Semantics. Cognitive Linguistics presents a radical revision of standard linguistic theory making three central and related claims: (i) Language is grounded in experience. The meanings attached to linguistic expressions are derived from experiences we have of our bodies and our interaction with the physical world as well as experiences we have as members of a given culture and speech community. At the same time, language structures our experience along relativistic lines. (ii) Language is not supported by a specially dedicated module of the mind but is, instead, distributed where it is dependent on more general cognitive systems and processes found to function in other domains like memory, perception, reason and action. And (iii) The structures that provide meaning to language and the processes which motivate or facilitate language change are conceptual in nature. Cognitive Linguistics investigates the conceptual structures and the principles and processes of conceptualisation that give meaning to linguistic expressions.

This module introduces key concepts and foundational theories in Cognitive Linguistics as well as recent extensions, developments and applications. We explore both universals and variation in language and experience, addressing such fundamental questions as: How do speakers of different languages categorise the world around them? What is the embodied basis of linguistic meaning? How does language structure basic areas of experience like space, time and motion and do differences across languages affect the way speakers see the world? How does language structure our conception of scenes and events? Which properties out there in the world does language attend to when describing it and which properties does it ignore? And how much of language, and thus our experience of the world, is metaphorical?