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What is Cognitive Linguistics ?. Laura A. Janda laura.janda @ uit.no. Cognitive linguistics. Minimal Assumption : language can be accounted for in terms of general cognitive strategies no autonomous language faculty no strict division between grammar and lexicon

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what is cognitive linguistics

What is CognitiveLinguistics?

Laura A. Janda


cognitive linguistics

Minimal Assumption: languagecan be accounted for in terms of general cognitivestrategies

  • noautonomouslanguagefaculty
  • nostrictdivisionbetweengrammar and lexicon
  • no a prioriuniversals

Usage-Based: generalizationsemerge from language data

  • nostrictdivisionbetweenlangue and parole
  • no underlying forms

Meaning is Central: holds for all languagephenomena

  • nosemanticallyempty forms
  • differences in behavioraremotivated (but not specificallypredicted) by differences in meaning
  • metaphor and metonymy play a major role in grammar
language cognition
Language & Cognition
  • Linguisticcognition has nospecial status
    • All linguisticphenomenacan be explained via general cognitivemechanisms
  • Language is not dividedintodiscretelevels or modules
    • phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon form a continuousphenomenon
    • primarymotive for all linguisticphenomena is meaning
prediction embodiment
Prediction & Embodiment
  • Goal is to discovermotivationsratherthan to formulatepredictions
    • iflinguisticphenomenaweretrulypredictable, therewouldn’t be anyvariation
    • universalsarefew and non-specific, manyphenomena have language-specificaspects
  • Meaning is grounded in physicalexperiences, dependent uponthearchitectureofourbodies, perceptual organs and brains
    • meaningcannot be achieved by symbols alone
cognitive categories
  • Linguistic categories are cognitive categories and have the same structure
    • Established through research in psychology and neurobiology
    • Radial category centered on a prototype with extensions
    • Extension via mapping: metaphor, metonymy, blends
examples of cognitive categories
  • The nextfew slides will present someitems.
  • Try to seeiftherearedifferencesamongthevariouslanguagesthatyouspeak.
why did you choose the solution you did

English: chair

Czech: židle

English: wheelchair

Czech: vozejk = ‘cart’

English: cart

Czech: vozejk = ‘cart’

if you speak english your chair category looks like this
If you speak English, your chair category looks like this:

rocking chair

lawn chair


high chair


wheel chair

if you speak norwegian your chair category looks like this
IfyouspeakNorwegian, yourchaircategorylooks like this:







if you speak czech your category is
If you speak Czech, your category is:








russian has two different categories
Russian has two different categories:







инвалидная коляска


the take home lesson about chairs
The take-homelessonaboutchairs:
  • Categorization isn’t “out there” in the world, reality can be categorized in different ways
  • Different languages can use different strategies for categorizing experience

A: The apples are inside-bowl

B: The apples are loose fitting-bowl

C: The apples are concave valley that faces me-bowl

D: The apples are stomach-bowl

the take home lesson about apples
The take-homelessonaboutapples:
  • Meaning is basedonembodiedexperience
  • Meaning is also present in “grammatical” phenomenasuch as functorwords (like pre- and post-positions) and case
    • Becausethelexicon and grammarare a continuum
  • Differentlanguagescanrecruitdifferentembodiedexperiences for this purpose:
    • Container vs. Surface, Tight vs. Loosefit, Topography, Body parts, etc.

You are inside a house.

Suddenly a dog appears,

moving very rapidly

through the door.

How could you describe

what the dog did?

the take home lesson about dogs
The take-homelessonaboutdogs:
  • Meaningcan be representeddifferently in different grammars
    • Verb-framedlanguages (like Spanish) focusonthepathof motion, and the manner of motion is expressedoptionally, as an adverbial
    • Sattelite-framedlanguages (like Norwegian) focusonthe manner of motion, and thepath is expressed in a particle or prefix
cognitive linguistics is usage based
Cognitivelinguistics is usage-based
  • Weareinterested in performance, not just competence
  • Muchwork in cognitivelinguisticsinvolvesauthenticlanguage data: corpora
  • Language data is oftenanalyzed via statisticalmodels
what is cognitive linguistics1
What is CognitiveLinguistics?
  • Explanationoflinguisticphenomena via general cognitivemechanisms
  • Meaning is themotive for language and is embodied in physicalexperience
  • Radial categoriesbasedon prototypes withextensions via metaphor & metonymy
  • Lexicon & grammarare a continuum, observe same patterns
  • Empirical (statistical) analysisofauthenticlanguage data (corpora)