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Review of  Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings

Reviewer: Mohammad Rasekh Mahand
Book Title: Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings
Book Author: Dirk Geeraerts
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 18.1166

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AUTHOR: Geeraerts, Dirk
TITLE: Cognitive Linguistics
SUBTITLE: Basic Readings
SERIES: Cognitive Linguistics Research
PUBLISHER: Mouton De Gruyter
YEAR: 2006

Mohammad Rasekh Mahand, Linguistics Department, Bu-Ali Sina University,
Hamedan, Iran.


This book attempts to provide an introductory course in Cognitive
Linguistics by bringing together twelve main articles by leading figures in
the field. Each one of these articles introduces one of the basic concepts
of Cognitive Linguistics.
Dirk Geeraerts in his introduction to the book gives a rough guide to
Cognitive Linguistics and compares it to an archipelago rather than an
island and holds that this book is a tour of twelve central islands,
namely: Cognitive Grammar, grammatical construal, radial network, prototype
theory, schematic network, conceptual metaphor, image schema, metonymy,
mental spaces, frame semantics, construction grammar, and usage-based

Langacker uses Cognitive Grammar as the name for his theory of language.
The paper in this collection by him includes the basic features of
Cognitive Grammar. He starts with the very basic idea of grammar as
conceptualization and imagery, by introducing a number of general features
of grammatical imagery like profiling, specificity, scope and salience.
Then he tries to build a descriptive framework for a grammar assuming that
language is meaning and meaning is conceptualization. He argues that a
grammar consists of symbolic units which are a conventional pairing of a
form and a meaning. They not only include lexical items but also some
abstract pairings like that of a noun and a thing and verb and a process.
Langacker introduces some terms that are used in other Cognitive
Linguistics' approaches, such as schematic network and domain matrix.

The second paper of this volume by Leonard Talmy is ''the relation of
grammar to cognition''. Talmy has never suggested a term for his theory but
grammatical construal is selected by the editor of this volume for
capturing his ideas. He focuses on the specific types of conceptual
construal that are expressed by those aspects of natural language that have
to do with syntax and morphology, rather than lexicon. He notes that there
are some forms of conceptual structure that are hardly ever expressed by
grammatical structure, like color, but others, like number, are typically
expressed by syntax and morphology.

The third paper in this collection, ''Cognitive typology and lexical
networks'' by Claudia Brugman and George Lakoff is the study of radial
network model on the basis of analysis of the preposition over. This model
describes a category structure in which a central case of the category
radiates towards novel instances. Brugman suggests the above and across
reading of over as central and then shows how less central readings extend
from the central case.

Prototype theory is the matter of the fourth paper by the editor of this
volume. The paper presents a systematic overview of the different
prototype-theoretical phenomena that are mentioned in the literature.

The fifth paper introduces schematic network as a generalization over the
radial and prototype concepts. It adds the idea that the dynamism of
meaning may also involve a shift along a taxonomical dimension. Suppose, at
one level, we think of birds prototypically as living beings having
feathers and wings and that can fly. If we stay on this level we can move
from the central prototype cases to peripheral cases. But there are other
levels at which we can think of birds; specific ones, like your parrot, and
more general ones, like fowl or birds of pray. Moving from a more specific
one to a more general level is called schematization, and the model is
called a schematic network. David Tuggy's paper ''Ambiguity, polysemy and
vagueness'' studies the relationship between polysemy and vagueness in a
schematic network.

Lakoff's paper ''The contemporary theory of metaphor'' introduces one of the
best known aspects of Cognitive Linguistics, namely conceptual metaphor.
Conceptual metaphor theory rests on the recognition that a give metaphor
need not be restricted to a single lexical item, but may generalize over
different expressions.

Introducing image schema is the matter of chapter seven in a paper written
by Gibbs and Colston entitled ''The cognitive psychological reality of image
schemas and their transformations''. An image schema is a regular pattern
that recurs as a source domain for different target domains. Typically,
they include containment, path, scales, verticality, and center-periphery.

Metonymy is another way of thinking in terms of domains playing a role in
Cognitive Linguistics. Metaphor is supposed to be based on similarity,
whereas metonymy is said to be based on contiguity. For example when you
fill up your car, you don't fill the entire car but the gas tank. Croft in
his paper here, ''The role of domains in the interpretation of metaphors and
metonymies'' tries to define metonymy in terms of a domain matrix.

If metaphor is analyzed as a mapping from one domain to another, the
question is how such mapping takes place. Fauconnier and Turner by the
paper ''Conceptual integration networks'' provide a descriptive framework to
answer that question.

The tenth paper of this collection by Fillmore, ''Frame semantics''
introduces his specific approach to natural language semantics. One
fundamental point is that one cannot understand the meaning of a word
without access to all the encyclopedic knowledge that relates to that word.

''The inherent semantics of argument structure: the case of the English
ditransitive construction'' by Goldberg rests on the notion of construction
grammar. A grammatical construction is any string of words or morphemes
showing a coherent pattern. In Cognitive Linguistics such patterns are
considered to be non-derived or a sign of the language.

The last paper of this collection by Tomasello ''First steps toward a
usage-based theory of language acquisition'' is a usage-based study of
language acquisition based on Cognitive Linguistics principles.


The inclusion of main concepts in Cognitive Linguistics makes the present
collection a valuable source for beginners as well as researchers in this
domain. The editor has collected very good sources to introduce each
concept and has added valuable information in his introduction to the book.
By reading the book, a linguist may gain both familiarity with this
fast-growing domain of linguistics and the means to delve into it further.

Mohammad Rasekh Mahand is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Bu-Ali Sina
University, Hamadan, Iran. His research interests include syntax,
syntax-pragmatics interface and typology.

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