LINGUIST List 23.2247

Thu May 10 2012

Review: Cognitive Science: Brdar et al. (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>



Date: 10-May-2012
From: Zhenqiang Fan <fanzhenqiangzjugmail.com>
Subject: Cognitive Linguistics
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EDITORS: Mario Brdar, Stefan Th. Gries, Milena Žic FuchsTITLE: Cognitive LinguisticsSUBTITLE: Convergence and ExpansionSERIES TITLE: Human Cognitive Processing 32PUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 2011

Zhen-qiang Fan, Zhejiang Gongshang University, P.R. China

SUMMARYThis volume contains papers presented at the International Cognitive LinguisticsConference (Dubrovnic, Croatia, 2005), with some additionally solicited articlesfrom leading experts in cognitive linguistics.

The collection begins with an introduction by the editors, providing thebackground, aim, and a preview of the book. The collection aims to 'illustratethe main lines of development in cognitive linguistics, namely, the ever-presentfocus on research within linguistics proper and expansions into other fields ininquiry' (p.2). The remaining fourteen chapters are grouped into three parts:Part 1, Setting the scene, Part 2, Consolidating the paradigm, Part 3, Expandingthe paradigm.

Part 1: Setting the sceneIn chapter 1, "Convergence in cognitive linguistics", Ronald W. Langackeraddresses the converging and diverging tendencies in cognitive linguistics.Through a discussion of the relations between various central notions incognitive linguistics such as metaphor, metonymy, blending theory, cognitivegrammar and construction grammar, the author argues that the overall tendencyhas been toward convergence, integration and unification. Langacker alsomentions that cognitive linguistics has undergone expansion by drawing onmethods, findings and empirical support from other disciplines such as computerscience, neurology, psychological experimentation, etc. Finally, the expansioncan also be seen in the fact that cognitive linguistics has broadened its scopeto include issues like sociolinguistics, phonology, topology, universals, and soforth.

In chapter 2, "An overview of cognitive linguistics", Antonio Barcelona andJavier Valenzuela present a detailed overview of various key issues in thedevelopment of cognitive linguistics. The issues touched upon are: itsbackground as a reaction against generative approaches; its theoretical tenetsincluding non-modularism and a non-objectivist, blueprint view of linguisticmeaning; the consequent methodological principles such as relying on generalhuman cognitive abilities (e.g. prototype-based categorization), and blurringthe distinction between encyclopedic, experience-based knowledge and linguisticmeaning; the main directions and current tendencies in cognitive linguistics andtheir applications including construction grammars, polysemy, metaphor, metonymyand blending. Finally, the authors identify remaining problems and futureresearch in cognitive linguistics -- to what extent it is cognitive, how toaddress the social aspects of language processing, the formalization problem ofconstruction grammar, the psychological plausibility of the cognitiveexplanation of polysemy, the distinction, interaction and typology of metaphorand metonymy, and experimental support for blending theory.

Part 2: Consolidating the paradigmIn chapter 3, "Pattern versus process concepts of grammar and mind: Acognitive-functional perspective", Jan Nuyts focuses on a contentious issuebetween cognitive linguistics and more traditional functional linguistics:cognitive linguistics mainly adopts a pattern- or construction-oriented approachto grammar, while classical functionalism's approach to grammar relies more onrules or process. Contrary to arguments by cognitive grammarians like Langackerand Croft who claim that the process concept is misguided, Nuyts, through anin-depth analysis of various theoretical views and the complex relationshipbetween process vs. construction concepts of grammar, argues that the two modelsare not only compatible but also represent complementary perspectives on thesame phenomenon.

In chapter 4, "Metaphor in language and thought: How do we map the field?",Gerard J. Steen addresses issues related to metaphor within one coherenttheoretical framework which can serve as a map for researchers to gain a clearerunderstanding of metaphor in language and thought. First, he distinguished threedimensions of doing metaphor research, i.e. metaphor can be studied as part ofgrammar or usage, or/and as part of language or thought, or/and as part of signsystems or behavior. Second, on the basis of these three dimensions, Steendifferentiates eight areas of research that have their own assumptions aboutmetaphorical meaning. The author points out that metaphor research in thesedistinct areas is supported by various kinds of evidence collected withdifferent methods, so converging evidence for metaphor in one area may becontroversial in another.

In chapter 5, "Emotion and desire in independent complement clauses: A casestudy from German", Klaus-Uwe Panther and Linda L. Thornburg concentrate on theinterface between grammatical form and its pragmatic function and explore towhat extent sentence meaning are compositional and to what extent isinferential, that is, elaborated through metaphoric, metonymic and/or pragmaticinference. They base their discussion on independent complement clauses whichshow a mismatch between form and pragmatic function because "independent" speechacts are communicated by "dependent" syntactically dependent structures. Theauthors conclude that meaning is less compositional than traditionally assumed;meanings are dynamically constructed through cognitive operations involvingworld knowledge, belief systems; syntax is partially motivated.

In chapter 6, "Schematic meaning of the Croatian verbal prefix iz-: Meaningchains and syntactic implications", Branimir Belaj offers a semantic analysis ofthe Croatian verbal prefix iz-. Drawing on a small corpus, he proposes that allthese iz-prefixed verbs share the schematic meaning "transition from anintralocative to an extralocative position", and together they form a radialnetwork/category, with different members located in different nodes of thenetwork, some being more prototypical while others more peripheral.

Based on a representative sample of English and Spanish bahuvrihi compounds, inchapter 7, "The conceptual motivation of bahuvrihi compounds in English andSpanish", Antonio Barcelona presents a more refined interpretation and cognitiveinterpretation of exocentric bahuvrihi compounds whose explanation requires morethan just pointing out the involvement of metonymy. Specifically, he argues thatthe exocentric nature of these compounds is motivated by the metonymyCHARACTERISTIC PROPERTY FOR CATEGORY, and the property itself can beconceptualized literally, metonymically, or metaphtonymically. This chapter alsotouches on the relations between the semantics of bahuvrihi compounds and theirgrammatical and prosodic form.

In chapter 8, "On the subject of impersonals", Ronald W. Langacker elaborates onthe impersonal "it", which he claims to be meaningful. He provides an insightfulanalysis of "it" and the constructions containing it by comparing it withrelated constructions and other pronouns. He postulates a cognitive model calledthe "control cycle" to explain it. His main proposal is that "'it' profiles therelevant field, i.e. the conceptulizer's scope of awareness for the issue athand" (p.207).

Part 3: Expanding the paradigmIn chapter 9, "Do people infer the entailments of conceptual metaphors duringverbal metaphor understanding?", Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr. and Luciane C. Ferreirasummarize research supporting and critique raised against conceptual metaphortheory concerning a wide range of issues in this area, and then go on to reportan exploratory study testing ordinary speaker's intuitions to investigate thepsychological issue of "whether people understand one, some, or all of thepossible meaning entailments associated with a conceptual metaphor when theyprocess conventional expressions motivated by that conceptual metaphor" (p.228).The experiment confirms cognitive linguists' view that people have mentalrepresentations of conceptual metaphors which play a role in theirinterpretations of metaphoric language. The authors caution cognitive linguiststo take psycholinguistic findings into consideration in their research.

The next two chapters argue for the effectiveness of corpus-based approach incognitive linguistics. In chapter 10, "Corpus data in usage-based linguistics:What's the right degree of granularity for the analysis of argument structureconstructions?", Stefan Th. Gries takes up the issue of which hierarchical levelor amount of granularity in corpora is most fruitful. Based on corpus data fromthe British Component of the International Corpus of English, he evaluates thedegree to which distinctions between lemmas and inflectional forms, as well asbetween data from different registers are merited in the analysis of thesemantics of argument structure constructions. He concludes that seeminglymeaningful linguistic distinctions do not necessarily result in expectedmeaningful differences and advocates a bottom-up method for usage-based studiesthat would reveal most relevant differences in patterning. In view of cognitivelinguists' strong commitment to usage-based model, in chapter 11, "Cognitivelinguistics meets the corpus", Anatol Stefanowitsch justifies the need forcognitive linguistics to embrace and get their hands dirty with "authentic,richly structured and inescapably messy usage data" (p.285). Firstly, heillustrates how corpus data and methods can be utilized to examine properties ofthe linguistic system, e.g. to assess the acceptability of a specificexpression; then, he exemplifies how quantitative corpus-linguistic method canbe interpreted within a usage-based model by presenting a method calledcollostructional analysis which is helpful for understanding the semantics ofconstructional patterns.

In chapter 12, "Oops blush! Beyond metaphors of emotion", Heli Tissari weighsSilvan Tomkins's claim that affect is constituted directly by the responses ofthe body to stimulation against key notions of conceptual metaphor theory,especially Zoltán Kövecses's research on the metonymic, embodied basis ofemotion metaphors. Focusing on the affect of shame, the author demonstrates ingreat detail how studies on conceptual metaphors and an interpretation of affectas a fundamentally embodied phenomenon might crossfertilize each other.

Chapter 13, "Conceptual construal and social construction" by Peter Harder,shifts the focus from internal grounding of concepts, i.e. the experientialbasis of embodiment of concepts, to discussion of the social aspects oflinguistic cognition, i.e. "the processes that are at work when 'emerged'concepts acquire a role in the social process" (p.306), an orientation gainingincreasing attention in the last decade (see Harder 2010). The similarity ofconceptual construal and social construction lies in their refusal of objectiveproperties as the determinant of the content of understanding, and theacknowledgement of the important role of human factors. Their divergence lies inthe fact that social construction stresses the social pressures forconceptualization, while conceptual construal emphasizes bodily grounding ofhuman cognition. Instead of treating them as contradictory, Harder aims to"provide an overall framework that integrates hard facts as well as processes ofsocial construction with the conceptual domain that constitutes the heartland ofcognitive linguistics (p.322). With an analysis of the "cartoon crisis" inDenmark, Harder illustrates how the new framework, combining both conceptualfactors and social processes, can help us gain a deeper understanding ofconceptualization in communication.

In chapter 14, "The biblical story retold: A cognitive linguistic perspective",Zoltán Kövecses offers a cognitive linguistic-based reinterpretation of thecentral symbols and the basic story of the Bible. The author, by identifyingseveral major metaphors and metonymies, explains in detail how the symbolicmeaning of the basic story is interpreted and how these metaphors and metonymiesoperate in the interpretation. What distinguishes Kövecses's method from otherperspectives is his claim that people's understanding of the symbolic meaning ofthe Bible story relies on conceptual structures and conceptual mechanisms sharedby a large number of language users in the European cultural zone. Moreover, heargues that the conceptual structures and conceptual mechanisms of Bibleinterpretation are not unique and thus are no difference from the cognitiveapparatus people utilize every day.

EVALUATIONThis book is a much-needed and timely addition to the fast-growingmultidisciplinary endeavor of the field, representing both state-of-the-artresearch and cutting-edge studies in cognitive linguistics proper and itsexpansion into other fields of inquiry.

The two chapters in part 1 give a good overview of cognitive linguistics,helpful especially for novices in cognitive linguistics. Langackeroptimistically points to the possibility of coherence and unification but onlymentions numerous works to support his point. With Langacker's contribution as aguide, readers have to consult those works to see how unification andconvergence can be achieved. Chapter 2's survey gives equal treatments to themain areas of cognitive linguistics (construction grammars, lexico-semanticnetworks, and conceptual metaphor and metonymy and blending), their applicationsand future research. However, this chapter does not comment on diverging orconverging tendencies and does not cover how cognitive linguistics integrateswith other disciplines.

The chapters in the second part aim to show converging tendencies withincognitive linguistics itself, and this goal is achieved. For example, as Nuytsdemonstrates, in grammar research, a construction-oriented approach and aprocess-oriented approach are not incompatible, and there is great potential forthem to unite and provide complementary perspectives on the same phenomena. Theconvergence can also be seen in Steen's discussion of metaphor research. He putsforward three dimensions in the diverse and seemingly chaotic area of metaphorstudies and on this basis, he systemizes eight areas of research. Of the sixchapters contained in this part, only chapter 4 is dedicated to cognitivesemantics (i.e. metaphor), with two chapters devoted to lexico-semantics andthree to grammar. Moreover, the other two core themes of cognitive semantics(conceptual metonymy and blending) receive little attention. Metonymy, aconceptual operation no less fundamental than metaphor but receive much lessattention than metaphor until in recent years (Panther and Radden, 1999) andalso showing a converging tendency (see Benczes et al., 2011), surely deservestreatment in a collection like this. The same thing can be said of conceptualblending (see Handl & Schmid, 2011). In addition, chapters 3 and 4 are concernedwith theoretical issues while chapters 5-8 focus on the explanation of specificphenomena or the application of theories.

The third part is intended to indicate the expansion of cognitive linguistics toother fields. This expansion makes cognitive linguistics draw nutrition fromand/or show benefit to these other areas. It can be seen in terms of methods,theories and new areas of application. First, in terms of methodology, chapter 9shows how psycholinguistic (experimental) methods can be employed to make claimsin metaphor research more substantial; chapters 10 and 11 demonstrate howcognitive linguistic studies can be aided by corpus-based approach. Second, interms of theories, chapter 12 evaluates conceptual metaphor theories with theaffects research tradition founded by Silvan Tomkins; chapter 13 shows how theconceptual construal approach of cognitive linguistics can benefit from takingsocial construction theory into account. Thirdly, in terms of application,chapter 14 applies cognitive linguistic theories and methods to theinterpretation of biblical story, demonstrating the explanatory power ofcognitive linguistics on the one hand, and bringing a new perspective to thephenomenon. Of course, apart from what has been mentioned, there are many othermethods (e.g. audio and videographic analysis, see Gonzalez-Marquez et al.,2007), other theories (from a wide range of disciplines) and other areas ofapplication for cognitive linguists to explore. That said, as the editorssuggests in their introduction, "the chapters do not cover all possibilities ofeither convergence or expansion, whether already existing ones, or ones that mayappear especially through the integration of cognitive linguistics withpsycholinguistics and neuroscience, or further research on societal mechanisms"(p.2).

All in all, this volume is a valuable resource and highly recommended tospecialists not only in cognitive linguistics, but also in other sub-branches ofcognitive science as well.

REFERENCESHarder, Peter. 2010. Meaning in Mind and Society. A Functional Contribution tothe Social Turn in Cognitive Linguistics. Berlin & New York: de Gruyter Mouton.

Gonzalez-Marquez, Monica, Irene Mittleberg, Seana Coulson and Michael Spivey(eds.) 2007. Methods in Cognitive Linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Panther, Klaus-Uwe & Günter Radden, (eds.) 1999. Metonymy in Language andThought. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Benczes, Réka, Antonio Barcelona, and Francisco José Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez(eds.) 2011. Defining metonymy in cognitive linguistics: Towards a consensusview. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Handl, Sandra and Hans-Jörg Schmid. (eds.) 2011. Windows to the mind: Metaphor,metonymy and conceptual blending. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERFan Zhen-qiang is a lecturer in linguistics at Zhejiang GongshangUniversity in Hangzhou, China. He obtained his doctoral degree in theCenter for the Study of Language and Cognition, Zhejiang University, China.In 2008, he was a visiting PhD at the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics(Uil-Ots), Utrecht University, the Netherlands. His research interests liein the areas of cognitive linguistics, pragmatics and discourse analysis.

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