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Dissertation Information

Title: The Structure of Time: Language, meaning and temporal cognition Add Dissertation
Author: Vyvyan Evans Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Georgetown University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2000
Linguistic Subfield(s): Semantics;
Director(s): Andrea Tyler

Abstract: Time is treated as a conception which derives from internal perceptual processing, rather than constituting an external feature, or relation inhering in the world. Due to a putative bifurcation in concept types (Grady 1997), temporal concepts are treated as redescriptions of physiologically real, albeit subjective, states. Concepts of this kind, following Grady, are called response concepts. Likewise, concepts which emerge from redescriptions of external sensorimotor experience are called image concepts. Due to response concepts being only partially accessible to consciousness (Grady 1997a; Jackendoff, 1987, 1992), response concepts are structured in terms of semantic substrate derived from redescribed sensorimotor experience.

In analysing the nature and organisation of the conceptual system for time, it is held that time is not a single concept, but rather a category of distinct, albeit related, concepts. Based on linguistic and empirical evidence it is suggested that these temporal concepts are structured not by virtue of fixed knowledge structures, the 'conceptual metaphors' of Grady (1997), and Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 1999), etc., but due to the elaborative requirements of the particular temporal concepts. By virtue of there being a range of distinct temporal concepts, each concept is predisposed to being elaborated in terms of certain kinds of image-based substrate and not others. This approach, which is termed concept elaboration, treats the elaboration of temporal concepts as a means of achieving representational status--becoming fully accessible to the conceptual system. This process proceeds by temporal concepts appropriating image-based substrate such that temporal concepts may contain conventional material which is similar to the conventional representations of image-based concepts such as motion. This approach is held to be more theoretically parsimonious than previous accounts of time, and to offer a more revealing analysis of the conceptual system for time.

The view that time is an internally-derived phenomenon, is also contrasted with the view current in modern physics in which time is treated as a physical attribute of the cosmos. By arguing that time in physics is a theoretical construct ultimately based on the internal experience of time, the differences are reconciled.