Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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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 linguistics.
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.
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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.