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Review of  Cognitive Linguistics and Non-Indo-European Languages

Reviewer: Wolfgang Schulze
Book Title: Cognitive Linguistics and Non-Indo-European Languages
Book Author: Eugene H. Casad Gary B. Palmer
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin
Kalispel-Pend d'Oreille
Nahuatl, Western Huasteca
Quechua, Jauja Wanca
Totonac, Xicotepec De Juárez
Book Announcement: 14.3285

Discuss this Review
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Date: Thu, 27 Nov 2003 21:00:20 +0100
From: Wolfgang Schulze <>
Subject: Cognitive Linguistics and Non-Indo-European Languages

Casad, Eugene H. and Gary B. Palmer, ed.( 2003) Cognitive Linguistics
and Non-Indo-European Languages. Mouton de Gruyter, Cognitive
Linguistics Research 18.

Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich


Perhaps, a potential reader of Casad & Palmer 2003 (C&P) will first be
(slightly) irritated by the title of the volume: The term 'Indo-
European' is conventionally is to denote a genetically motivated
language family and hence belongs into the domain of historical
comparative linguistics. 'Non-Indo-European' languages thus are just
those languages that do not figure as members of this stock. Now, how
is it possible to link the subject of a study that is defined by
historical or comparative parameters, to the paradigm of cognitive
linguistics (unfortunately called a 'theory' by Casad and Palmer in the
'Introduction'? Perhaps, the first idea would be ask in which way
cognitive linguistics can contribute to the genetic classification of
languages outside the Indo-European family. However, to my knowledge,
cognitive linguistics has rarely been used in this respect (a fact
which is deplorable enough). In other words: It would not be very wise
to expect from the title of C&P that the book deals with just this
perspective. In fact, what C&P refer to by the term 'Non-Indo-
European' is thought to represent a heuristic class rather than a
structurally or analytically motivated subject. In introducing the
volume to the reader, C&P say: "The proponents of a linguistic theory
that lays claim to applying universally must demonstrate its
application to the study of all spoken languages and not just the
standard Western European and other well-known Indo-European languages"

This phrasing used to define the scope of the book raises a number of
problems some of which may appear sophistic. Others, however, are
crucial to the general layout of the volume. First of all, it remains
opaque what C&P mean by 'standard Western European': This terms reminds
us of Whorf's 'Standard Average European' (SAE), although the reader is
not told whether C&P intend to adopt the Whorfian (and often
criticized) way of defining SAE. In addition, C&P postulate 'other
well-known Indo-European languages' without illustrating when such a
language is well-known and in which respect. In my eyes, the use of a
family-tree related term to define the scope to which a 'linguistic
theory' is applied only makes sense if the theory contributes to the
structure of the 'family-tree' itself. In the given case, I cannot
escape the impression that the term 'Non-Indo-European' is used in a
journalistic way rather than in a scientific one. In fact, what we have
at hands is a 'view from the periphery': C&P importantly contribute to
a cognition-based approach to languages that do not belong to the
central 'space' of linguistic experience as documented in a number of
e.g. English centred paradigms. Crucially, C&P also include Cognitive
Linguistics into this 'centred' perspective: "In view of the apparent
potential of Cognitive Linguistics as a general theory applicable to
all languages, we are surprised by what appears to be an increasing
dominance of representation from English and other IE ('Indo-
European', W.S.) languages in Cognitive Linguistics forums" (p.3). By
itself, this observation is undoubtedly correct and a good argument in
favour of preparing a volume as the book at issue. Nevertheless, it
also includes a rather problematic claim, namely that we have deal with
Cognitive Linguistics in terms of a 'theory applicable to all
languages'. However, Cognitive linguistics surely is not a one-
dimensional 'general' principle or body of principles used to explain
linguistic phenomena (in terms of a causa efficiens or a causa
finalis), but rather a heterogeneous set of approaches to language(s)
based on common assumptions about the motivation of language phenomena.

If ever the term 'theory' is applicable in the given context, it should
refer to specific types of generalization as they characterize for
instance Langacker's Cognitive Grammar or the Lakoffian type of
Cognitive Semantics. It is interesting to see that (in their
'Introduction') C&P oppose Cognitive Linguistics to approaches as
formal syntax, typology, and comparative linguistics (p.3). If we bear
in mind that formal syntax is basically 'cognitive' (although from a
different perspective) and that both typology and comparative
linguistics turn out to have a 'cognitive correlate' (Cognitive
Typology in the broader sense and grammaticalization 'theory'), the
concept of 'Cognitive Linguistics' turns out to be more a special type
of linguistic practice rather than a 'theory'. In sum, the general
perspective taken by the editors (as it is encapsulated in the title)
draws the reader's attention to a problematic direction. In fact, a
paraphrase like 'Cognitive approaches to language phenomena: A view
from the periphery' more accurately describes the contents of the
present volume.


The volume contains sixteen articles of different length, preceded by
an introduction of the editors and followed by both a subject index and
a language index. The articles are arranged geographically, starting in
South America (Quechua), touching upon central America (Cora and
Nahuatl), North America (Salish), hopping to Asia and the Western
Pacific Rim (Hawaiian, Isnag, Tagalog, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and
Korean) and ending up in Europe (Finnish). In their introduction, C&P
review the sixteen papers from a topic point of view (the labels in
brackets are mine): 1. Metaphor, metonymy, polysemy and cultural models
(that is Cognitive Semantics in a broader sense); 2. Causativity,
voice, subjectivity and reference points (syntax); 3. Nominals:
salience, polysemy and prototypicality (referential semantics), 4.
Spatial semantics: Locatives (again Cognitive Semantics), 5.
Comparisons and contrasts (typology). The fact that all papers are
oriented in basically the 'same' direction is perhaps related to the
fact that they are the output of a theme session ('Cognitive
Linguistics and Non-Indo-European languages') held at the International
Cognitive Linguistics Association Conference in Stockholm (1999). In
addition, this 'common direction' is also due to the fact that nearly
all papers are strongly oriented to two 'classical' perspectives taken
in Cognitive Linguistics, namely Cognitive Grammar (�� la Langacker) and
Cognitive Semantics (�� la Lakoff). On the one hand, the 'theoretical'
commonalities of the individual papers (unfortunately rarely addressed
as such) render the book rather homogenous. On the other hand, however,
some readers may have difficulties to always follow the lines of
arguments because they are strongly related to a given framework (such
as Cognitive Grammar) [an example is the two impressive figures in
David Tuggy's article (p.103-4) which illustrate the Reduplication
Construction in Nahuatl].

In their 'Introduction' already referred to above, C&P concentrate on
two jobs: First, they try to outline the dimension of Cognitive
Linguistics with respect to Non-Indo-European languages. Here, they
convincingly argue that "the world of non-Western languages offers a
breathtaking opportunity to delve into a wide spectrum of empirical and
theoretical issues, some of which are new (...) and others that have
hitherto resisted satisfactory explanations constructed in other
linguistics theories" (p.2). In addition they want to show that the
volume is intended to avoid "the insularity for which (e.g., W.S.)
generative linguistics was so strongly criticized in its early years"
(p.3). It goes without saying that both arguments are nicely met in all
the papers of the volume. C&P correctly state: "This book will
contribute to the advancement of cognitive linguistic theory (sic!) by
giving it a wider scope of applications and testing it against a wider
spectrum of languages". Sure, the data and analyses presented in the
book put new complexion on both Cognitive Linguistics and the languages
hitherto discussed in this perspective. However, this claim becomes
relativized if we look at one of the (few) passages in the Introduction
that 'define' the 'theory' of Cognitive Linguistics. On p.4, C&P say:
"[We]e believe that cognitive linguistics offers the greatest potential
for a scientific theory of language that relates syntax to semantics
and studies language in a away that is consistent with current research
on neural network theory as well as cultural theory". This quote
contains a number of highly questionable claims and terms. For
instance: If there is a 'scientific theory of language': What is and
which role does play a 'non-scientific' theory of language? And: Is it
really the main goal of cognitive linguistics to relate syntax and
semantics? In my view, this assumption deprives Cognitive Linguistics
from its perhaps most powerful 'axiom', namely that any kind of
linguistic reality or phenomenon is grounded in cognition, be it
synchronically or diachronically (see Schulze 1998:1-14 for a
discussion of this 'axiom'). The alleged triade Cognitive Linguistics'
<> Neural Network theory <> Cultural theory is far from being more than
a mere scientific project (or: speculation). Note that C&P use the
singular 'theory' for both the Neural Network and the Cultural domains
giving the illusion that there would be just a single theory (which
certainly is not the case). In other words: The sloppy formulations
given in the Introduction are at risk to denounce the project of
Cognitive Linguistics rather than to lay the ground for a substantive

Second, the Introduction carefully summarizes the sixteen articles
given in the volume. Once getting into the data, C&P present a much
more consistent and highly illuminating view of what Cognitive
Linguistics may be about. The authors carefully discuss the highlights
of the individual papers and aim at contextualizing the different
arguments with the help of cross-references and more general remarks.
Finally, C&P come back to Cognitive Linguistics itself by suggesting a
number of issues for further studies. Here, another weak point in the
efforts to describe the Cognitive Linguistics enterprise becomes
obvious: Just as is it true for the empirics of Cognitive Linguistics
(see above), Cognitive Linguistics is characterized by an 'increasing
dominance of representation from English' (to use the wordings of C&P).
In other words: The many studies in Cognitive Linguistics written in
languages others than English (among others in French, Russian,
Spanish, Portuguese, and German) are rarely considered by English-based
practitioners of Cognitive Linguistics. This aspect sets mainstream
Cognitive Linguistics itself at risk to be marked for 'insularity' just
as it has been deplored by C&P for the empirics of Cognitive
Linguistics. This aspect becomes especially evident when looking at the
section on 'future studies'.

Unfortunately, space does not allow to discuss at length the important
and in parts brilliant papers included in the volume. The following
summaries perhaps help to stimulate the reader's interest just as C&P's
introductory summary stimulated the interest of the reviewer.

In his article "Completion, comes and other "downers": Observations on
the semantics of the Wanca Quechua directional suffix -lpu" (pp.39-64),
Rick Floyd proposes a complex analysis of the functional scope of the
'down' location in Quechua. Contrary to vertical location strategies
for instance in East Caucasian, the directional morpheme -lpu seems not
to be related to the distal, but rather to the proximal (which again
can be transposed from the speaker to another entity). Hence, -lpu is
coupled with subjectivity in its broadest sense. Floyd nicely
elaborates the metonymic and metaphorical extensions of -lpu and
compares them to for instance the use of 'down' in English and ka- in
Cora. The article undoubtedly lays the ground for a more general model
of the metonymic and metaphorical potential of the conceptualization of

Eugene H. Casad brings the reader back to one of the perhaps most
studied Uto-Aztecan language, namely Cora. His article "Speakers,
context, and Cora conceptual metaphors (pp.65-89) departs from
metaphorical expressions for "talking about everyday goofs,
shortcomings and failures" (p.65) to arrive at a complex model of Cora
metaphorization processes which include (among others) image schemas,
the speaker's vantage point, mental spaces, landmark/trajector
specifications, and fictive motion. The analysis is again based on
locative constructions (preverb plus the verb 'icee glossed 'pass by a
conceptual reference point').

David Tuggy ("Reduplication in Nahuatl: Iconicity and paradoxes"
(pp.91-133) explores the interaction of form and function/semantics
with respect to the domain of reduplication in Nahuatl. His findings
will surely stimulate comparable research in other heavy reduplicating

David Beck talks about "Conceptual autonomy and the typology of parts
of speech in Upper Necaxa Totonac and other languages" (pp.136-156).
His article aims at contextualizing Langacker's Cognitive Grammar in a
typological perspective, concentrating on "a cross-linguistic viable
semantic characterization of parts-of-speech" (p.135). He uses the
concept of 'closedness' to account for the well-known scale (not
continuum, as Beck says!) THING <> RELATION (note that this article
heavily relies on Cognitive Grammar which means that it does not
question some basic assumptions of Cognitive Grammar such as the
closedness of THING which in fact may turn out to be just a secondary
construction (see Schulze 2001)).

Kenneth William Cook turns the reader's attention to "Hawaiian 'o as an
indicator of nominal salience" (pp. 157-171). He suggests that 'o is
not a copula verb but (from a formal point of view) a copular
preposition (note that most of his arguments against a copular verb
interpretation are difficult to subscribe from the point of view of
copular typology, see Pustet 2003). From a functional point of view,
Cook convincingly arrives at the conclusion tat we have to deal with a
"marker of nominal salience" (p.167).

In his article "Animism exploits linguistic phenomena" (pp. 173-192),
Rodolfo R. Barlaan discusses the Isnag (Northern Luzon, Philippines)
taboo terminology with respect to their cognitive layers and the
conceptual and linguistic processes to derive the taboo words (e.g.
borrowing, phonological disguise etc.).

Gary B. Palmer's article ("The Tagalog prefix category PAG-: Metonymy,
polysemy, and voice" (pp.193-221)) deals with one of the Tagalog verbal
prefixes (pag-), analyzing it for its conceptual contents and
functional behavior. He arrives at the conclusion that the "schema that
subsumes all the PAG forms is action or process that is either profiled
in the root or stem or latent in its base".

Douglas Inglis' article ("Conceptual structure of numeral classifiers
in Thai" (pp.223-246) is the first of four articles devoted to Thai.
His treatment surely importantly improves the general typology of

Kingkarn Thepkanjana brings the reader back to syntax: In "A cognitive
account of the causative/inchoative alternation in Thai" (pp.247-274)
the author nicely elaborates the dynamics of the causative/stative (or:
causative/inchoative) pairing (which can also be called 'labile',
adopting the terminology for transitive/intransitive pairings e.g. in
East Caucasian) and - by questioning the assumption of basicness -
arrives at the following conclusion: "I therefore claim that the verb
and its noun argument(s) (...) express distinct gestalts" (p.270).

Margaret Ukosakul explores Thai from the point of view of Cognitive
Semantics. In her article "Conceptual metaphors motivating the use of
Thai 'face'" (pp.275- 303), relates the basic concept of 'face' to the
domains of shame and honor and illustrates how and to which degree
metaphorical processes are provoked by cultural scripts and models.

The 'Thai section' of the volume ends in Jordan Zlatev's contribution
"Holistic spatial semantics of Thai" (pp.305-336). The author refers to
his framework of 'Holistic Spatial Semantics' (HSS) in order to show
that "a theory of the linguistic expression of spatial meaning that
stems from the conceptual framework of situated embodiment" (p.308) for
situated (or, in his somewhat unfortunate terms: holistic) spatial
semantics in Thai. Zlatev, among others, shows that the famous
opposition 'verb framed languages' vs. 'satellite-framed language'
(Talmy 185) does not hold in a universal perspective. His final
conclusion is worth being quoted: "While formalist approaches err in
ignoring the semantic dimension, cognitive approaches tend to err by
ignoring the distributional/structural dimension" (p.332). It can
hardly be said better!

Ning Yu deals with "The bodily dimension of meaning in Chinese: what do
we do and mean with 'hands'?" (pp.337-362). The author takes up the
well-known embodiment hypothesis to analyse the grammaticalization
effects of Chinese shou 'hand' together with semantic effects in
compounding. Crucially, the basic level concept of HAND is related to
temporal relations (especially inchoatives) which opens a new window
for explaining the grammaticalization path of certain tense/aspect

In a case study from Japanese and Korean, Kaoru Horie asks "What
cognitive linguistics can reveal about complementation in non-IE
languages" (pp.363-388). The author opts for combining Cognitive and
Typological explanations (an enterprise successfully accessed for
instance in a number of papers in Gildea 1999). Interestingly enough,
the author of this paper is modestly criticized by the editors in the
'Introduction'. Their main point is that Horie's critics of the frame
typology already above-mentioned does not necessarily hold for clausal
interdependencies. In this context, they suggest to refer to the
Langacker framework to explain Horie's finding (p.27), instead of (?)
approaching "the problem from a broadly conceived Cognitive Linguistics
viewpoint" (p.25-6).

Satoshi Uehara also discusses Japanese issues in his article "Zibun
reflexivization in Japanese: A Cognitive Grammar approach" (pp.388-
404). Comparing the use of zibun to English reflexives as they show in
the English translation of newspaper editorials, Uehara depicts the
schematic differences between the two constructional types.

Mari Siiroinen brings the reader back to Europe: "Subjectivity and the
use of Finnish emotive verbs" (pp.405-417) discusses the well-known
problem of emotive verb construction types in terms of Langacker's
notion of subjectivity.

The final article by Foong-Ha Yap and Shoichi Iwasaki turns to a
grammaticalization issue: "From causatives to passives: A passage in
some East and Southeast Asian languages" (pp.419-445) is a nice
elaboration of the causative>passive path based on the
grammaticalization of the lexical concept GIVE. They come to the
conclusion that "semantic and functional extensions from causatives to
passives is (sic!) a natural and fairly robust phenomenon
crosslinguistically" (p.440). The grammaticalization path proposed by
the authors can importantly help to explain parallel features in other
languages of the world.


It is out of question that all articles published in C&P represent
highly scholarly and important reflections on language(s). The
individual papers offer a wide range of both linguistic data and
explanatory perspectives. Some of the papers will probably strongly
influence analyses related to the languages under discussion, others
will stimulate researchers to look for parallel data, processes, or
explanatory options in 'their' languages or in a cross-linguistic
perspective. A drop of bitterness, however, has to be added: After
having worked through the book, the unbiased reader may be left with
the impression that Cognitive Linguistics is mainly expressed in the
framework of Cognitive Grammar �� la Langacker. Langacker probably is
the author most often quoted in the volume. However, Cognitive
Linguistics undoubtedly is more than Cognitive Grammar and even
Cognitive Semantics. Perhaps, it would have wise if the editors would
have stated more accurately that (and why) most of the papers given in
the volume start from Cognitive Grammar, sometimes neglecting other
(likewise promising) perspectives. In other words: I would have been
glad if I had learnt not only about the applicability of the Langacker
framework to what is called 'Non-Indo-European' languages, but also
about the possible problems that would face this framework with respect
to the data from the languages presented in the volume. Here, a well-
known danger arises: It may well be that once a certain perspective has
been taken, it tacitly decides on which data are selected in order to
sustain the perspective.

The book itself is well-done, although a number of typos have not been
eliminated. For instance, on p.27 both a paragraph and an example seem
to be missing, and Langacker 2000 referred to in the Introduction is
not given in the references. Still, such minor do not effect the
overall impression: An important book, which helps to promote the study
of cognitive foundations of language(s).


Gildea, Spike (ed.) 1999. Reconstructing Grammar. Comparative
Linguistics and Grammaticalization. (Typological Studies in Language
43). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Pustet, Regina 2003. Copulas - Universals in the Categorization of the
Lexicon . Oxford: OUP.

Schulze, Wolfgang 1998. Person, Klasse, Kongruenz. Vol. 1: Die
Grundlagen. Munich: Lincom Europa.

Schulze, Wolfgang 2001. Selbstlernen und Selbstreflexion: Grundlagen
einer Emergenz-Theorie der sprachlichen Interaktion auf der Basis der
'Grammatik von Szenen und Szenarien'. Munich: Working Papers in
Cognitive Typology 1.

Talmy, Leonard 1985. Lexicalization patterns: sematic structure in
lexical form. T. shopen (ed.). Language typology and syntactic
description Vol. 3. Grammatical categories and the lexicon, 57-149.
Cambridge: CUP.

Wolfgang Schulze is the Head of the Institute for General Linguistics
and Language Typology at the University of Munich (Germany). His main
research topics include among others Language Typology, Cognitive
Typology, Historical Linguistics, language contact, the languages of
the Eastern Caucasus, and 'Oriental' languages. He currently works on a
Functional (Cognitive) Grammar of Udi and on a comprehensive
presentation of the framework of a Grammar of Scenes and Scenarios in
terms of Cognitive Typology.

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