Zoltan Kövecses
Language, Mind and Culture
A Practical Introduction
Oxford University Press 2006

Kövecses 327
An Account of Meaningful Experience:

We make use of a relatively small number of cognitive processes in making sense of experiences. We categorise the world, organize our knowledge into frames, make use of within-frame mappings (metaphor), build image-schemas from bodily experience and apply these to what we experience, divide our experience into figures and grounds, set up mental spaces and further mappings between them in the online process of understanding, and have the ability to skillfully and creatively integrate conceptual materials from the mental spaces that is set up.
We do not do most of this in a conscious way; our cognitive system operates unconsciously most of the time. It is these and some additional cognitive processes that participate in our unconscious meaning making activity.

With the help of such cognitive processes we can account for many of the phenomena of meaning in language in a coherent fashion. The theory that emerges from the application of these cognitive processes to our understanding of meaning in language will be very different from other theories of language.

Most important, the theory will be theory of meaning and not of form.
On this view, even highly abstract and schematic forms (such as N, V, NP-VP-NP, and NP-V-NP-PP) are seen as having meaning: As a matter of fact, the only justification for the existence of such abstract and schematic forms is their role in the expression and understanding of meaning as being part of “symbolic units”, which consist of combinations of meaning and form (Langacker 1987).

On the cognitive linguistic view, the scientific study of language cannot be the study of the manipulation of such abstract and schematic forms (i.e. syntax); the only legitimate and scientific goal in the study of language is the study of meaning and language (including the meaning of abstract symbolic units)and other cognitive processes play a role in this.

The cognitive processes utilized by cognitive linguistics are not merely ways of accounting for meaning in language; they are ways of accounting for meaning in many aspects of our social and cultural reality.

Our main meaning making organ, the mind/brain, is shaped by both bodily and social/cultural experience. Image-schemas,correlation-based metaphors, and the like arise from bodily functioning and at the same time imbued by culture (e.g. by applying alternative frames to the “same” aspect of reality). Both the mind/brain and its product, meaning, are embodied and culture-dependent at the same time. It is the goal of the cognitive linguistic enterprise to characterize the functioning of such an embodied and cultural mind in relation to language and beyond it in our social and cultural world at large.

Kövecses
Cognive linguistics


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