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Cognitive linguistics (CL) is the branch of "linguistics that focuses on language as an instrument for organizing, processing and conveying "information.

Within CL, the analysis of the conceptual and experiential basis of linguistic categories is of primary importance. The formal structures of language are studied not as if they were autonomous, but as reflections of general conceptual organization, categorization principles, processing mechanisms, and experiential and environmental influences. Since cognitive linguistics sees language as embedded in the overall cognitive capacities of human beings, topics of special interest for cognitive linguistics include: the structural characteristics of natural language categorization (such as "prototypicality, systematic "polysemy, "cognitive models, "mental imagery, and "conceptual metaphor); the functional principles of linguistic organization (such as iconicity and naturalness); the conceptual interface between "syntax and "semantics (as explored by "cognitive grammar and "construction grammar); the experiential and pragmatic background of language-in-use; and the relationship between "language and "thought, including questions about "linguistic relativity and conceptual universals. To summarize, what holds together the diverse forms of cognitive linguistics is the belief that linguistic knowledge involves not just knowledge of the language, but knowledge of the world as mediated by the language.[1]

In addition, cognitive linguistics argues that language is both "embodied and "situated in a specific "environment.


Three central positions[edit]

Cognitive linguists deny that the "mind has any module for language-acquisition that is unique and autonomous. This stands in contrast to the stance adopted by "Noam Chomsky and others in the field of "generative grammar. Although cognitive linguists do not necessarily deny that part of the human linguistic ability is innate, they deny that it is separate from the rest of cognition. They thus reject a body of opinion in cognitive science suggesting that there is evidence for the "modularity of language. Departing from the tradition of "truth-conditional semantics, cognitive linguists view meaning in terms of conceptualization. Instead of viewing meaning in terms of models of the world, they view it in terms of "mental spaces.

They argue that knowledge of linguistic phenomena — i.e., phonemes, morphemes, and syntax — is essentially "conceptual in nature. However, they assert that the storage and retrieval of linguistic data is not significantly different from the storage and retrieval of other knowledge, and that use of language in understanding employs similar cognitive abilities to those used in other non-linguistic tasks.

Embodied and situated[edit]

Areas of study[edit]

Cognitive linguistics is divided into three main areas of study:

Aspects of cognition that are of interest to cognitive linguists include:

Related work that interfaces with many of the above themes:

Cognitive linguistics, more than generative linguistics, seeks to mesh together these findings into a coherent whole. A further complication arises because the terminology of cognitive linguistics is not entirely stable, both because it is a relatively new field and because it interfaces with a number of other disciplines.

Insights and developments from cognitive linguistics are becoming accepted ways of analysing literary texts, too. "Cognitive Poetics, as it has become known, has become an important part of modern stylistics.


There is significant peer review and debate within the field of linguistics regarding cognitive linguistics. Critics of cognitive linguistics have argued that most of the evidence from the cognitive view comes from the research in pragmatics and semantics, and research in metaphor and preposition choice. They suggest that cognitive linguists should provide cognitive re-analyses of topics in syntax and phonology that are understood in terms of autonomous knowledge (Gibbs 1996).

There is also controversy and debate within the field concerning the representation and status of idioms in grammar and the actual mental grammar of speakers. On one hand it is asserted that idiom variation needs to be explained with regard to general and autonomous syntactic rules. Another view says such idioms do not constitute semantic units and can be processed compositionally (Langlotz 2006).

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. 

General references[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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