4 the thesis that meaning is conceptualization, and
5 the usage-based thesis.
Together with the two primary commitments, these theses give rise to a distinctive worldview.
The thesis of embodied cognition
The thesis consists of two related parts. The first part holds that the nature of reality is not objectively given, but is a function of our species-specific and individual embodiment—this is the sub-thesis of ‘embodied experience’. Second, our mental representation of reality is grounded in our embodied mental states: mental states captured from our embodied experience—this is the sub-thesis of ‘grounded cognition’.
The sub-thesis of embodied experience maintains that due to the nature of our bodies, including our neuro-anatomical architecture, we have aspecies-specific view of the world. In other words, our construal of ‘reality’ is mediated, in large measure, by the nature of our embodiment.
A further consequence of the sub-thesis of embodied experience is that as individual embodiment within a species varies, so too will embodied experience across individual members of the same species. There is now empirical support for the position that humans have distinctive embodied experience due to individual variables such as handedness. That is, whether one is left- or right-handed influences the way in which one experiences reality.
The fact that our experience is embodied—that is, structured in part by the nature of the bodies we have and by our neurological organization— has consequences for cognition: the sub-thesis of grounded cognition. In other words, the concepts we have access to, and the nature of the ‘reality’ we think and talk about, are grounded in the multimodal representations that emerge from our embodied experience.
The thesis of encyclopedic semantics
The thesis of encyclopedic semantics is also made up of two parts. First, it holds that semantic representations in the linguistic system, what is often referred to as semantic structure, relate to—or interface with— representations in the conceptual system. The second part of the thesis relates to the view that conceptual structure, to which semantic structure relates, constitutes a vast network of structured knowledge, a semantic potential (Evans, 2009) which is hence encyclopedia-like in nature and in scope.
The symbolic thesis holds that the fundamental unit of grammar is a form–meaning pairing, or symbolic unit. The symbolic unit is variously termed a ‘symbolic assembly’ in Langacker’s cognitive grammar, or a ‘construction’ in construction grammar approaches (e.g., Goldberg’s cognitive construction grammar, 1995, 2006). Symbolic units run the full gamut from the fully lexical to the wholly schematic. For instance, examples of symbolic units include morphemes (for example, dis- as in distasteful), whole words (for example, cat, run, tomorrow), idiomatic expressions such as He kicked the bucket, and sentence-level constructions such as the ditransitive (or double object) construction, as exemplified by the expression: John baked Sally a cake. More precisely, the symbolic thesis holds that the mental grammar consists of a form, a semantic unit, and symbolic correspondence that relates the two. Constituency structure—and hence the combinatorial nature of language—is a function of symbolic units becoming integrated or fused in order to create larger grammatical units, with different theorists proposing slightly different mechanisms for how this arises.
The thesis that meaning is conceptualization
Language understanding involves the interaction between semantic structure and conceptual structure, as mediated by various linguistic and conceptual mechanisms and processes. In other words, linguistically mediated meaning construction doesn’t simply involve compositionality, in the Fregean sense, whereby words encode meanings which are integrated in monotonic fashion such that the meaning of the whole arises from the sum of the parts. Cognitive linguists subscribe to the position that linguistically mediated meaning involves conceptualization—which is to say, higher-order cognitive processing some, or much, of which is non-linguistic in nature. In other words, the thesis that meaning is conceptualization holds that the way in which symbolic units are combined during language understanding gives rise to a unit of meaning which is non-linguistic in nature—the notion of a simulation introduced above— and relies, in part, on non-linguistic processes of integration.
The usage-based thesis holds that the mental grammar of the language user is formed by the abstraction of symbolic units from situated instances of language use: utterances— specific usage events involving symbolic units for purposes of signaling local and contextually relevant communicative intentions. An important consequence of adopting the usage-based thesis is that there is no principled distinction between knowledge of language, and use of language (competence and performance, in generative grammar terms), since knowledge emerges from use. From this perspective, knowledge of language is knowledge of how language is used.
Problem Questions: What is the practical value of Cognitive Linguistics? What role can the findings of this science play in the development of language communication?