Concept, Image, and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of Grammar

Concept, Image, and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of Grammar

Concept, Image, and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of Grammar

Concept, Image, and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of Grammar

Synopsis

This classic research monograph develops and illustrates the theory of linguistic structure known as Cognitive Grammar, and applies it to representative phenomena in English and other languages. Cognitive grammar views language as an integral facet of cognition and claims that grammatical structure cannot be understood or revealingly described independently of semantic considerations. It argues that grammar forms a continuum with the lexicon and is reducible to symbolic relationships (i.e. form-meaning pairings), and consequently that all valid grammatical constructs have some kind of conceptual import. The coherence and descriptive potential of cognitive grammar are exemplified by application to a broad variety of grammatical phenomena drawn from numerous languages.

Excerpt

In the Preface to the original edition (1991), I noted that a conference held in the spring of the preceding year "marked the birth of cognitive linguistics as a broadly grounded, self-conscious intellectual movement". In the Preface to Grammar and Conceptualization (1999), I remarked that "cognitive linguistics is thriving. Its institutions are sounder, its adherents are steadily increasing in numbers worldwide, and its influence is more and more being felt in other disciplines. The volume of publications in cognitive linguistics has reached the point that keeping up with them all — even the ones I am aware of — is no longer a realistic objective." Today the trend continues, as attested, for example, by the formation of national cognitive linguistics societies (Spain, Finland, Poland, Japan), the steady flow of dissertations and publications based on cognitive linguistic ideas, and the proliferation of conferences and workshops devoted to it.

Continued growth of this sort demands an institutional basis. Essential to the growth of cognitive linguistics has been the multifaceted support of Mouton de Gruyter and its representatives. Mouton de Gruyter was present at the formation of the International Cognitive Linguistics Association and at each of its subsequent biannual meetings (now called the International Cognitive Linguistics Conference). It publishes the association's journal, Cognitive Linguistics, and through the subscription process administers the collection of its membership dues. Mouton de Gruyter further publishes the monograph series Cognitive Linguistics Research, which the present monograph initiated. With the twentieth volume coming into view, this series not only occupies a lot of room in my bookcase but has had a significant if not crucial impact in making the ideas and findings of this research both accessible and visible (the latter quite literally, owing to the gaudy blue and yellow binding).

Cognitive linguistics is not of course the same as cognitive grammar, which represents just one of the numerous strands in this loosely woven fabric. Though arguably the most comprehensive and well articulated cognitive linguistic theory, cognitive grammar as such is very far from being universally accepted even by cognitive linguists. Many would reject its more radical claims (e.g. the conceptual characterization of fundamental grammatical constructs like noun, verb, subject, and object), however natural and desirable they might be. Some have very little familiarity with the framework, others misapprehend its basic notions, and most, I am sure, would fail an exam (suitable for the end of an introductory course) testing knowledge of its details. There is, then, some point to reissuing this monograph. In the absence of actual textbooks (which are just now appearing on the horizon), it serves as a reasonably accessible point of entry to a complex theory and a rapidly expanding body of descriptive work.

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