Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

An Integrated Approach to Conventionality and Its Implications for the Semantics of Emotion Terms

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

An Integrated Approach to Conventionality and Its Implications for the Semantics of Emotion Terms

Article excerpt


The aim of this article is to demonstrate that an integrated methodology can shed a new light on the understanding of notions inherent in contemporary conceptual approaches to linguistic analysis. One of the key ideas around which the cognitive paradigm is built is conventionality. It is assumed, however, that various strands of the cognitive enterprise view conventionality in dissimilar ways. Consequently, by extrapolating diverse interpretations of the notion, we are going to argue that certain conceptual approaches are more cognitive than others. As a result, it will be argued that a conceptual metaphor methodology, an apparently dominant approach to the semantics of emotion terms, is too coarse-grained to account for the richness of cognitive processes observable in real data. Providing a corpus-assisted verification of selected instantiations of the attributive construction, we are going to argue that a conceptual metaphor approach cannot be successfully applied within a usage-based model.

1. Introduction

Dirven (2005: 17-18) sees Cognitive Linguistics as a diverse paradigm characterized by various internal ramifications, among which there is a "... phenomenology-based strand ... explored by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in the direction of 'embodied realism' ... Here belong prototype theory, lexical network theory, conceptual metaphor theory, and conceptual metonymy theory with inroads into cognitive pragmatics".

A conceptual metaphor methodology should then be seen within the broad context of the cognitive paradigm, which is neatly characterized by "the Generalisation Commitment" and "the Cognitive Commitment" (Evans--Green 2006: 40), which will subsequently be referred to as the conceptualist commitment. The former sets out to establish recurring patterns within the language system disregarding traditionally imposed dichotomies. The latter represents the view that principles of linguistic structure should reflect what is known about human cognition from other disciplines, particularly the other cognitive sciences. It then follows that language and linguistic organisation should reflect general cognitive principles and phenomena, such as categorization or salience, which, in turn, are rooted in human embodied experience. In the same vein, Geeraerts (2006: 3-6) argues that Cognitive Linguistics is a model permeated with meaning, which is perspectival, dynamic, non-autonomous, usage-based.

However, as we are going to argue below, the degree to which a particular approach within the cognitive paradigm fulfils the conceptualist commitment varies. While corpus-based approaches relying on induction tend to abide by cognitive principles through the acknowledgement of fuzziness, dynamicity and flexibility of conceptual processes, top-down, introspective analyses seem to overlook a number of essential cognitive phenomena, e.g. semasiological and onomasiological salience or the granularity of construal.

These differences constitute the basis for positing isolating and integrating conceptual models, which are discussed below.

2. Basic notions

In line with the conceptualist commitment outlined above, a semantic theory should define meanings of linguistic expressions against the context of shared human experience. In other words, meanings need to be inextricably related to the cognitive processes underlying them. However, as Langacker (2008: 31) rightly observes, "[a]dmitting that meaning resides in conceptualization does not itself solve anything but merely lets us formulate the problem".

In fact, a particular definition of conceptualization adopted in a theory results in highlighting either its isolating or integrating tendencies (see Geeraerts 2003). To be more specific, isolating approaches tend to constrain the number of possible contexts influencing linguistic theorizing, while integrating methodologies allow the researcher to ". …

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