Publication details [#4552]

Fesmire, Steven A. 1994. What is "cognitive" about cognitive linguistics? Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso 9 (2) : 149–154. 6 pp.


Cognitive linguistics is founded on the cardinal methodological assumption that any theory of meaning, concepts, reasoning, or language must be congruous with our most reliable empirical inquiries into the nature of human cognition. This "cognitive" commitment coincides with a "generalization" commitment (Lakoff, 1990, p. 50) whereby any satisfactory theory of these aspects of cognition must offer empirically criticizable generalizations about human conceptualization, inference, and language. What has emerged from these commitments is a view of human understanding and experience that places our ecological situatedness at its core. Because linguistic structures are studied not in isolation from, but with an acute sensitivity to our most reliable investigations into the way human beings give coherent form to their experience, cognitive linguists have been able to illuminate the way an embodied mind adjusts to its changing environment by way of shared cognitive structures, such as image schemata, categorizations, metaphors, and narrative structures. But what exactly counts as cognitive here? Some criticisms of the cognitive semantics approach to metaphor have been based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of cognitive within this orientation (e.g., Gendlin, 1991). By clarifying the nature of a cognitive approach to human understanding and experience, I would like to forestall objections that cognitive linguistics is either, on the one hand, too intellectualistic and subjectivistic, or, on the other hand, too physicalistic in its treatment of understanding and meaning. The basic objection I address is that "conceptual metaphors" are overtly conceptual - that they are "mentalistic" to the detriment of a full-blooded account. (Steven Fesmire)