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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton March 11, 2016

‘Quo Vadimus?’ from a Cognitive Linguistic Perspective

Klaus-Uwe Panther
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


In this article, I offer some comments on the general theme “The Study of Linguistic Sign Systems in the 21st Century” of this special issue of CSS and on the individual contributions therein. I comment on topics such as the shift from form to cognition in contemporary linguistics (Zhang & Yu), the faculty of language (Chomsky, Cowley), sign systems and their use by nonhuman organisms (Pable), the nature of the linguistic sign and its indeterminacy (Zhang & Yu, Pable, Liszka, and Cowley). One focus is the debate between “nativists” and “non-nativists”, i.e. the question whether the language faculty is inborn or explainable by non-specialized cognitive learning mechanisms. My own conception of language and communication, which is inspired by cognitive linguistics and contemporary pragmatics, regards language as a sign system of conventional form-meaning pairs. Successful human communication requires socio-cultural skills such as cooperative behavior and the ability to infer non-coded meanings.


I would like to thank the Editor-in-Chief of Chinese Semiotic Studies, Yongxiang Wang, for his kind invitation to contribute a commentary to this special issue. I am also beholden to CSS Associated Editor Linda Thornburg for her careful reading of the manuscript and her many valuable suggestions for improvement. Much of the work presented here is based on joint research she and I have conducted over the years.


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Published Online: 2016-3-11
Published in Print: 2016-3-1

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