While cognitive linguists have been successful at providing accounts of the stable knowledge structures (conceptual metaphors) that give rise to figurative language, and the conceptual mechanisms that manipulate these knowledge structures (conceptual blending), relatively less effort has been thus far devoted to the nature of the linguistic mechanisms involved in figurative language understanding. This paper presents a theoretical account of figurative language understanding, examining metaphor and metonymy in particular. This account is situated within the Theory of Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models (LCCM Theory). LCCM Theory (Evans, Cognitive Linguistics 17: 491–534, 2006, How words mean: Lexical concepts, cognitive models and meaning construction, Oxford University Press, 2009b) is a cognitively realistic model of lexical representation and semantic compositionality, providing, it is argued, an account of figurative language which complements the ‘backstage’ cognition perspective of Conceptual Blending Theory. It also integrates the notion of conceptual metaphor within the account provided of figurative language understanding. The paper introduces the key mechanisms involved in figurative language understanding arising from language use. The paper also provides a programmatic account of how conceptual metaphors are integrated with linguistic knowledge in figurative language use. It is argued the present proposals flesh out a key aspect of the conceptual integration perspective promoted by Fauconnier and Turner, with which LCCM Theory is continuous. In part, the paper attempts to advance the prospect of a ‘joined up’ cognitive linguistic account of figurative language understanding.
Based on linguistic and behavioural evidence, representations for time appear to be structured in terms of space (e.g., Casasanto and Boroditsky 2008; Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 1999). This finding has led to a recent move to apply the theoretical construct of frames of reference (FoRs) from the domain of space to time, leading to sophisticated taxonomies for temporal frames of reference (e.g., Bender et al. 2010; Tenbrink 2011; Zinken 2010). The present paper argues that while space is important for modelling temporal reference, this is not the whole story. I argue that the experience types that in part underlie temporal representations are inherently temporal, rather than spatial in nature. They consist of a range of experience types, the hallmark of FoRs in the domain of time being transience (Galton 2011), a construct worked out in some detail. The present paper proposes three distinct types of temporal frames of reference (t-FoRs), anchored to three distinct types of transience. These proposals are argued to complement and enhance existing proposals for t-FoRs, rather than replacing them.
In this paper I address the role of words in meaning-construction. My starting point is the observation that the ‘meanings’ associated with words are protean in nature. That is, the semantic values associated with words are flexible, open-ended and highly dependent on the utterance context in which they are embedded. In attempting to provide an account of meaning-construction that coheres with this observation I develop a cognitively-realistic theory of lexical representation and a programmatic theory of lexical concept integration. My fundamental claim is that there is a basic distinction between lexical concepts, and meaning. While lexical concepts constitute the semantic units conventionally associated with linguistic forms, and form an integral part of a language user's individual mental grammar, meaning is a property of situated usage-events, rather than words. That is, meaning is not a function of language per se, but arises from language use. I present an account of lexical concepts and the conceptual knowledge structures, cognitive models, with respect to which they are relativised. I also situate this theory within a usage-based account. I then develop a theory of lexical concept integration which serves to provide an account of how lexical concepts are combined in service of situated meaning-construction. As the constructs lexical concept and cognitive model are central to the theory of lexical representation and meaning-construction I present, I refer to the approach developed here as the Theory of Lexical Concepts and Cognitive Models, or LCCM Theory.
For many years, cognitive linguists, such as Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, have studied meaning construction through language based on intricate mental mapping operations. Their research suggests that conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending permit human beings to reduce very complex issues to human scale. Climate change is such a complex issue. We ask: How is it linguistically reduced to human scale and, in the process, made amenable to thinking and acting? To address these questions, we have analysed the emergence of lexical compounds around a recent key word in debates about climate change in the English speaking world, namely ‘carbon’. One such compound and metaphor/blend is ‘low carbon diet’. In this article we study how the use of the compound ‘low carbon diet’ in an advertising campaign, a book, and by a catering company in the United States permitted US newspapers to reduce climate change to human scale. We have combined and compared metaphor and blending analysis with media and discourse analysis to shed light on the linguistic framing of a real-world problem, that is, we engaged in applied blending analysis.