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Cognitive Semiotics

Editor-in-Chief: Bundgaard, Peer F.

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From Cognitive Linguistics to Social Science: Thirty Years after Metaphors We Live By

Michiel Leezenberg
Published Online: 2014-01-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogsem.2013.5.12.140


In the thirty years since the appearance of Metaphors We Live By, cognitive linguistics has developed into a flourishing autonomous branch of inquiry. Interdisciplinary contacts, however, have largely been restricted to literary studies and the cognitive sciences and hardly extended towards the social sciences. This is the more surprising as, in 1970s anthropology, metaphor was seen as a key notion for the study of symbolism more generally. This contribution explores the cognitive linguistic view of social and cultural factors. Lakoff and Johnson appear ambivalent regarding the relation between culture and cognition; but they share the belief, elaborated in detail by Gibbs and Turner (2002), that cultural factors can be accounted for in terms of cognitive processes. This view runs into both methodological and philosophical difficulties. Methodologically, it assumes that cultural factors can be reduced to cognitive processes; philosophically, it boils down to a Cartesian emphasis on inner experience explaining outer phenomena. There are substantial anti-Cartesian strains both in contemporary philosophy and in a major current of Eighteenth- Century philosophy. The latter, in particular, emphasized the importance of embodiment and metaphor in cognition. As an alternative, I will sketch a more consistently semiotic- and practice-oriented approach that proceeds from linguistic practices to cognitive processes rather than the other way around. It takes practices as irreducibly public and normative; on this approach, so-called linguistic ideologies (Silverstein 1979) play a constitutive role in both linguistic practice and language structure. This alternative builds on recent developments in linguistic anthropology and the work of Peirce and Bakhtin. It suggests a different look at the relation between cognition, language, and social practice from that suggested in cognitive linguistics.

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Published Online: 2014-01-18

Published in Print: 2009-12-01

Citation Information: Cognitive Semiotics, ISSN (Online) 2235-2066, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogsem.2013.5.12.140.

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