Cognitive Approaches

The Cognitive Linguistics Enterprise

Welcome, student, to the cognitive linguistics enterprise. You are not only interested in language and linguistics as such, but also in psychology, philosophy, artificial intelligence and the general question of how the human mind works? Then be invited to read on and to find possible answers to questions such as Do we think the way we speak? or Is language innately given or merely learned?

We will, however, start off with a more simple question, namely: Why is this page titled: The Cognitive Linguistics Enterprise?

Cognitive Linguistics is a rather young school of thought that emerged in the early 1970s and grew out of the work of a number of researchers that were dissatisfied with formal approaches to language. Whereas formal linguists tend to explain linguistic patterns by means of appeals to structural properties internal and specific to language, the new line of research followed was to examine the relation of language structure to general cognitive abilities. Language from this perspective is seen as a window to the mind, since it is supposed to reflect the way we think. This general assumption relates many different researchers currently working on much more specific linguistic questions and topics such as metaphor and metonymy or frame semantics, which is why cognitive linguistics cannot be said to be a specific theory but is better described as an enterprise or movement. It is an approach that has adopted a common set of guiding principles, assumptions and perspectives which have led to a diverse range of seperate yet related theories, the most important of which will be introduced to you in the following subchapters. Let us start of with a brief historical introduction to this interesting field of linguistics before we move on to examine the general nature of cognitive linguistics.


Historical background
The nature of cognitive linguistics
Universals and variation in language
Language in use