Cognitive Approaches

The nature of cognitive linguistics

One of the “fathers” of CL, George Lakoff, was the first to argue that the CL enterprise is characterized by two key commitments. His paper was published in 1990 in the journal of "Cognitive Linguistics'', which had only recently been established. By that time, the people that considered themselves to be Cognitive Linguists (Leonard Talmy, Charles Fillmore, Ronald Langacker, Gilles Fauconnier) had published a decent amount of papers and books on the connections between language and the mind within their respected fields, allowing Lakoff to compare their works and to extract what connected them all.
The two commitments as phrased by Lakoff are:

1. "The Generalization Commitment, referring to a commitment to the characterization of the general principles that are responsible for all aspects of human language"


2. "The Cognitive Commitment: a commitment to providing a characterization of general principles for language that accords with what is known about the brain and mind from other disciplines".

The Generalization Commitment as formulated by Lakoff is more or less just a version of the general principle of science, namely to seek the widest generalizations possible. For Cognitive Linguists, this means finding out whether there are common structuring principles that hold across different aspects of language and what they are. So instead of comparing the different languages of the world to find out similar structures, CLs start off with looking at one language as such and attempt to identify principles that are true for the different language components, i.e. phonology, morphology, syntax.

The Cognitive Commitment represents the view that principles of linguistic structure should reflect what is known about human cognition from other disciplines, particularly from philosophy, psychology, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and neuroscience.

Universals and variation in language
Language in use