Conceptual Structure in Language
Leonard Talmy Principal Investigator
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For the past three decades, the mainstream of linguistics has focused its research agenda on the formal aspects of language, primarily syntax. By contrast, the more recent tradition of cognitive linguistics centers its research directly within the semantic stratum of language in order to observe how languages organize meaning and structure conception; and it examines the more formal stratum of language for its role in supporting these semantic functions. The main goal of this project will be to outline the fundamental conceptual structuring system of language. Language has a formally distinct component - that of closed-class forms whose specific role is to serve a structuring function: for example, schematizing the spatial relations between entities and the temporal relations between events. In this regard, language is perhaps unique within the range of cognitive systems such as perception, reasoning, and affect, so that mapping out the conceptual structuring system of language may serve as a model for comparable undertakings in the other cognitive systems. In the book that will result from the research project, the investigator's work in cognitive linguistics will be extended and integrated. The analysis of language as a cognitive system will be developed further, and it will be placed within a theoretical matrix that includes the relation of language to other cognitive systems.