Cognitive linguistics in action

Cognitive linguistics in action: From theory to application and back. Ed. by Elżbieta Tabakowska, Michał Choiński, and Łukasz Wiraszka. (Applications of cognitive linguistics 14.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2010. Pp. 411. ISBN 9783110205817. $177 (Hb).

Reviewed by Ioana-Rucsandra Dascalu, University of Craiova

The book is composed of articles presented in Kraków, Poland, at the tenth International Cognitive Linguistics Conference, held from July 15th to July 20th, 2007, about thirty years after cognitive linguistics split as the study of the relation between body and mind. The event, organized by the Polish Cognitive Linguistics Association in cooperation with the Jagiellonian University of Kraków, aimed at reconciling theory and application. The opening chapters of this book are highly theoretical, while the others are concerned with applied information.

In Part 1, René Dirven and Francisco José Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez present the primary directions of the cognitive movement, connected by the ‘cognitive commitment’ (14) that there be interaction between cognitive faculties: perception, attention, categorization, conceptualization, affect, memory, reasoning, and language. The authors first address the connection between grammar and cognition (15) and then the differences among cognitive grammar, construction grammar, and radical construction grammar.

Dirk Geeraerts describes the distinction between Saussurean linguistics, Chomskyan generative grammar, and cognitive theories. The author also explains four elements of context important for cognitive study: meaning, the lexicon, discourse and use, and social context (81). Evaluating cognitive linguistics from the point of view of its maturity, Geeraerts considers the discipline to have moved beyond the pioneering and building stages, having undergone a period of consolidation in textbooks and reference works (93). Laura Janda discusses in her contribution the application of modern linguistics (generative, cognitive) to the teaching of foreign languages.

Part 2 includes articles that apply prototypes to morphology and to the lexicon. Tore Nesset (123-44) studies the blocking of suffix shift in Russian verbs, while Esa Penttilä deals with idiomatic language. In Part 3, Ronald W. Langacker writes about the effects of the mind and body on language, distinguishing between mental activity and physical activity. Under the premise that physical activity results in effective relationships, while mental activity results in epistemic relationships, the author explores how this difference manifests itself in complementation.

Peter Willemse examines the discourse status of possessee referents, seen from the point of view of reference-point constructions (209-40). Jario Sivonen contributes a study of Finnish motion verbs, focusing on verbs that refer to ‘indirect’ paths (242). In ‘A cognitive approach to parenthetical speech’ (273–89), Jaakko Leino proposes that spoken language be investigated before written language as being naturally transmitted and includes parenthetical expressions as an element of spoken language.

Part 4 introduces pragmatic criteria: Kirsten Vis, Wilbert Spooren and José Sanders consider subjectivity in discourse in the concepts of rhetorical structure theory and in conversationalization. Luna Filipović shows ‘how different ways of describing motion events in English and Spanish affect information content in narratives of eyewitnesses and subjects’ (317).

The final part of the book contains studies about metaphor in cognitive linguistics. Diane Ponterotto’s contribution about conceptual metaphor theory looks at the way we can express the same idiomatic meaning in two different languages (English and Italian).  The following two articles focus on metaphors in theological discourse. Małgorzata Pasicka discusses the doctrine known as faith movement, and Aleksander Gomola explains the evolution from the traditional ‘God is a father’ metaphor, which can be qualified as patriarchal and antifeminist to ‘God is a friend’ metaphor.

This volume is highly recommended to all specialists in linguistics.