Why a mind is necessary

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This opening essay delineates the conceptual structure of cognitive linguistics and provides a reference framework for the other essays, which address and develop particular aspects of the theory. The two principal conceptual points emphasised by the author are the non-reducibility of linguistic expressions to truth conditions, and the predominant role played by perceptive, mental and even motor conceptualization in natural language. The essay concentrates in particular on the main forms of construal, or the ability to conceive and portray the same situation in alternate ways (through specificity, different mental scanning, directionality, vantage point, figure-background). In this respects this essay closely relates to Croft and Wood’s contribute. The focal role assumed in cognitive linguistics by the construal of figure-ground also implicitly suggests a theory of semantic categories (profiled relationships through time as ‘verb’ and profiled individual as ‘noun’). Other aspects of this point concern the logical grammatical relations of subject and object. Here Langacker argues the thesis that the critical factors do not pertain to logic, objective truth or strict compositionality: a topic also explored by Peruzzi’s essay later in the book. In his discussion of the various forms of construal, Langacker highlights also the difference between a cognitive and a formal conception of semantics. With particular regard to Montague semantics, Marconi’s essay in the book can be viewed as a complementary treatment of this difference, particularly as regards the relationship between syntax and semantics. Various other issues addressed by Langacker are also considered in Albertazzi’s Introduction (the foundational contribution of the perceptive structures to the natural language, the spatio-temporal forms of conceptualization, the difference between formal semantics and cognitive semantics). Moreover, his treatment shares with Albertazzi’s and Kövecses’ essays a concern to provide a dynamic description of the scanning of the situation and analysis of fictive motion. Finally, it also has a number of aspects in common with Geeraerts’s discussion of the concept of structure and cross-linguistic distribution.


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