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Some notes on the concept of cognitive linguistics

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In this contribution, I argue that the cognitive sciences are troubled by some internal contradictions that seem to me difficult to resolve. Cognitive linguistics is the part of the cognitive sciences dealing with language, and the philosophy of mind provides its theoretical underpinnings. Its goal is to describe the language system as a mechanism that processes thoughts into utterances and utterances into thoughts. While thoughts involve intentionality, the processing mechanism is thought to operate without our awareness. But what do we actually know about this mechanism? Is there really a language of thought, and how innate and how universal would it be? What do we know about the mind as the locus where cognition is processed? How dependable is the computational model of the mind? Do the various factions of cognitive linguistics offer scientific evidence or just possible models of how the mind, if there is one, might work? In the end, cognitive linguistics cannot account for meaning. We do not have access to our own or anyone else's mental concepts. Meaning and knowledge, on the other hand, is public; it is what is exchanged, negotiated, and shared in the discourse. Whatever cognitive linguists may be able to find out about our mental representations, to the extent that it is effable it can never be more than a duplication of what we find in the discourse.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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