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Cognitive GrammarA Basic Introduction$
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Ronald Langacker

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331967

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331967.001.0001

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Conceptual Semantics

Conceptual Semantics

(p.27) 2 Conceptual Semantics
Cognitive Grammar

Ronald W. Langacker

Oxford University Press

Without contradiction, linguistic meaning is seen as residing in conceptualization and as having a social-interactive basis. Conceptualization is fundamentally imagistic rather than propositional. Instead of there being a unique set of semantic primitives, there are different kinds of elemental conceptions, each basic in its own respect. Certain fundamental grammatical notions are semantically characterized both schematically, in terms of basic cognitive abilities, and prototypically, in terms of experientially grounded conceptual archetypes. Linguistic meanings do not reflect the world in any direct or straightforward manner, but rather embody particular ways of construing the situations described, often involving imagination and mental constructions. There is no specific boundary between linguistic and extralinguistic aspects of lexical meanings (which are better likened metaphorically to encyclopedia entries rather than dictionary entries), nor between semantics and pragmatics. Hence semantics is only partially (not fully) compositional. An expression derives its meaning by flexibly invoking an open-ended set of cognitive domains, i.e. concepts or conceptual complexes of any degree of complexity. These domains are connected in various ways, e.g. by overlap, inclusion, and metaphorical correspondences. There is no clear distinction between domains and mental spaces.

Keywords:   cognitive domain, compositionality, conceptual archetype, conceptualization vs. social interaction, construal, dictionary vs. encyclopedic semantics, imagistic vs. propositional representation, lexical semantics, mental space, metaphor, prototype, schema, semantic primitive, semantics vs. pragmatics

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