LSA 119: Mental spaces and conceptual blending

Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner | session 1 | MW 10:30 – 12:15, 155 Donner Lab

The course will offer background in the general theory of mental spaces and conceptual integration, and focus on recent developments and new research in the area. We will explore compression phenomena in grammar, metaphor, and discourse, and show that compression operates uniformly in human action and thought.

We will describe and discuss the cognitive operations that lead to dynamic emergent structure in the construction of meaning, and underlie human creativity in its everyday forms as well as in its more spectacular scientific, artistic, and religious manifestations. We will outline the implications of these findings for the origin of language and other singularities of human behavior. We will focus on the indispensability of devising conceptual structures that fit human scale, and the way in which conceptual integration provides leverage in bringing to human scale ranges of conceptual structures that would otherwise lie beyond our capacities. We will also compare these human mental capacities with the capacities of other species. Finally, the study of conceptual mappings will be used to illustrate powerful methods developed within cognitive linguistics and guided by scientific principles of empirical adequacy, operational uniformity, and generalization.

Required reading: Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities and selected materials available online.

Recommended reading: Gilles Fauconnier, Mental Spaces: Aspects of Meaning Construction in Natural Language, Seana Coulson, Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction, Mark Turner, Cognitive Dimensions of Social Science: The Way We Think about Politics, Economics, Law, and Society, and Gilles Fauconnier, Mappings in Thought and Language.

Areas of linguistics: Language and thought

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