Cognitive linguists deny that the mind has any module for language-acquisition that is unique and autonomous. This stands in contrast to the work done in the field of generative grammar. Although cognitive linguists do not necessarily deny that part of the human linguistic ability is innate, they deny that it is separate from the rest of cognition. Thus, they argue that knowledge of linguistic phenomena — i.e., phonemes, morphemes, and syntax — is essentially conceptual in nature. Moreover, they argue that the storage and retrieval of linguistic data is not significantly different from the storage and retrieval of other knowledge, and use of language in understanding employs similar cognitive abilities as used in other non-linguistic tasks.
Departing from the tradition of truth-conditional semantics, cognitive linguists view meaning in terms of conceptualization. Instead of viewing meaning in terms of models of the world, they view it in terms of mental spaces.
Finally, cognitive linguistics argues that language is both embodied and situated in a specific environment. This can be considered a moderate offshoot of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, in that language and cognition mutually influence one another, and are both embedded in the experiences and environments of its users.
Aspects of cognition that are of interest to cognitive linguists include:
Related work that interfaces with many of the above themes:
Cognitive linguistics, more than generative linguistics, seeks to mesh together these findings into a coherent whole. A further complication arises because the terminology of cognitive linguistics is not entirely stable, both because it is a relatively new field and because it interfaces with a number of other disciplines.
Insights and developments from cognitive linguistics are becoming accepted ways of analysing literary texts, too. Cognitive Poetics, as it has become known, has become an important part of modern stylistics. The best summary of the discipline as it is currently stands is Peter Stockwell's Cognitive Poetics.
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