Cognitive Linguistics: An Introduction by Vyvyan Evans

By Vyvyan Evans

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Linguists try to uncover the systems behind language, to describe these systems and to model them. Linguistic models consist of theories about language. Linguists can approach the study of language from various perspectives. Linguists may choose to concentrate on exploring the systems within and between sound, meaning and grammar, or to focus on more applied areas, such as the evolution of language, the acquisition of language by children, language disorders, the questions of how and why language changes over time, or the relationship between language, culture and society.

As an example of converging evidence, we explored the linguistic reflex of the distinction made in psychology between figure and ground. Finally, we looked at what it means to know a language, and introduced an important distinction between kinds of linguistic knowledge: the cognitive representation provided by language can be divided into lexical and grammatical subsystems. The lexical subsystem contains open-class elements which perform a content function. The grammatical subsystem contains closed-class elements, which perform a structuring function providing schematic meaning.

The arrow within the circle (the circle depicts the vase) shows that the vase is undergoing an internal change of state. The state the vase is ‘moving to’ is represented by the box with the letter ‘b’ inside it. This stands for the state IN BITS. In this diagram the entity, the change of state and the resulting state are all in bold, reflecting the fact that all these aspects of the action chain are being profiled by the corresponding sentence.

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