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Holland, N.N. (1999). Cognitive Linguistics. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(2):357-363.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(2):357-363

Cognitive Linguistics

Norman N. Holland

The Chomskyan revolution in linguistics in the 1950s and '60s developed (among many others) the idea that one could learn about the brain and mind by studying language. That is if all human languages share certain surprising and profound similarities (called Universal Grammar or UG), those features must be innate or ‘hard-wired'. They must be intrinsic inherited parts of the human mind.

One of the post-Chomskyan groups, the cognitive linguists (sometimes called ‘cognitive semanticists'), has used metaphor to explore mind, resulting in ‘the cognitive science of metaphor' or ‘the theory of conceptual metaphor'. (Psychoanalysts will recognise Ella Freeman Sharpe, writing in the thirties and forties, as an important forerunner of this development [Sharpe, 1937, 1940].) In 1980, George Lakoff & Mark Johnson published Metaphors We Live By (1980). Despite its ‘self-help'-sounding title, the book started a new line of enquiry into the nature of metaphor and what it tells us about our brains and minds

Literary theorists have been writing about metaphor since classical times. Most of these writings have tried simply to define that elusive term, and rhetoricians have spent much ink distinguishing metaphor from simile or synecdoche or metonymy. For our purposes, we can borrow a simple definition from Lakoff & Johnson. ‘The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another' (1980p. 5). They use mathematical terms and speak of understanding a target domain in terms of a source domain.

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