Spaces, Worlds, and Grammar
Edited by Gilles Fauconnier and Eve Sweetser.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
Series title:  Cognitive theory of language and culture.

Publisher's presentation

Grammar is closely tied to human thought and interaction. It is an essential vehicle for the continuous reshaping of conceptual structure that takes place in conversation, writing, reading, or. argument. Poetic imagination and creative reasoning are grounded in the same remarkable mental abilities that allow us to use everyday language effectively.

This-book examines the multiple mental spaces set up in discourse and the interconnections between them. Since Fauconnier began to work on mental spaces in the late 1970s, researchers have developed this approach in a variety of directions. We have become aware of the ways in which specific linguistic forms prompt construction of the conceptual structures involved in narrative, analogical reasoning, expression of cultural models, and concepts of self. Language does not build conceptual structure; rather, it guides the building process. Speakers effortlessly set up now mental spaces and revise them according to the cues given in discourse. Grammatical markers, then, are not irrational whims of languages or grammarians: they are the road signs to guide hearers and speakers along common mental paths.

Since language is not a formal representation of conceptual structure, but an interactive guidance system for our conceptual processes, it cannot be structurally unrelated to the processes it guides. It cannot be an autonomous representation system, independent of reasoning and thought in general. The studies in this volume attest to the broad spectrum of aspects of cognitive structure that are illuminated by the study of language. Using data from a wide range of languages, the contributors examine such diverse topics as alternative worlds, reference construction in American Sign Language, viewpoint in journalistic texts, abstract change and motion, underspecification, and contextual interpretation.

Posing challenges to many current paradigms in linguistics, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science, this book addresses readers with an interest in the relationships between language, cognition, and cultural models.

Gilles Fauconnier is professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego.

Eve Sweetser is associate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.




Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles