The Embodied Basis of Constructions in Greek and Latin

Country: United Kingdom

City: Newcastle

Abstr. due: 07.09.2014

Dates: 20.07.15 — 21.07.15

Area Of Sciences: Humanities;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: The Society for Classical Studies


Submissions are invited for a theme session at the 13th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference (ICLC-13), Newcastle (UK), July 20-25, 2015.  Theories of “embodiment” in cognitive linguistics and related disciplines have led to major advances in the understanding of linguistic meaning. A key claim is that the meanings of many linguistic units correspond, directly or indirectly through metaphorical extension, to recurring patterns of sensorimotor experience or “image schemas”, whose susceptibility of visual and kinesthetic transformations in mental space also accounts for synchronic and diachronic sense variation. Furthermore, in this view, units at all levels of linguistic structure – including or indeed above all grammatical constructions – are taken to be meaningful, insofar as these can be described in terms of symbolic pairings of schematic phonological or syntactic forms and conventionalized semantic or pragmatic meanings. Insights of the cognitive interdiscipline have scarcely penetrated Greek and Latin linguistics, however, where formalist (Chomskyan) and functionalist (Dikian) approaches continue to dominate (important exceptions are Fedriani 2014; Short 2013; Barðdal et al. 2012; Brucale and Mocciaro 2011, Luraghi 2010, 2003; and the papers in Short, forthcoming). Yet the rich metaphorical expression, highly complex grammatical structure, as well as elaborate – and very often multiple, seemingly functionally equivalent – syntactic constructions that characterize the classical languages would seem to provide fertile ground for cognitive linguistic analysis.

For this reason, we invite contributions to a panel at the 2015 International Cognitive Linguistics Conference (and to an eventual collective volume) aimed at bringing Latin and Greek linguistics into more thoroughgoing dialogue with cognitive linguistics, toward the development of a “cognitive classical linguistics”. In particular, we seek papers exploring the potential of cognitive theories and methods to inform our understanding of the semantic or pragmatic values of Greek and Latin constructions. Possible avenues of exploration include, but are by no means limited to: the variety of possessive expressions; adjective placement and word order more generally; cases and adverbial constructions; reflexives and reciprocal constructions; passives and impersonals; conditionals, and so forth. Papers highlighting ways in which the two disciplines can benefit through reciprocal exchange are especially encouraged. For instance, image schema theory, in positing that sense-making depends on humanly embodied imaginative processes, may allow classical scholars to account for the polysemy of many Greek and Latin words systematically in terms of established, brain-based mechanisms of meaning extension. These studies may then provide the sort of evidence needed to support claims by cognitive linguists that the same limited number of cognitive mechanisms can help explain diachronic sense change as well as synchronic variation. By the same token, conceptual metaphor theory, by opening a window on a shared level of conceptualization, may provide a corrective to approaches now dominant in classical studies that stress a highly local view of meaning. Meanwhile, studies of Greek and Latin’s systems of metaphor – which belong to “languacultures” partially related to and partially distinct from those typically studied in cognitive linguistics – may serve as a reminder of the complex dynamics often characterizing the operation of metaphor in language and culture.

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