LINGUIST List 14.3047

Sun Nov 9 2003

Review: Cog Sci/Socioling: Dirven, Frank & P�tz (2003)

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  • Zouhair Maalej, Cognitive Models in Language and Thought

    Message 1: Cognitive Models in Language and Thought

    Date: Sat, 08 Nov 2003 22:43:57 +0000
    From: Zouhair Maalej <>
    Subject: Cognitive Models in Language and Thought

    Dirven, Ren�, Roslyn Frank and Martin P�tz, eds. (2003) Cognitive Models in Language and Thought: Ideology, Metaphors and Meanings, Mouton de Gruyter, Cognitive Linguistics Research 24.

    Announced at

    Zouhair Maalej, Department of English, University of Manouba-Tunis, Tunisia


    The book under review is a collective volume structured around four themes and including eleven papers by scholars of varied background but all attracted to the cognitive linguistic paradigm and its workings. The collection emanates from the 29th International LAUD Symposium held at the University of Koblenz-Landau, Landau, Germany (2002). The overview will follow a paper-by-paper technique.

    (i) Cognitive models of linguistic variation

    ''Cultural models of linguistic standardization'' by Dirk Geeraerts (pp. 25-68)

    The main argument of Geeraerts is that there are two cultural models that shape our thinking about language and its origin, namely, the rationalist and the romantic models. The rationalist model of language standardization is characterized by geographic, social, and thematic generality, which make a standard language a neutral, participatory, and emancipative medium of communication, verging on nationalism. The romantic model, however, sees a standard language as an instrument of oppression and exclusion, with schools as a means of reproducing social inequality and exclusion. The distrust of standardization also comes from the fact that a standard language does not allow for the expression of identity and emotions. Although the two models have very little in common, we are told, yet they do interact.

    ''How to do things with allophones: Linguistic stereotypes as cognitive reference points in social cognition'' by Gitte Kristiansen (pp. 69-120)

    Kristiansen explains allophonic variation by linking it to linguistic stereotyping, social categorization, and social cognition.

    (ii) Cognitive models and cultural/social identities

    ''Shifting identities in Basque and Western cultural models of Self and Being'' by Roslyn M. Frank (pp. 123-157)

    Discussing the Great Chain Metaphor presented by Lakoff and Turner (1989), Frank shows through examples from Basque how the European cultural model of self and being is not similar to the Basque's. The European model is said to be reshaped from the dichotomy of mind/body to embodiment as unity of body and mind (Varela et al, 1991) and as a way of putting the mind back into the body (Johnson, 1987).

    ''Language and ideology in Nigerian cartoons'' by Oyinkan Medubi (pp. 159-197)

    Having in mind ideology, Mdubi applies Turner and Fauconnier's blending theory to the study of metaphor and metonymy in a set of Nigerian political cartoons. The metaphors studied have to do with alignment, power, resistance, and deception. Mdubi argues that ideology is more powerfully apparent with metaphoric structures than with metonymies.

    ''Three mandates for anti-minority policy expressed in U.S. public discourse metaphors'' by Otto Santa Ana (pp. 199-227)

    Working on a corpus of newspaper articles on immigration and affirmative action within the contemporary cognitive metaphor theory and critical discourse analysis, Santa Ana discusses metaphors of social exclusion of Latinos in contemporary American political discourse. Overall, Santa Ana isolates the following conceptual metaphors: IMMIGRANTS AS ANIMALS, IMMIGRATION AS DANGEROUS WATERS, RACISM AS CANCER, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AS CURE/REMEDY.

    ''Has the consciousness of modern industrial societies rendered 'housewife' no longer a value-free cultural model'' by Lewis Sego (pp. 229-243)

    Sego studies the evolution that the concept/model of housewife has undergone through time, although it has never been value-free.

    (iii) Cognitive models as covert ideologies

    ''Conceptual metaphor as ideological stylistic means: An exemplary analysis'' by Hans-Georg Wolf and Frank Polzenhagen (pp. 247-275)

    Through a study of a newspaper article on US-Japan bi- lateral trade relations, Wolf and Polzenhagen show how conceptual metaphor can function as a global stylistic ideological pattern, providing coherence for the seemingly disparate linguistic metaphors on the surface of discourse. The ideological dimension of conceptual metaphor is said to lie in the fact that metaphor allows construal of a given event in alternative manners, thus highlighting and hiding at different occasions different sub-events. To show ideology in action, Wolf and Polzenhagen compare the American conceptualization of US-Japan trade relations with that of the Japanese.

    ''Metaphor and ideology in the press coverage of telecom corporate consolidations'' by Michael White and Honesto Herrera (pp. 277-323)

    White and Herrera study the ideological dimensions of conceptual metaphors that govern telecom talk in the English and Spanish press. They isolated a set of conceptual metaphors governing corporate takeovers and alliances (COMPANIES ARE DINOSAURS, BUSINESS IS WAR, MERGERS ARE MARRIAGES). They (p. 286) explain that the conceptual metaphor, MONOPOLIES ARE DINOSAURS, functions also metonymically thanks to ''the saliency of the characteristic of failure to survive,'' where this failure to survive functions as a metonym for the dinosaur (i.e., if my understanding is correct, a part-whole relation).

    (iv) Cognitive models in covert social debates

    'Ideological functions of metaphor: The conceptual metaphors of health and illness in public discourse'' by Andreas Musolff (pp. 327-352)

    Musolff investigated the ideological dimension of conceptual metaphors in the British and German press coverage of EU politics. Sclerosis and heart diseases are found to dominate the British conception of Europe, while birth and child metaphors about the euro are said to be frequently used in Germany. Musolff shows that specifically in the case of Germany we witness a sort of negotiation of the euro as birth ICM between politicians and the media, which results in rejections, corrections, refinements, reinterpretations, and eventual acceptance of the metaphor in public debates.

    ''Genetic roulette: On the cognitive rhetoric of biorisk'' by Craig Hamilton (pp. 353-393)

    Basing his study on cognitive rhetoric, Hamilton deals with the discourse of genetically modified food through ads presented by the Turning Point Project and the TV program ''Harvest of Fear'' (PBS, USA) aimed at the American public to raise their awareness about modified food consumption. Ideology seems to be functioning in two ways through conceptual categorization: fitting categories in the right category (natural product) for environmental groups such as Turning Point Project, or in the wrong category (modified product) for the defenders of biotechnology.

    ''Deciphering the human genome: The semantic and ideological foundations of genetic and genomic discourse'' by Brigitte Nerlich and Robert Dingwall (pp. 395-428)

    Nerlich and Dingwall the discourse surrounding the human genome project/DNA, realizing that the code (information theory) and word (religion) metaphors are tapped in, despite the disappearance of the former from linguistic talk about human communication. Analyzing Clinton's political speech about the genomic discoveries and a speech by a scientist, Nerlich and Dingwall argue that the former aimed at ''selling scientific progress to the public'', whereas the latter's scientific position aimed at politically ''shoring up this message'' (p. 409). Clinton was shown to have managed to sell his genome ideology even to religious fundamentalists in the US by including in his science-as-a-journey metaphor a marvel at God's creative powers. Blair's approach was more cautious by pointing to ethical issues of misuse of genomic knowledge by humanity.


    The collection of papers under review is an interesting read from at least two perspectives:

    (i) the variety of target domains for papers dealing with metaphor. Indeed, the range of domains spans over the areas of racism, politics, economics, health, genomics, etc.

    (ii) the variety of angles from which ideology is approached: linguistic, linguistic-stylistic, social, political, etc.

    The collection shows papers of unequal quality, focus, and interest. The first two papers on cognitive models by Geeraerts and Kristiansen argue for the place of cognitive models, respectively, in linguistic standardization and stereotyping in social cognition. What they have managed to do is link studies of dialectology to language, cognition, and thought. Sego's paper is the shortest, and does not succeed in driving its point home about ideology in the concept of ''housewife.''

    Many of the papers in this collection have the merit of taking us off the beaten tracks of the theoretical issues within conceptual metaphor and blending. Although theory is important, conceptual metaphor theory needs to be taken a step further into practical matters by analyzing its relevance to and incidence on our life, namely, ideology in thought and language. As far as my knowledge goes, the contemporary cognitive metaphor theory has devoted little space to socio-pragmatic and cognitive-pragmatic functions of conceptual metaphor (Maalej, 2003) such as persuasion, which has been explicitly touched upon by Hamilton under cognitive rhetoric, and only assumed in other papers.

    An interesting contribution of the book is the ideological role that conceptual metaphor covertly and overtly plays. Medubi and Santa Ana, for instance, show the link between conceptual metaphor and ideology as social, economic, and political exclusion. Wolf and Polzenhagen present another kind of metaphor and ideology fusion through style. They succeeded through a study of two texts in showing how lexical configuration together with the notion of construal can drive ideology home. Musolff seems to rely more on the entailments of the conceptual metaphors used as a basis for ideology.

    Hamilton sees ideology as working through a manipulation of categories via what I prefer to call re-categorizing them for the occasion. Although Lakoff and Johnson (1999: 18) claim that ''we cannot make massive changes in our category systems through conscious acts of re- categorization (though, through experience in the world, our categories are subject to unconscious reshaping and partial change),'' I believe that in political, promotional, media discourses, etc., re-categorizing may be seen as a deliberate/conscious strategy to re-arrange the cultural categories for particular ideological purposes. As Lakoff and Johnson (1999: 208) rightly argue, CHANGING THE CATEGORY OF AN ENTITY IS CHANGING THE ENTITY by re-locating it into a different category, and that the reality of re- categorization is that ''it can change or put pressure for change on what is recategorized.'' By far, Geeraerts was the most explicit one about ideology, spelling it out anthropologically as a manipulation or re-categorization of cultural models as ideology.

    However, apart from Geeraerts's conception, ideology is documented through definitions, but is not shown at work in practice. For instance, both White and Herrera and Musolff have talked about ideology without so much showing how conceptual metaphor carries or articulates ideology. Although they refer to various conceptions of ideology and stereotypes in the literature, White and Herrera do not show clearly how metaphor and ideology interact. Musolff and Seto in particular do not make it clear which conception of ideology as carried by or embedded in metaphor they are working with.

    Another concern in the many papers that dealt with metaphor and ideology is the critical discourse analytical framework, which has been at times explicitly spelt out, at others only assumed as relevant to a study of discourse and ideology. Thus, the framework emerging from the collection is mostly a combination of conceptual metaphor and blending on the one hand, and critical discourse analysis on the other, which is the familiar ground of the investigation of ideology. A good example of this combination is shown in Santa Ana. Although Fairclough and van Dijk have been mentioned by many as two leading figures within critical discourse analysis, van Dijk for papers dealing in politics and conceptual metaphor would have been an important backing.

    A comment will be made about Kristiansen and Frank's papers before ending this review. Although s/he uses an impressive battery of sources of knowledge, Kristiansen heavily overquotes: there is almost no page where there is no extensively large quote. Frank, on the other hand, uses lengthy footnotes that can extend over two pages, which slightly hampers the flow of the reading process.

    In order not to give an impression that I would not like to give about this interesting book, I think that it is one of the very few books using cognitive linguistics as represented by two of its important trends, the conceptual metaphor theory and conceptual blending, in dealing with corpora and practical matters such as cognitive models, cultural models, ideology, and persuasion. Therefore, I strongly believe that it is of interest to linguists concerned with socio- cultural issues and how they are articulated through linguistic and conceptual means.


    Fairclough, Norman (1989) Language and Power. London and New York: Longman.

    Johnson, Mark (1987) The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.

    Lakoff, George & Mark Turner (1989) More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago/London: The University of Chicago Press.

    Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson (1999) Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Books.

    Maalej, Zouhair (2003). ''Conceptual metaphor as persuasion in consumer advertising: A cross-cultural account.'' Paper read to the 5th International Conference on Researching and Applying Metaphor (RAAM V): Metaphor, Categorization and Abstraction: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Universit� Paris 13, France, 3-6 September 2003. To be submitted to Metaphor and Symbol.

    van Dijk, Teun A. (1997). ''Political discourse and political cognition.'' Congress on Political Discourse, Aston University, July 1997.

    Varela, Francisco J, Evan Thompson & Eleanor Rosch (1991). The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge: Mass.: The MIT Press.


    The reviewer is an assistant professor of linguistics. His interests include cognitive linguistics, metaphor, cognitive pragmatics, psycholinguistics, critical discourse analysis, etc. He spent a Fulbright scholarship at the Department of Linguistics, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (2002-2003) writing a book on the contemporary cognitive metaphor theory, with special reference to Arabic (forthcoming).