Conceptual Analysis: Theory and 
Practice

Course Outline / Mission Statement:

The course in Conceptual Analysis is primarily aimed at those students who wish to undertake a taught programme of undergraduate-level study in order to pursue research in some aspects of Cognitive Linguistics (namely, analyzing a concept as revealed by language). The course will be of interest to students in linguistics, literature, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, language teaching and learning, and other fields.

Cognitive Linguistics is a modern and innovative approach to the study of language and mind, and their relationship with culture. The course takes a cognitive semantics perspective addressing phenomena such as knowledge representation, lexical structure, the relationship between lexical structure and knowledge representation, figurative language and abstract thought, including metaphor and metonymy. The course also provides a survey of some of the most important approaches in cognitive semantics to these phenomena including Frame Semantics, Conceptual Metaphor Theory, Mental Spaces Theory and Conceptual Blending Theory. It also introduces the manner in which language is employed in cognitive science to investigate how different domains of experience are conceptualised.

It begins by exploring the assumptions and commitments of the approach. Some comparisons with formal approaches will also be offered. We also examine meaning relations and the techniques of componential analysis. The limitations of 'logical' / formal approaches then lead us to consider cognitive approaches to word meaning, which accommodate phenomena of vagueness and semantic 'fuzziness'. The course examines linguistic data from English, Russian and other languages. At the end of the lectures every student is to choose a concept and analyse linguistic means of its expression making use of one of the/ a few methods introduced in the course. It is necessary that presentations should be prepared and delivered in class.

At the core of the course is the conviction that rigorous and imaginative thinking, pursued under the guidance of dedicated teachers and scholars in small classes is the best preparation for the world that awaits students after graduation. The fact that linguistics provides a broad interdisciplinary training, developing the ability to analyse quantitative data (e.g. the frequencies of words), construct abstract models, and test alternative hypotheses, means that linguistics graduates emerge with the kind of transferable intellectual skills that are highly sought after by employers.

Course Unit Code:Б3ДВ7 / Б3ДВ3

Type of course unit: optional

Level of course unit: first

Year of study: 4 year of Bachelor program

Semester when course unit is delivered: 7 semester

Number of ECTS credits allocated: 2 ECTS

Name of lecturer(s): Zhanna Gosteva; Ksenia Mironova

Learning outcomes of the course unit:

Upon completion of this course, the students should be able to:

  • recognize and articulate the foundational assumptions, central ideas and dominant theories of the cognitive approaches to the language (Frame Semantics, Conceptual Metaphor Theory, etc.);
  • have a basic understanding of the limitations of traditional, formal approaches to semantics; demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate cognitive theories against formal approaches;
  • implement their knowledge of cognitive approaches to language in the analysis of natural language (English) data presented in various dictionaries (thesaurus, dictionary of synonyms, idioms, etc.), in fiction and other discourses;
  • explain the theoretical and practical bases of the conceptual analysis:
  1. identify and define basic terms and concepts which are needed for conceptual analysis;
  2. outline the scientific method as it is used by cognitive semanticists;
  3. apply the principles of conceptual analysis to practical problems.

Mode of delivery:

A grouped study course i.e. you meet as a group in a classroom or online and you are taught by a lecturer. Course delivery is principally face to face, requiring regular attendance. With face-to-face teaching, a lecturer is physically present to teach a group of students in a classroom or lecture hall. Web/online delivery (distance learning) is also possible: Course material and interaction between students and lecturers is via the internet. For online courses, all the course materials are delivered electronically and you use the internet to join in discussions with your lecturer and other students. Lecturers will provide support by email.

Methods of teaching:

Students attend class sessions. These have the character of workshops and comprise a range of activities including interactive lectures, discussions, group work, student readings, home assignments and individual presentations.

Prerequisites and co-requisites: The course has a prerequisite of various linguistic courses: Fundamentals of Linguistics, Lexicology (basic knowledge of semantic theory), and Philosophy. This means that it is recommended you should have credit for these courses before taking the course.

Recommended optional program components: Psycholinguistics, Cognitive Psychology

Course contents:

Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics. Its origins; aims; links with psychology, neurobiology, computer science, AI, philosophy etc. Cognition. Cognitive vs generative paradigm, structuralism, formal linguistics. Subdivisions within Cognitive Linguistics. Storage and transmission of information. Categorization and conceptualization. Concept and world view. Conceptual metaphor. Typology of concepts. Structure of concepts. Processes of production and understanding of speech. Principles of language categorization. Types of categories. Cognitive Schemes. Cognitive approaches to metaphor, and metonymy. Semantic analysis of concepts. Method of concept analyses. Modeling the nominative field of a (given) concept. Experimental conceptual research methods. Cognitive interpretation. Extracting characteristics of a concept. Modeling a concept. Cognitive approaches to idiom analysis. Cognitive linguistics with a special attention to the cross-cultural research within the field (as represented by Wierzbicka) Anthropocentric vs. Linguocentric Perspective History of Anthropocentric Linguistics (Humboldt, Wundt, American Anthropological Linguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, Cross-Cultural Linguistics)

Required reading:

  1. Evans V., Green M. Cognitive linguistics. An introduction. - Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006. - 857 p.
  2. Rosch E. Principles of Categorization // Cognition and Categorization. - Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers, 1978. - P. 27- 48.
  3. Wierzbicka A. Understanding Cultures through Their Key Words (English, Russian, Polish, German, and Japanese) New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, 328 p.

Recommended reading:

  1. The Oxford Handbook Of Cognitive Linguistics. Edited by D. Geeraerts and H. Cuyckens. - Oxford: University Press, 2007. - 1334p.
  2. Evans V. How Words Mean: Lexical concepts, cognitive models and meaning construction, Oxford University Press, 2009.
  3. Choinski Michal. Cognitive Linguistics in Action: From Theory to Application and Back Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton. Publication date: 2010. 411 p.
  4. Dobrovol’skij D. Cognitive and psycholinguistic aspects of phraseology P. 789-818 // In Phraseology An international Handbook of Contemporary Research Volume 2 Walter de Gruyter, 2007
  5. Lakoff G., Johnson M., Metaphors We Live By, The University of Chicago Press, 1980. (chapters 1-6; chapters 24-30)
  6. Fauconnier G., Turner M. The way we think: conceptual blending and the mind's hidden complexities. New York: Basic Books, 2002.
  7. Fillmore Ch "Frame Semantics" // Geeraerts, D., ed. Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings. Berlin / New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 2006. pp. 373-400.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods:

Interactive lectures, panels of experts, class discussions, student readings, home assignments. The course is designed for mainly classroom teaching. The theoretical part is presented in the form of lectures; practical skills are built through group and individual work at seminars with tutoring from responsible teacher. The course can be also tweaked to be delivered online distant teaching with online lectures and manual for self-studying.

Assessment methods and criteria:

Typical requirements in addition to regular class participation and completion of in-course assignments are oral questioning, individual presentations, a pass/fail final test. Note that students are welcome to work in groups or individually on all the homework. The criteria for individual presentations include the quality of the presentations.

Class attendance 20%
Participation in discussions 20%
Oral presentation of the project 30%
Final test 30%
Total coursework 100%

Language of instruction: English

Work placements: N/A