Cognitive Linguistics and Cultural Studies

René Dirven, Hans-Georg Wolf and Frank Polzenhagen

in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199738632
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Cognitive Linguistics and Cultural Studies

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Language and cultural theory, as developed in pre-cognitive linguistics and anthropology, has a long tradition, beginning with Wilhelm von Humboldt and drastically reshaped by Ferdinand de Saussure. Humboldt argues that the relationship between thought and language is bidirectional rather than unidirectional and assumes mutual correspondences between culture and language. In contrast, Saussure, the father of modern linguistics, sees language not as a mere form of thought, but as a self-contained system with its own organization and classification of “content.” Although cognitive linguistics generally does not subscribe to linguistic relativity, it clearly sticks with the Humboldtian conception of the relation between thought, language, and culture, which is laid down in a number of cognitive models, or rather cultural models. This article discusses various cultural models and their mental locus, opposes universal and culture-specific aspects in cultural models, and challenges two models of deixis (corporeal deixis and environmental deixis). Finally, it examines cultural variation and shows how radically different cultural models can be created in one language, that is, English as a world language.

Keywords: Wilhelm von Humboldt; cognitive linguistics; Ferdinand de Saussure; language; cognition; culture; thought; cultural models; deixis; cultural variation

Article.  7880 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Cognitive Linguistics

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