Cognitive linguistics as a part of cognitive science

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №4 - 2012

Satbayeva Lira, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
Yelakov Vladimir, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

Cognitive linguistics as being part of cognitive science deals with techniques considering the work of mental processes. Mental mechanisms of human mind are studied by cognitive science. Taking into account all mental processes, principles of information processing, and the connection to other psychic and neurological spheres cognitive scientists believe that they are closely interconnected and have a profound effect on each other. However, looking at cognitivism from a more precise prospect the core interaction of mental processes can reveal more subtle aspects of mind work such as culture and mentality. Yet, there are still a number of contradictions in cognitivism that cannot be researched without consideration of a number of disciplines where linguistics is a centre of cognitive science.

Cognitivism is the study of psychology where the mind of a person is studied as an information processing system and the behavior of a person should be described and explained according to his/her internal state. These states are physically determined, observable and interpreted as a receipt, processing, storage and, therefore, mobilization of information for the rational decision of reasonably formed tasks. As the decision of these tasks is directly interconnected with the use of language, it is quite reasonable that language is in the centre of cognitive science.

Observing the concept of cognitivism through centuries it has been drastically modified during this period. The usage of the term "cognition" as a key direction has led to considerable discourses in definition and application of this notion. The initial meaning of cognition was always represented as perception, mind, or intelligentia. Nowadays cognitivism differs from its previous notion by its wide use of information select metaphors and characters. Cognition for cognitive scientists is procedures connected with acquisition, usage, storage, transition and production of knowledge [A. Hautamäki 1988, p. 11].

Cognitivism in its notion can be defined as [M. Richelle 1987, p. 181]:

- Research program of human "thinking process" [J.-F. Le Ny 1989, p. 9];

- Observation style over human nature mental phenomena (where cognitivism is close to phenomenology);

- Initial hypothesis that the subject is a source and originator of its actions;

- Demarcation of research area when cognition being perception, communication act, memory, and imagination confronts emotions that are not considered in the primary research objects.

Working out the models of "inner processing" cognitive scientists describe mental events in mental terms [W. Bechtel 1988, p. 13]. Basically, cognitive work is to determine the reasons that evoke certain thoughts. There are at least two more approaches such as behaviorism and neuropsychology that are connected to mental activity. Behaviorism characterizes behavior in terms of skills, motives, and reactions. Neuropsychology explains the behavioral process in terms of neuronal process [W. Bechtel 1988, p. 3-4]. Unlike these approaches, cognitive scientists aim to form their own hypothesis in terms of mental processes without studying motives, reactions, and cellular interaction. The main objective is to identify mental states functionally in terms of their interaction and deviate from material actualization in mind.

For example, in "cognitive theory of individual" it is necessary to focus not on the phase of personal perception but on what follows this process. This preceding phase is called "information process". Such "processing" is characterized as "schemes", "frames", "script". According to the concept of "parallel distributed processing" (PDP), some "processing" that is smaller and have microlevel features are determined as "micro sign" functioning in terms of interconnected systems [D.E. Rumelhart et al. 1986, p. 7]. The cognitive aim of the theory is to consider closeness of a certain researching phenomenon to consciousness [H. Thomae 1988, p. 16]. Therefore, one of the cognitive objectives is to display cognition in external behavior [Lycan 1990, p. 1].

Considering a number of questions that arouse in cognitive theory it is inevitable to connect this science to mathematical principles. Such issues as the effect of cognitive processes, metaphors and characters produced in human mind are studied only by mathematics. Algebra as an art to solve certain equations had conceptually existed before current formal mechanisms existence. However, initially it is closely connected to the systems that generate the methods of solving sophisticated types of tasks. Cognitivism concerns a serial or even "technical" task solving in human mind causing a serial of new problems every time.

Cognitive science is a science that researches intelligence and intelligent systems where intelligent behavior is considered as a determinant [Simon, Kaplan 1989, p. 1]. It differs from previous approaches to cognition by its level of idea perception and "determination" techniques. The latter is not of arithmetical mean but as an operation analogue produced by a computer [Z.W. Pylyshyn 1989, p. 51].

It is evident that such a discipline is complex. For example, it can be described as a "federation" of sciences that are not interconnected by strict and set relations. There is artificial intellect (or "applied philosophy"), linguistics, psychology and neurology [M.A. Arbib 1985, p. 28] (another type of administrative decision is physiology, psycholinguistics and mathematics [G. Kegel 1986, p. 28]) in this "federation". Artificial intellect is aimed to imitate human intellect with the help of a computer to solve tasks. "Cognitive linguistics" is a branch of cognitive science that uses a set of language information processing to create models that imitate external human behavior demonstration when solving intellectual tasks. Neurology, or theory of brain, explains the behavior of a person or animal through its interconnection with nervous system elements.

A general consequence of such a complex cognitive science is to build models of knowledge and intellect to produce them in computer. Thus, the object of research is human cognition (interaction of perception system, information representation and production) and its "technological presentation" [G. Kegel 1986, p. 30].

In 1960 cognitive psychology demonstrated the possibilities of information select approach to human mentality and the possibilities of new scientific metalanguage. The concept of information processing taken from the information theory where it was applied to physical systems of information transmission was applied to a person. A general idea was transformed into the following conception: organisms use internal perception (representations) and make evaluation operations over these perceptions. Now cognition is an object, which regulates human perception according to the manipulation rule of computers.

This theoretical experiment that detected the flexibility of a new scientific metalanguage in description of psychic processes was the background for the creation of cognition approach to objects and research results in allied subjects. This approach is the most applicable in linguistics as in all complexes of sciences about a human being. Hence, the relation between language and other human activities and processes takes the leading part. It is language but not culture or society that gives cognitive scientists a key to human behavior [W. Croft 1991, p. 273].

Before cognitive current, the science was mostly focused on the general logical laws applicable to all biological species, materials, centuries and stages of knowledge in contrast to their content [H. Gardner, Wolf 1987, p. 306]. Nowadays main principles are connected to human cognition. Scientists that worked in this sphere are J. Bruner, G. Miller, U. Neisser, J. Piaget, A. Newell, G. Simon and others during 1956-1972 [G.A. Miller 1979]. According to the theoretical and personal characteristics, cognitivism is comparable to behaviorism in psychology from 1940 to 1950. It is interdisciplinary of this period that determined axioms of cognitivism [H. Gardner, Wolf 1987, p. 117]:

1. Visible actions (such as products) are not only to be researched but also their mental perception, symbols, strategies, and other invisible processes and abilities of a person (that cause actions).

2. During these processes a reasonable aspect of actions and processes are under consideration but not an external analysis of behavior.

3. Culture forms a person, an individual is always under the influence of his/ her culture.

No matter how many contradictions were between different currents, cognitive scientists were aimed to return the concept "mind" to the human science. They did not try to modify behaviorism but dispel it as a methodology of scientific research [J.S. Bruner 1990, p. 3-4].

By the middle of the 1950s, the explanation of mental processes through "rules of modification of mental perception" had appeared that are comparable to the transformational rules in the first versions of generative grammar. These rules were being formed during the observation of language learning by children [S. Pinker 1984, p. 1]. It was found that children master their native language in an equal way and that this universal "algorithm" of mastering language consists of accepting new rules into the internal grammar of a child. Thus, it was concluded that these rules resemble all aspects that also direct nonspeech types of activities and provide them with productivity and sometimes look like reflexive type of activity or uncontrolled behavior reflecting on the structure of perception, memory and even on emotions [Fodor, Bever, Garrett 1974, p. 6-7].

Based on such kind of arguments, cognitive methodology is close to linguistic activity. Interpreting a text a linguist analyzes the correctness and meaning of sentences (on the basis of subject consulting and/or explaining the meaning using his/her knowledge) using hypothetico-deductive structures [A.I. Goldman 1987, p. 539]. The research on how a person operates the symbols around him/her conceiving the world and his/her place in the world demonstrates an inevitable connection of linguistics with other disciplines, which study a person and society interpreting their interconnection.

Cognitive science displayed one of the general tendencies of interpreting approach in different disciplines. This objective to determine mechanisms of human interpretation of the world and his/her place in the world is considerably displayed in linguistic "interpretivism" ("interpreting semantics"), in philosophical and juridical hermeneutics, in literary studies of reader criticism. However, cognitivism does not cover as many aspects as interpretivism but it does not have limit in its size.

Cognitive science as a project of human cognition research is of interest and practical importance. However, it has inevitable contradictions. There are some typical issues in cognition concepts:

1. The confusion between the terms "meaning" and "information", "consciousness" and "information processing" which are connected to contemporary features of describing technological analysis model. Actually, meaning and information are completely different notions. Meaning can be applicable even to non-informal items. The important concept, which is to be considered, is that an item is informative, that it has its own code of information in contrast to other types of items. When considering a certain informative item it already has its own set of predefined possible choice. Hence, beyond this choice it is impossible to consider the information processing in terms of basic operations that function in fixed and optional items. In contrast to the meaning system, the information system does not imply indeterminacy, polysemy, metaphor and connotation [J.S. Bruner 1990, p. 4].

2. Considering cognitivism in its profound notion it appears to be closely interconnected to a technological rather than human aspect. However, cognition has hardly anything common with mirror reflection in its classical aspect, which functions according to information selection paradigm. Human perception (as well as language, myth, and art) is not a mirror that reflects the external and/or internal nature of objects, which had its own structure before our act of perception. Human perception is more like a source of light that creates conditions for human perception. The stronger the light the stronger the source the clearer we see an object [E. Cassirer 1923, p. 26]. According to Cassirer, any perception is set up to find a single principle that unifies different observations in one complete unit. One item cannot be single, it must be applied to a certain category where it must be represented as an element of either logical or cause-and-effect structure [E. Cassirer 1923, p. 8].

3. A human being cannot be only referred to information category as the main feature of human intellect is will. Intellect is will and cognition (there can be more aspects). Considering only manipulating symbols cognition deviates from intentionality [H.-H. Lieb 1987, p. 11]. Hence, if intention and will are included in cognition, then there is no cognition according to its core nature; therefore, cognitivism cannot manipulate intellect. In both cases, it is difficult to define the term "cognition" in information select sense.

4. Syntactic symbols that cognitive scientists are often limited to cannot reflect the mentality of a person as people think semantically [J.R. Searle 1984, p. 43-55].

As a result of a number of contradictions, many issues of cognitivism are under consideration. There is no one but several unified cognitive theories that are interconnected trying to adapt but not replace each other. In this case of interaction, one can see the feature of human interpreting process trying to explain everything that attracts his/her attention [A. Newell 1990, p. 503].

"Cognitive linguistics" is a scientific current that centers language as a combined cognitive mechanism.

The main focus of cognitive science is a "mental" basis of speech understanding and production in relation to the way the structures of language perception are represented and work during the information processing. The issue put from this concept is what representation of knowledge and procedures of its processing can be expected. It is considered that representation and similar processes are organized modularly so that they are dependant to different principles of organization [D. Wunderlich, Kaufmann 1990, p. 223].

In contrast to other disciplines of cognitive course, those cognitive structures and processes are only considered that are typical to homo loquens. In the first stage is the system description and explanation of human mechanisms of learning language and the principle of structuring of these mechanisms. However, there are certain issues during these procedures [Felix, Kanngiesser, Rickheit 1990, p. 1-2]:

1. Considering the representation of mental mechanisms of learning language and principles of their structuring, the number of mechanism representations, the principle of mechanisms interaction and their inner construction are arguable.

2. Considering production, it is disputable whether production and perception are based on the same system units or they have different mechanisms. It is also questionable whether the time processes that make speech production go parallel or sequentially, whether we build a general sample of sentence and only then provide it with lexical material or these processes go at the same time, how it happens, what substructures (for example, syntaxes, semantic, conceptual etc.) function in speech production and how they are set up.

3. Perception in cognitive course is researched more actively than speech production, which characterizes interpretivism. Considering perception, a number of issues are under consideration, such as what kind of procedures regulate and structure language perception, what experience evokes these procedures, what is the organization of semantic memory and the role of this memory in the speech perception and understanding.

It is acceptable in cognitive linguistics that mental processes are not only based on the representations but they correspond to certain procedures such as "cognitive estimation" [C. Eschenbach et al. 1990, p. 37-38]. For other cognitive disciplines (especially for cognitive psychology) the implication of cognitive linguistic is valuable when they allow to determine the mechanisms of these cognitive estimation [G. Lakoff 1982, p. 141].

In such an information select principle the central objective of cognitive linguistic is determined as the description and explanation of inner cognitive structures and the dynamics of a speaker and hearer [S.W. Felix, Kanngiesser, Rickheit 1990à, p. 5]. A speaker and hearer are considered as a system of information processing that consists of a final number of independent components (modules) and distributes language information in different levels. The aim of cognitive linguistics is to research such system and set up its main principles but not only to represent systematic language phenomena. For cognitive scientists it is necessary to understand what mental representation of language knowledge should be and how this knowledge is cognitively processed. Adequacy and relevancy of linguistic statements are determined according to this concept and explain the following notions [S.W. Felix, Kanngiesser, Rickheit 1990a, p. 6]:

1. Understanding is considered to be a type of mental representation that should be accessible for learning. (The issue is what is accessible for learning and what is not accessible).

2. Processing is an act of process between a presenter and presentee that can be processed by means of the program of a quite proper analyzer (in computer). The check of grammar models with methods of computer linguistics is an example for processing.

Thus, it is essential to consider cognitive mechanism in all linguistic activities as it deals with all principles of perception, processing, and output of information. Language cognition can be defined as interpretation process that controls all language processes, especially speech. Internal world is interpreted through speech. A universal cognitive strategy is set up in human cognition. A person can collect information and use these strategies to monitor his/her knowledge. According to Lieberman [Lieberman 1984, c. VII] the universal strategies set up in human mind programmed by biological structures are similar to computer work. Knowledge accumulated throughout the life of a person is monitored by these strategies and makes a person think and learn according to this knowledge.


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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №4 - 2012

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