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Meaning, Mind and Communication

Explorations in Cognitive Semiotics

Edited By Jordan Zlatev, Göran Sonesson and Piotr Konderak

This volume constitutes the first anthology of texts in cognitive semiotics – the new transdisciplinary study of meaning, mind and communication that combines concepts and methods from semiotics, cognitive science and linguistics – from a multitude of established and younger scholars. The chapters deal with the interaction between language and other semiotic resources, the role of consciousness and concepts, the nature of metaphor, the specificity of human evolution and development, the relation between cognitive semiotics and related fields, and other central topics. They are grouped in four sections: (i) Meta-theoretical perspectives, (ii) Semiotic development and evolution, (iii) Meaning across media, modes and modalities, (iv) Language, blends and metaphors.

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Chapter 25. Linguistic Theory in the Framework of Cognitive Semiotics: The Role of Semio-Syntax (Per Aage Brandt)


Per Aage Brandt

Chapter 25

Linguistic Theory in the Framework of Cognitive Semiotics: The Role of Semio-Syntax

1. The meaning of grammar

When approaching questions of grammar, we often express our analysis in terms of so-called sentence trees. The structure and the principles of these “trees”, of course, vary according to the theories of grammar they presuppose, but the idea of there being some sort of spatial unfolding in the grammar of sentences is pervasive. The spatiality of the trees (or ‘phrase markers’) is probably inspired by the intuition that sentences make sense and therefore somehow form a meaningfully articulated whole, a whole of connected parts. However, this does not prevent grammarians from letting the trees generate a terminal string reproducing the word order of sentences under analysis. So the sentence trees are supposed to show both a word order and how they make sense. My claim is that this double function implies a more developed representation, one that separates the semantic sense-making and the linear representation of the sentence required by its phonetic expression.

Let us just consider one example of the “double-function tree” in current grammatical thinking, shown in Figure 1. The graph shown is a sentence tree1 jokingly used in an invitation to a seminar at the Department of Linguistics, University of Copenhagen (= KU). The terminal string is spelled out in (1).

Figure 1. A typical tree-structure for the Danish sentence in (1)

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