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Chaucer’s Choices

Through the looking-glass of medieval imagery

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Katarzyna Stadnik

The monograph discusses the relation between language and visual culture, focusing on two Chaucerian narratives, «Knight’s Tale» and «Troilus and Criseyde». The study highlights the significance of the continuity of imagery in language and material culture for cultural transmission, providing insights into the relation between Chaucer’s linguistic usage and the late medieval symbolic tradition. Undertaken within the Cognitive Linguistic framework, the research indicates the usefulness of adopting a panchronic perspective on the development of language and culture.
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1. Sociocultural situatedness of the language user and the constraints of embodiment

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1. Sociocultural situatedness of the language user and the constraints of embodiment

Although human cognition is frequently argued to be fundamentally social, humans immersed in the social world inhabit the material world as well. As Kiefer and Barsalou (2012) point out, cognitive activity is grounded in modality-specific systems, the body and action, the social environment, and the physical environment. Thus, a question arises how internal processes of the human mind and external resources from the surrounding cultural environment may affect human cognition situated in the context of the social world and the physical environment. Since the monograph address the issue of continuity of language and culture, implying notions of cumulative cultural evolution and cumulative knowledge, we view culture as a cognitive system encompassing the community’s conceptual order such that the continuity of language may facilitate cultural transmission. Language is considered as one type of repository of cultural community’s cumulative knowledge gathered across generations. In a sense, language serves the purpose of collective memory bank (cf. Sharifian 2009). If language stores the cultural community’s conceptual order, its evolution should be correlated with cumulative cultural evolution (Tomasello 2014). The cumulative nature of changes in the way humans make sense of the world derives from ratchet-effect, which means accumulation of existing patterns in culture without the necessity to create culture from scratch by each new generation of language users (Hohol 2013, p. 329; Hollan, Hutchins, and Kirsh 2000, p. 178; Tomasello 2014, p. 83).

Since, broadly speaking, human knowledge...

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