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Concepts as Correlates of Lexical Labels

A Cognitivist Perspective


Slawomir Wacewicz

The study of language becomes particularly attractive when it is not practised as an isolated descriptive enterprise, but when it has wide-ranging implications for the study of the human mind. Such is the spirit of this book. While categorisation may be the single most basic cognitive process in organisms, and as an area of inquiry, it is fundamental to Cognitive Science as a whole, at the other end of the spectrum, high-level cognition is organised and permeated by language, giving rise to categories that count and function as concepts. Working from considering the philosophical assumptions of the cognitivist perspective, this study offers an argument for a very productive understanding of the relation between concepts, categories, and their theoretical models.
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1. History and profile of Cognitive Science


1.1 Introduction

All academic effort derives its meaning and significance from being related in systematic ways to a larger body of research. Thus, it is incumbent on the author to define their undertaking against the background of a larger-scale tradition. Consciously locating one’s inquiry in a broader scientific landscape gives the project its identity, necessary for a number of reasons. The researcher inherits a ‘frame of mind’: an intellectual legacy that, although partly implicit, always forms scaffolding for the progress of further research, and provides one with an indispensable toolkit of methods by which to arrive at the solution of outstanding problems. Another important factor is the awareness of long-term research goals. The presence of such a long-term objective, even one that may seem distant and illusionary, ensures that one’s work does not become what is known as ‘mere Baconian fact-gathering’ or ‘porcupine research’2, but – if indirectly – helps achieve some eventual utility.

The framework of the present modest work can best be described in most general terms as contemporary Cognitive Science. The rationale for the choice of such a broad paradigm as the background has to do with the very nature of Cognitive Science as a superdiscipline, a theme that will be dealt with more extensively in the following sections.

The general discussion provided in this chapter is necessary for several reasons. Firstly, the cognitivist perspective on language is sometimes taken to be coextensive with cognitive linguistics. As is explained in the...

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