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Concepts as Correlates of Lexical Labels

A Cognitivist Perspective

Series:

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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Categorisation may be the single most basic cognitive process in organisms, and as an area of theoretical inquiry, it is certainly fundamental to Cognitive Science as a whole. In the words of Lakoff and Johnson, “every living beings categorises”, treating distinguishable stimuli as equivalent in certain respects – respects important for the organism’s successfully functioning in its environment. Thus, categorisation truly underlies all cognition. At the other end of the spectrum, high-level cognition is organised and permeated by language, giving rise to mental representations that count, and can function as, fully blown concepts.

The study of language becomes particularly attractive when it is not practised as an isolated, purely descriptive enterprise; rather, its appeal is the greatest when it can be demonstrated to have wide-ranging implications for the study of the human mind. Half a century ago, precisely such was the motivation of Chomsky as a co-founder of the emerging science of cognition. Despite its evolution over the succeeding five decades (depicted in Chapter 1), Cognitive Science has preserved its standpoint on the phenomenon of language as well as the goals and methods of its study.

Precisely such is, too, the spirit of this book. Its main commitment is to the participation in Cognitive Science, a commitment whose theoretical consequences were spelled out and defended in Chapter 2. The cognitivist nature of this work consists in making connections to a larger body of interdisciplinary research: both in the sense of drawing from this research, and...

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