3.17.Brain_sLanguage - Lakoff, The Political Mind Chapter...

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Lakoff, The Political Mind Chapter 17 – The Brain’s Language Chapter 17 The Brain’s Language What we are learning about the brain gives us a new understanding of, and appreciation for, language, how it is exploited in politics, and what the limits are for its political use. Language is far more than a means of expression and communication. It is the gateway to the mind. Language organizes and provides access to the system of concepts used in thinking. Language can be used to change minds, which means it can change brains, permanently — for good or ill. It does not merely express emotions, it can change them; not merely arouse or quell them, but change the role of emotion in one’s life and the life of a nation. Language does not merely express identity; it can change identity. Narratives and melodramas are not mere words and images; they can enter our brains and provide models that we not merely we live by, but that define who we are. Language is an instrument of creativity and power, a means of connecting with people, or alienating them, and a force for social cohesion, or separation. Language is sensual and aesthetic, with the power to woo or repulse, to be beautiful or ugly, to be meaningful or banal. Language has moral force; it can bring out the best in people and the worst. Memories are never just “stored”; they are always created anew. Language cannot just evoke memories, but change them and shape them, and thereby change history — the story of the past. 232
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Lakoff, The Political Mind Chapter 17 – The Brain’s Language For all these reasons, language has political force. Understanding language is not just nice, it is necessary. And that requires understanding the brain. The properties of the brain are what give language its power. Language is a matter of neural connections — connections between speech sounds, writing, or signs in signed languages on the one hand and meaningful brain structures: frames, metaphors, narratives, image schemas, prototypes, metonymies, and so on. Meaning is embodied. All meaning. (1) There is no abstract meaning floating in air. There is no meaning in empty symbols that are just manipulated. There is no meaning in some disembodied correspondence of symbols to things in the world. The brain extends throughout the body via the nervous system. All meaningful perception and action is mediated by our brains — whether physical, social, emotional, or interpersonal. But brains alone without bodies, and physical and social interactions do nothing. It is the brain connected to the body functioning in the physical and social world that gives meaning and grounds real reason. What makes language powerful is its capacity to activate, communicate, regulate, and even change all aspects of our understanding! Language mostly works through the cognitive unconscious, so we are usually unaware of the effects it is having. Language is a mediating system in the brain; it consists of circuits linking
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This note was uploaded on 10/03/2011 for the course LINGUISTIC 101 taught by Professor Lakoff during the Spring '09 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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3.17.Brain_sLanguage - Lakoff, The Political Mind Chapter...

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