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Unformatted text preview: adequate theory of human conceptual system will have to give an account of how concepts are (1) grounded, (2) structured, (3) related to each
other, (4) defined. The basic claim of CMT seems to be that construction of meaning is experientially grounded and that many abstract concepts are metaphorically Chapter I 18 structured. It must be stressed, however, that psycholinguists do not hold
a unified view on experientialism. Some of them, e.g. Gibbs (1992), are
fervent supporters of the claim, others, like Murphy (1997) are equally
zealous opponents. Gibbs (1992) believes, following Lakoff – Johnson,
that everyday concepts are metaphorically structured and quotes four reasons to support his claim. The first three are linguistic in nature, i.e. the
systematicity of metaphorical expressions (first identified by Lakoff –
Johnson 1980), novel extensions of conventional metaphors (elaborated
on by Lakoff – Turner 1989) and polysemy (Brugman 1988).4 The fourth
argument Gibbs uses is based on his psychological experiments concerning idiom processing.5
Gibbs and his co-workers conducted two experiments on idiom
processing. One consisted in examining the mental images subjects had,
underlying idiomatic phrases (Gibbs – O’Brien 1990). The experimenters
found out that the images for idioms were much more constrained than
those for non-idiomatic expressions and explained this as a result of an
operation of a conceptual metaphoric constraint. In another study, Nayak
– Gibbs (1990) investigated the facilitation of the process of understanding idioms related to emotions if they appeared in heavily metaphorical
contexts. As such facilitation did occur, Nayak – Gibbs interpreted the results as evidence for the metaphorical structure of emotion concepts.
Murphy (1997), on the other hand, voices serious doubts concerning
the existence and the role of conceptual metaphor. When it comes to the
experiential grounding of metaphorical concepts, he is completely sceptical. He states: “Although the notion of embodiment is an interesting one, it
is not an empirical finding” and adds: “the argument from embodied cognition must await further development of this theory” (Murphy 1997: 99).6
4 On the polysemy of the verbs of vision and their metaphoric extension from vision
to understanding see Sweetser 1990. A strong criticism of polysemy can be found in
Szwedek In press a and b.
A thorough revision of literature on idiom processing can be found in Cieślicka 2004.
I believe that the correlation found by Piaget between the stages of physical and
conceptual development in children could be considered as a tentative support for the
embodied cognition (for a similar view see Zinken 2003). Also, Bernardez’s (2005) report on the so-called locked-in syndrome, such as presented in Bauby’s (1997) memoir –
when the cognitive processes of a person transform and finally disintegrate as a result of
a lack of sensory stimulation from a paralysed body – can be read as evidence for e...
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