Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 10, No 1 (2014)

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Relating Language to Other Cognitive Systems: An Abridged Account

Leonard Talmy


An important research direction in cognitive science consists of cross-comparing the forms of organization exhibited by different cognitive systems, with the long-range aim of ascertaining the overall character of human cognitive organization.  Relatively distinct major cognitive systems of this sort would seem to include: (different modalities of) perception, motor control, affect, reasoning, language, and cultural structure.  The general finding is that some properties of organization are shown by only one system, some by several, and some by all.  This arrangement is called the "overlapping systems model of cognitive organization".  This paper demonstrates the model by comparing properties of organization across language and vision. Language is first shown to represent certain features of cognitive organization not well realized in vision, such as the representation of "reality status", with such member notions as factual, conditional, potential, and counterfactual.  In turn, vision is shown to represent certain features of organization not well realized in language, such as symmetry, rotation, dilation, and pattern of distribution.  Finally, both language and vision are shown to represent certain features of organization in common, such as the schematization of spatial relations between objects.

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