foregrounding, focusing also includes the initial selection of conceptual
content for linguistic presentation. One of the facets of the selection is the
access an expression affords to a particular set of cognitive domains on a
given occasion or in general. The other one is the extent of the expressions
“coverage” within the domains which are accessed. It needs to be understood
which portions in the domain are evoked and used for comprehension. Every
expression has a scope which consists of the coverage in the particular domain.
has a strong cognitive basis and it is an extent to which one can mentally
encompass at a particular moment while watching the film. Drawing example for
our visual apparatus limits, one can see finitely at any point of time. At a
particular point of time, a person has in his scope of vision only a limited
portion of our spatial surroundings. Likewise, in every domain there is a scope
of any expression. It is the conceptual content that appears in the subjective
viewing frame inherent in its apprehension.
One may consider a
word like ‘glass’, for example. The word evokes the domain of space for the
specification of the characteristic shape. The comprehension of the conception
of space needs a certain spatial expanse. However, this spatial scope can never
subsume the whole world. Similarly, the word ‘fall’ needs the conceptualization
of the span of time which is long enough to encompass the mentioned action.
But, this temporal scope does not include eternity. The term ‘cousin’ would
evoke a non-basic domain comprising a network of kinship relations. On the
other hand, a kinship network can be extended indefinitely far in any
It is not implied
by bounding in the abstract sense that a scope’s boundary is objectively
discernible. This might be imposed by the subjective viewing frame, and not
necessarily with any great precision. A person seeing a scene in a film can
take into consideration the surroundings which are shown, while another might
stick to seeing the protagonists who are shown on the screen. This is like when
we see a distant mountain range in comparison to a picture from close up. The
scope in the previous instances is much more than that it is in the latter
needs to distinguish between an expression’s maximal scope in some domain, i.e.
the full extent of its coverage, and a limited immediate scope, the portion
directly relevant for a particular purpose. The immediate scope is thus
foregrounded vis-à-vis the maximal scope. Metaphorically, one can describe it
as the “onstage region” or the general region of viewing attention.
The example of the
word ‘elbow’ can be taken to understand the phenomenon of scope with utmost
clarity. It selects the domain of the
human body for its conception. However, it is totally clear that elbow is not
characterized directly with respect to the body. There are many major parts in
the body including the arms. Elbow is firstly a part of an arm. Hence, in the
process of conceptualizing an elbow, the conception of an arm in particular is
most directly relevant (“onstage”) in this case. There is a conceptual
hierarchy, such that the human body figures directly in arm. The arm in turn
figures directly in elbow. However, the body figures only indirectly in elbow.
Thus it can be said that for elbow, the body functions as the maximal scope and
the arm as the immediate scope.
between maximal and immediate scope are quite significant in hierarchies
consisting of successive whole-part relations. While body-part terms afford the
clearest examples, there are similar hierarchies in other domains of experience
body > arm >
hand > finger > knuckle
car > motor
> piston > ring
In the above
schemes, the preceding one will be considered as the immediate scope for the
next. As a consequence, each term incorporates in its matrix the essential
content of all the terms that precede it in the hierarchy.
There are numerous
kinds of asymmetries in language structure which are considered as matters of
prominence. The terms prominence and salience (used here interchangeably) are
not self-explanatory. A proper description of the terms would satiate the
purpose in this scenario.
One needs to
consider the dimensions of prominence. Focusing comes into play as anything
which is selected has more prominence than the part which remains unselected.
Also, the foreground is more salient in comparison to the background. Space and
vision have a privileged cognitive status vis-à-vis other realms of experience.
More generally, an intrinsic disparity in salience seems clearly evident
between the members of various oppositions: concrete vs. abstract, real vs.
imaginary, explicit vs. implicit, and so on.
There are two
particular sorts of prominence: profiling and trajectory / landmark alignment.
They are similar in that each involves the focusing of attention (a strong kind
of foregrounding), although they are not the same. Both the constructs are
strongly justified on semantic grounds.
actually selects a particular body of the conceptual content as the very basis
for the meaning construction. Construed broadly, an expression’s conceptual
base is identified as its maximal scope in all domains of its matrix. The base
is identified as the immediate scope in active domains—that is, the portion put
“onstage” and foregrounded as the general locus of viewing attention, if it is
construed more narrowly. Attention is directed to a particular substructure within
the onstage region and this is known as the profile. Thus an expression’s
profile stands out as the specific focus of attention within its immediate
scope. The profile can also be characterized as what the expression is
conceived as designating or referring to within its base (its conceptual
/ Landmark Alignment
Varying degrees of
prominence are conferred on its participants when a relationship is profiled.
The participant who is most prominent is called the trajector. This is the
entity construed as being located, evaluated, or described.
Impressionistically, it can be characterized as the primary focus within the
profiled relationship. It happens often that some other participant is made
prominent as the secondary focus. If so, this is called a landmark. Expressions
can have the same content, and profile the same relationship, but differ in
meaning because they make different choices of trajector and landmark. In the
process of watching the film, the spectator identifies the characters in this
contrast can only reside in the degree of prominence conferred on the
relational participants. In each case the other participant functions as a
spatial landmark for that purpose. This difference in trajectory / landmark
alignment, a matter of construal, is solely responsible for the semantic
difference of the content of the film which is being construed by the
conceptualization (metaphorically) is the viewing of a scene in a film, perspective
is the viewing arrangement. The most obvious aspect of perspective is the
vantage point which is assumed.
arrangement is the overall relationship between the “viewers” and the situation
being “viewed”. For the purpose of comprehending the relationship between film
and the spectators, one should understand that the viewers are conceptualizers
who apprehend the meanings of filmic expressions.
viewing arrangement, common in everyday conversational interactions, arguably
has default-case status, being presupposed unless there is reason to assume the
contrary. In the default arrangement, the interlocutors are together in a fixed
location, from which they observe and describe actual occurrences in the world
One very important
component of the viewing arrangement is a presupposed vantage point. In the
default arrangement, the vantage point is the actual location of the speaker
and hearer. The same objective situation can be observed and described from any
number of different vantage points that result in different construals. Many
expressions undeniably invoke a vantage point as part of their meaning.
related to the vantage point is a important aspect of construal known as subjectivity
vs. objectivity. This is best introduced with reference to visual perception.
When a spectator is watching a gripping play, all the attention is directed at
the stage, and is focused more specifically on the actor speaking at that point
of time on the stage. Being totally absorbed in the play, the spectator hardly
has any awareness of himself or his own immediate circumstances.
Thus, the viewing
arrangement maximizes the asymmetry between the viewer and what is viewed. This
is known as the subject and object of perception. When the viewing role is
asymmetrical to the maximum degree, the viewing subject is said to be construed
with maximal subjectivity and the object with maximal objectivity.
The process of
conceptualization is inherently dynamic which means it is something which
happens. This occurs through time as it involves mental processing or
neurological activity. This time which
is needed for the conceptualization is known as processing time. Every
conceptualization requires this time and even the most instantaneous ones like
feeling the prick of a pin needs a particular duration and a course of
development when minutely examined. Thus, it can be understood that dynamicity
pertains to how a conceptualization develops and unfolds through processing
time, as an aspect of construal.
It is very
important to differentiate processing time from conceived time. Time is
construed most objectively when a span of time is profiled by expressions like
a moment, week or next year and so on. Time comes into play in the conception
of any event, since events occur through time. If the conceptualization of time
necessarily occurs through time, it can be very hard to distinguish between
conceived and processing time. However, they need to be properly separated for
semantic purposes. Thus, it can be said that human beings have the ability to
invoke the conception of one entity in order to establish “mental contact” with
3.5 Meaning Construction in Language
It needs to be recognized
that the systematic structure found in the language that we speak reflects a
systematic structure within the conceptual system of our minds. It is believed
to be so by cognitive linguists and they move forward to explore the hypothesis
that there are kinds of linguistic expressions which make it evident that the
very structure of the conceptual system is reflected in the patterns of
language of human beings. Let us take for example these three sentences:
a. Christmas is
b. The number of
shares we own has gone up.
c. Those two have
a very close friendship.
actually relate to the abstract conceptual domains of TIME, QUANTITY AND
AFFECTION respectively in chronology. The body of knowledge within the
conceptual system of human beings is known as the conceptual domain which goes
on to contain and organize the related ideas and experiences of humans.
TIME is a
conceptual domain and it can relate a range of temporal concepts. In each of
these sentences, the abstract concepts are comprehended in terms of conceptual
domains which relate to concrete physical experiences. While ‘Christmas’ is
conceptualized in terms physical MOTION, ‘number of shares’ gets conceptualized
in terms of VERTICAL ELEVATION and ‘friendship’ is conceptualized in terms of
PHYSICAL PROXIMITY by the use of the word ‘close’.
One of the most
paramount findings is that the abstract concepts are structured systematically
in terms of conceptual domains which are derived from the experiences of the
nature of physical objects which also involve properties like motion, vertical
elevation and physical proximity (Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 1999). Our
conceptual system actually organizes the abstract concepts in terms of
experiences that are concrete and that these abstract concepts are made more