Course of
Linguistics and Literature

Professor TAKEUCHI Yoshiharu (German Language and Literature)

[Theme] Cognitive Linguistics means Body-based Linguistics

Because we believe linguistics to be the "study of words," we often forget entirely about the body.

  • Are "words" merely fragments on paper?
  • Are they the chains of sound depicted in those fragments?
  • Or are they the function of the chains of sound to convey meaning?

When I consider things in this light, I consider linguistics as the study of rules for linking words together or the memorization of difficult conjugations and auxiliary verbs. Considering all this brings back the triumphant looks of honor students as they show off fancy idioms or grammar rules. It makes me remember how I swore never to become like that as a youth. I do not want to become a know-it-all.

Let us embrace the unknown. Why is it that only we humans have been blessed with the mastery of words?

It is owing to the clever construction of our mouths, noses, vocal chords, lungs, diaphragm, and the nervous system that controls all of them that we are able to use our voices. Just what part of the manner in which words are made up makes them so convenient for conveying our thoughts?

Chimpanzees are better than humans at taking in surface information with merely a glance. Humans do not look at surfaces just once. Rather, we always tend to follow things chronologically. You could say that the information we recognize is structured perfectly for presentation as chronologically arranged language symbols. If we were skilled at understanding things at just a glance like chimpanzees, then it is entirely possible that we could never have become language-using animals.

The human race originated as a group of apes that left the forests for the savannah, switching from a gathering lifestyle to one of hunting, and thus entered a special cognizant niche. Cognizance that relied upon reading information at a quick glance might not have supplied enough data for hunting on savannahs with broad, unobstructed views. We became language-using animals as a result of special evolutions to the fundamental parts of our body, such as our eyes and nervous system, which we use to recognize the outside world.

Cognitive linguistics is a science that deals with the mysteries of language starting from the most basic parts of our bodies. I specialize in German and it too is full of interesting clues as a language when viewed in this light.

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