Centre and/or periphery: On the cognitive and social construal of identity in a local community

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Henrik Hovmark - Foredragsholder

Centre and/or periphery?

On the cognitive and social construal of identity in a local community

Danish Directional Adverbs (DDA) (for instance op ‘up', ned ‘down', ud ‘out', ind ‘in') are very frequently used deictically to profile a specific conceptualisation of and relation to places, persons, and institutions within a motion event (cf. Talmy 2000).

Jeg tager op/ned/ud/ind/.. til lægen

‘I'm going up/down/out/in/.. to the doctor'

The choice of DDA can be seen as the mapping of a more or less generalised image schema onto a spatial scene, the chosen DDA reflecting the conceptualisation by the speaker of his or her relation to the place referred to.

On the basis of empirical data (semi-structured interviews with a group of dialect speaking language users, collected on a small Danish island), it has been shown that spatial construal with DDA can be anchored more systematically to particular communicative and social spheres or deictic centres within the wider language community: individual, local, and supra-local (Hovmark 2007). Local communities can develop and conventionalise specific conceptualisations ("world views"), thus supporting recent findings that (dia)lectal variation is important to cognitive linguistic analysis (cf. Berthele 2004).

In this presentation I will focus specifically on the use of the centre-periphery schema (ud ‘out'- ind ‘in', cf. Croft & Cruse, 2004, p. 45) as part of the local, dialectal world view investigated in Hovmark 2007. One of the interesting findings was that the centre-periphery schema, encoded in the DDA, entered into discourses that conceptualized and characterized the local community both as centre and periphery, i.e. they entered into apparently contradictive constructions of local identity. However, analyses of the communicative contexts suggest that this intra-group variation can be systematically linked to two specific discourses, each related to different levels of entrenchment: 1) a traditional, dialectal discourse anchored in very basic daily practices (the island seen as centre), and 2) a more recent discourse anchored in a modern socio-cultural setting, mass media, and politics (the island as periphery). Interestingly, the latter discourse could also be connected to local practices in which the new role of the island was being enacted and entrenched by the informants in their local environment.

The data show that cognitive models can be subject to (dia)lectal variation, not just among groups within a wider speech community, but also within a single group of language users. However, the data also point to the importance of relating cognitive-semantic variation to specific discourse and the socio-historical context. In the present case, the data yield interesting information on how cognitive models can be entrenched and enriched in different ways in specific socio-cultural settings.

Berthele, Raphael 2004: "Wenn viele Wege aus dem Fenster führen". In: Linguistik online 20 (3/2004), 73-91.

Croft, William & Cruse, D. Alan 2004: Cognitive Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hovmark, Henrik 2007: Danske retningsadverbier og rumlig orientering [Danish Directional adverbs and Spatial Orientation]. PhD thesis. Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen.

Talmy, Leonard 2000: Toward a Cognitive Semantics I-II. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London: MIT Press.

15 mar. 2010

Begivenhed (Konference)

Titel34th International LAUD Symposium
EmneCognitive Sociolinguistics: Language Variation in its Structural, Conceptual, and Cultural Dimensions
ByLandau in der Pfalz

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