- Saussurean structuralism and cognitive linguistics
- Histoire Épistémologie Langage (HEL)
- Volume | Issue number
- 34 | 1
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
Cognitive linguistics (CL) is often regarded as a continuation of Saussurean structuralism. This paper explores the relationship between the two paradigms, focussing on the connection between semantics and views on the language-thought relationship. As it turns out, the similarity in this respect is, in fact, only partial. Saussure explicitly rejects linguistic relativism (LR); his purely differential view of meaning actually allows for only a weak variety of LR. Stronger varieties of LR are defended in CL, in agreement with a very "rich" conception of meaning, which can be shown to build on 19th-century Humboldtian views rather than Saussurean structuralism. It is argued that this return to earlier approaches can be regarded as both positive (e.g. in its sensitivity to culture-related aspects of meanings) and negative (e.g. in its naïve appeal to etymology).
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