27th May 2016 12:30pm-2:00pm
Checkland B407, Falmer Campus
Nick Riemer, University of Sydney/Laboratoire d'histoire des théories linguistiques, Université Paris-Diderot
Set up without any serious basis in experimental psychology, the linguistic framework originating in Langacker and Lakoff nevertheless presents itself as a “cognitive” theory. How was this bold move achieved, and what ideological stakes might it involve? Developed during the heyday of American neoliberalism, in a period when antiscientism was in the ascendant in American humanities, Cognitive Linguistics (CL) advances a confabulated model of individual psychology as the basis for understanding people’s most quintessentially social attribute, language. I will suggest several interpretations of what might materially be involved in this retreat into the mind, interrogating, among other things, the political work of George Lakoff. Lakoff’s political corpus, just as significant in scope as his work on linguistics, deserves to be approached from the point of view of the history of linguistics. As I will try to show, far from constituting an anomaly with respect to “pure” linguistic research, Lakoff’s political uses of cognitive linguistics suggest an interesting interpretation of the underlying tendencies of the CL tradition, in which questions of expertise – intellectual, disciplinary and political – and material concerns within and beyond the university take on key importance.