Analyzing micro-macro connections in meaning construction: Are social "stereotypes", "prejudices" and "attitudes" cognitive phenomena?

Alexander Ziem

University Basel, Switzerland


Due to the overwhelming influence of the generative paradigm, cognitive and sociolinguistic ap-proaches became fairly estranged to one another. In the last decade, however, usage-based approaches, such as “Cognitive Grammar” (R. Langacker et al.) and “Construction Grammar” (C. Fillmore, G. Lakoff et al.), start up from the very premise that not only semantic but also grammatical structures are essen-tially embodied entities. Following this view, cognition is both social in nature and grounded in human interaction. As a result, there is no clear-cut boundary between cognitive and social structures.

In this talk, I will focus on some interconnections between “micro” structures (cognition) and “macro” structures (social structures). Addressing the question in how far sociolinguistics and cognitive linguistics may profit from one another, I will argue that one of the most interesting interconnections concerns semantic issues, such as the relationship between social “stereotypes”, “prejudices”, and “attitudes” on the one hand (van Dijk 1988, Roth 2005, Spitzmüller 2005) and cognitive representation structures such as “mental spaces” (G. Fauconnier), “frames” (C. Fillmore), and “domains” (R. Langacker) on the other. From a sociolinguistic point of view, the question whether “stereotypes” etc. need a cognitive-linguistic revision still remains unanswered. From a cognitive-semantic point of view, in turn, the semantically relevant impact of social factors, such as adherence to a certain group, on meaning constructions is tack-led quite hesitantly (cf. Croft to appear). How is meaning grounded in human interaction? In how far do social factors affect the rise of cognitive models? Are “stereotypes”, “attitudes” and “prejudices” cogni-tive categories? These issues challenge both cognitive and sociolinguistics. The answers I will offer will be based on some results of a corpus-based metaphor study (Ziem to appear).


Dijk, Teun van (1988): Communication Racisms. Ethnic Prejudice in Thought and Talk. Newbury Park: Sage.

Roth, Marita (2005): Stereotype in der gesprochenen Sprache. Narrative Interviews mit Ost- und Westber-linern Sprechern 1993 – 1996. Tübingen: Stauffenburg.

Spitzmüller, Jürgen (2005): Metasprachdiskurse. Einstellungen zu Anglizismen und ihre wissenschaftli-che Rezeption. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter.

Croft, William (to appear): Toward a social cognitive linguistics. In: Evans, Vyvan/Pourcel, Stéphanie (ed.): New Directions in Cognitive Linguistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Ziem, Alexander (to appear): Frame-Semantik. Kognitive Aspekte des Sprachverstehens. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter.

Session: Paper session
Attitude 5
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 09