ELTE BTK Magyar Nyelvtudományi és Finnugor Intézet

Tuomas Huumo (Tartu)

nyomtatható változat

Tuomas Huumo (Tartu)

The language of cognition: from the world to the mind and back.

Our conception of the world that surrounds us is based on sensory perception and cognition: our sensory system determines what kinds of stimuli we are capable of perceiving, and it affects our understanding of the entities we perceive, the point(s) of view on the perceived situation we are able to select, and what attracts our attention (the figure in the terminology of Talmy 2000) as against what remains backgrounded (the ground). We also maintain conceptions about our mental activity as such; such conceptions are reflected in the linguistic expressions that designate perception and cognition. By studying the linguistic expressions of perception and cognition we can find out how language conceptualizes events that take place in our mental world, the conceived participants of such events and the different relationships that prevail between these participants - in other words, such a study opens us the linguistic folk model of the interaction between mind and world.

In my presentation I will study this folk model in the way it is represented in one Finno-Ugric language, Finnish. I first concentrate on perception verbs and compare the Finnish system of perception verbs with the few existing typological models (Viberg 2001), then proceed to discuss the conceptualization of perception as involving fictive motion between the experiencer and the stimulus (Huumo 2010) and compare this with corresponding usages of verbs that indicate more purely cognitive relationships. I will touch upon the much-debated issue of the use of directional locative elements in the coding of some (mental) situations where no actual motion takes place - these include verbs with meanings such as 'find' (+ separative case) , 'forget' or 'leave' (+ a lative case). An argument that such usages reflect fictive motion has been proposed in Huumo (2006, 2007): the relevant verbs indicate the inception or cessation of a cognitive relationship between a human reference-point (a "cognizer") and the stimulus, which is also the trajector of the locative relationship (the entity situated in the location). Such a cognitive change is linguistically represented as fictive motion between the trajector and its location, and reflects the tendency to associate inceptive cognitive relationships with fictive motion away from the locationand cessative cognitive relationships with fictive motion into the location, i.e., from the world to the mind and back.

The discussion of both verbs of perception and more purely cognitive verbs suggests that there is a very productive strategy in Finnish and a few other Finno-Ugric languages where the cognitive dominion of the cognizer is conceptualized as equal to spatial locations, with motion taking place between the concrete physical space and the mental world, i.e., the cognitive dominion of the conceptualizer. I argue that this usage is not limited to just a few verbs but is quite widespread in many kinds of clauses indicating the general meaning of a congitive change. It is thus relevant for many kinds of expressions indicating a cognitive interaction between a human being and the surrounding world: perception, acquisition or transference of mental contents, becoming aware or unaware of something, acquiring or losing a possession, among others.