Cognitive approaches to language 2020

Bohdana Deresh

Kamianets-Podilskyi IvanOhiienko National University

Scientific Supervisor: PhD, Kryshtaliuk A. A.


The article offers a cognitive-discursive study of phrasal verbs using image-schemes.

Keywords: cognitive-discursive learning, phrasal verb, image-scheme.

With a more semantic structure than simple verbs, phrasal verbs of modern English are an integral element of linguistic communication and are used by speakers in many communicative areas to express their intentions more appropriately. At the same time, for linguists, phrasal verbs represent a diverse structural and semantic aspect and are a complex subject of linguistic research in the field of semantics.

One of the cognitive theories which ideas are applied to the earliest cognitive studies of phrasal verbs is R. Langacker’s cognitive grammar. Refining the concept of reflection of the surrounding reality in the language and continuing to develop previously suggested that the same objective situation and state of affairs in the world can be described differently, cognitive grammar puts forward the term “world construction” [2]. According to this theory, the description of an object or situation is determined by our choice with respect to certain parameters (for example, the degree of concretization, the relevant initial assumption, the relative selected substructures as a whole, etc.). Thus linguistic expressions are of great importance not in themselves, but because they provide access to different conceptual structures, activating their individual parts, which allows to “understand” the meaning of expression.

In terms of cognitive grammar, this process is an overlay of the profile/base: while the base is a conceptual “matrix”, a complete set of relevant cognitive structures, the profile represents those base structures that are activated by expression by which is raised to the level of cognitive expressiveness [2].Therefore, the function of the components of a composite complex unit, including the phrasal verb, consists in profiling, or cognitive expressiveness, certain aspects of comprehension, leading to the emergence of new properties that none of the components, a given unit language elements could not cause.

An important implication for rethinking the position of phrasal verbs as a category with clearly defined boundaries was the development of a different direction in cognitive research, prototype theory, which offered a new approach to the phenomena of categorization. In the theory of prototypes, any category, including language, includes non-equivalent elements, among which are the nuclear or central elements – the prototypes that have the most typical for this category of characteristics, and less typical elements. It follows that the categories have no clear boundaries and there is a gradation of the members of the category, which is determined by the similarity of the member of the category with the prototype, and the presence of certain prototype characteristics [1].

The most common image circuits (the same as image schemas) are SOURCE-WAY-GOAL, CONTAINER, EQUILIBRIUM, DYNAMICS / POWER, based on the fact that people live in physical space, able to maintain equilibrium, walk, encounter obstacles, fall into something.

By looking at phrasal verbs such as look up to (admire by anyone), put behind (forget unpleasant experiences), fill in (write in blanks of a piece of paper), find out (reveal, find out), we can easily find embodied image-schemes as tolookupwards , (lookup = admire), putsomethingbehindus (putbehind = toforget) – when we find something BEHIND our bodies we can no longer see it, put it in a container (fillin = complete), put something out of the container (findout = toreveal).

A considerable number of linguists have added new schematics to the original list of their predecessors. However, a recent paper has caught our attention by describing relationships: the work of Peña (2008) [3], which establishes a kind of general topological network of image schemas, building a hierarchy among them. The primary scheme, as it is expressed, is called REGION. If this REGION has only one dimension, we have a SOURCE-WAY-GOAL scheme. If it has two dimensions, we have a SURFACE diagram. Finally, if it has three dimensions, we have a CONTAINER schema. This new topological database is innovative because it addresses situations where the CONTAINER scheme is insufficient. A room, for example, would be a prototype example of a CONTAINER, but a table would also be a CONTAINER. However, how could we distinguish between the two containers? According to the Foam version, the table should be SURFACE. A more flexible concept of housing and separation was created. The subject at SURFACE is partially enclosed in it, but relative closeness is observed.

For example, we may consider the phrase verb goafter in the context of: Shelookedsoupset. 1) Do you think I should go after her? (to follow or chase sbdy in order to talk, attack or catch them); Go is a movement verb. Belongs to the SOURCE-WAY-TARGET image schema. In these two examples, there is also a primary metaphor: GOALS are GOALS. The structure involves the fact that when we talk to someone or reach someone or something, we often have to move ourselves.

If we consider the phrase construction lookahead, then we can say that this phrase is formed by the adverb ahead, position in several contexts as the head of the river, the head of the table, the head of a department, heading back home. This phrasal verb means to think about what will happen in the future. For example, If you want to make a success of your life, you have to learn to look ahead. That is, in addition to the image of the FRONT / REAR, which focuses on the FRONT is a projection from space to time.


  1. Кубрякова Е.С. Язык и знание: на пути получения знаний о языке. Части речи с когнитивной точки зрения. Роль языка в познании мира. М.: Языки славянской культуры, 2004
  2. Langacker, Ronald W. Foundations of Cognitive Grammar. Stanford University Press, 1987.
  3. Peña, Ma Sandra. “Dependency Systems for Image-Schematic Patterns in a Usage-Based Approach to Language.” Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 40, no. 6, 2008, pp. 1041–1066.