Bringing concepts from cognitive linguistics into the analysis of policies and the political

Alan Cienki
Content Type
Journal Article
Journal of International Relations and Development
Issue Number
Publication Date
April 2013
Central and East European International Studies Association
The articles in this special issue all seek to highlight the ways in which concepts from linguistics can enlighten analyses of policies and the political. In this commentary, I seek to situate some of the central concepts that have been employed in terms of their treatment in cognitive linguistics. The first part of this commentary focuses on metaphor - a construct that receives explicit analysis in these works as it is a fundamental tool we use for thinking about and expressing abstract concepts. The discussion then turns to a topic underpinning all of these studies, even while remaining implicit in them, namely metonymy: the mention of a part to stand for a whole, a whole for a part, and other relations of association. This section considers the important role of metonymy in providing a compact means for politicians, policy-makers, and/or average citizens to make reference to, and reason about, complex topics. At the same time, metonymy also carries the risk of reflecting, or inducing, unwarranted logical inferences. The third topic taken up here is categories; key issues considered are the variety of structures that categories can manifest and how these structures are pertinent in different ways in differing contexts, including classical categories that metaphorically function like containers, vs prototype categories with fuzzy boundaries. Employing these approaches in the analysis of policies and the political therefore involves not only a linguistic turn, but also a cognitive one.