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Additional resources for Cognitive and Communicative Approaches to Linguistic Analysis

Sample text

A noun profiles a thing. A verb profiles a process, defined as a relationship whose evolution through time is rendered salient. Classes like adjectives and prepositions involve the profiling of non-processual relations. With respect to Figure 2(b), for example, admire is a verb because it profiles a relationship portrayed as extending or unfolding through time, whereas admirer is a noun because it profiles a thing; admirer evokes the process of admiring as its conceptual base but profiles only the sentient participant.

Given as a double-headed arrow, the profiled relationship specifies that one participant occupies a higher position along the vertical axis than does the other. Note, however, that exactly the same is true for below, which evokes the same conceptual elements and profiles the same relationship (referentially, an above relationship is also a below relationship). The semantic contrast does not reside in either the conceptual content evoked (the base) or the profiling imposed on it. We therefore need some other a.

Considerations like these provide semantic evidence for adopting profiling as a descriptive construct. What about psychological evidence? It seems apparent that profiling is a focusing of attention within a conceived situation. In non-linguistic cognition, it has both perceptual and more abstract mental analogs: looking at one particular person in a group; focusing on a particular lineman making a block (amidst the welter of activity constituting a play in football); or — in the case of linguists — thinking of one particular node in a syntactic tree structure.

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