讲座题目：Categorizing at the Basic Level: The Difference Between Objects and Actions as Reflected in Language
主讲人：Gábor Győri 教授
讲座题目：Lexical-semantic Change as Cultural Categorization: Understanding the World Through Linguistic Categories
（1）Categorizing at the Basic Level: The Difference Between Objects and Actions as Reflected in Language
In a hierarchy of categories the basic level is the most inclusive level at which a category can be defined on the basis of information about physical characteristics. Categorization at this level appears to be the most natural cognitively as it is based on the processing of attributes that are the most salient in our perception as we interact with our environment. These are the categories that are reflected in language in what is usually called basic level terms, and which are generally defined as the ones that are the most often used by adults to name entities and also the ones that children learn first during language acquisition (e.g. dog instead of animal or poodle). Since the attributes required for the identification of the basic level are exhibited by physical entities, studies concerned with basic level categorization relate primarily to object categories. Therefore, as basic level categorization relies heavily on perceptual characteristics, such attributes play a crucial role in forming the meanings of basic level nouns. However, the characterization of basic level terms as being the first learned and most used ones applies not only to nouns but also to verbs. Thus, it is obviously justified to speak not only of basic level nouns but also of basic level verbs.
In the lecture I will take a look at the question how basic level terms can be identified in general, not only on the basis of linguistic but also cognitive criteria. I will consider whether there is a basic level in action categorization at which we recognize particular actions and whether such a level is comparable to the basic level in the categorization of objects. The cognitive background of basic level nouns has been described quite well in terms of the perceptual characteristics and the gestalt structure of objects from which the linguistic conceptualizations forming their meanings derive. However, even basic level categorization is affected by conceptualization, which very often overrides perceptual attributes when basic level terms emerge in language. I will show that the functional, cultural and encyclopaedic knowledge inherent in the conceptualizations necessary for linguistic categorization and for the creation of meaning leads to various forms of cross-linguistic differences.
Furthermore, an analysis based on the linguistic conceptualizations inherent in basic level verbs appears to show a different status of the basic level in their case. In connection with this I will focus on the question what those actions are that might be considered basic level (in the same vein as basic level objects). The results imply major differences in the cognitive character of nouns and verbs as basic level categories.
（2）Lexical-semantic Change as Cultural Categorization: Understanding the World Through Linguistic Categories
The cognitive function of language is to promote a collective form of cognition in order to facilitate the sharing of knowledge that proves functional and adaptive in the given natural, social and cultural environment of a speech community. This function relies on culturally shared categories. In the lecture I will discuss how such categories come to be formed in a culture and the way they become coded in language. The process of cultural category formation is functional in nature since it is based on a speech community’s adaptation to its environment. The linguistic mechanism for the coding of culturally valid categories in the course time is lexical-semantic change, which functions as a cognitive adaptation process flexibly adjusting the culturally shared conceptual category system of a language to changing conditions in the environment.
Word etymologies reveal a great deal about this process since meaning derives from the way human beings make sense of the world through various conceptualizations of phenomena. Thus, etymologies can be looked upon as frozen conceptualizations and their analysis shows how conceived reality can be construed in alternate ways at different points in time to facilitate this adaptation. The adaptive construal of phenomena is based on the cognitive function of the mental machinery of conceptualization, which leads to semantic leaps in the form of metaphor and metonymy. Lexical-semantic change derives from synchronic language use and is governed by two basic principles of novel usage: expressivity and efficiency in communication. When the circumstances triggering such novel usage persist and become culturally salient, the meaning extensions creating new adaptive perspectives on the environment will become conventionalized in the process of the change.
In the lecture I will also look into the cognitive background of the choice of conventional expressions for being used in novel ways for efficient but at the same time economical reference and representation. I will discuss specific cognitive factors and show how the actuation of semantic change originates in various cognitive mechanisms in the mind of the individual speaker in an effort to adapt the language to new circumstances in the form of novel expressions.
Gábor Győri is associate professor and head of department at the Department of English Linguistics, Institute of English Studies, University of Pécs, Hungary. He is also the deputy director of the institute and is head of the Program for Training in Specialized Translation. He teaches courses in general linguistics, cognitive linguistics, cultural linguistics, semantics and pragmatics at BA, MA, and doctoral level. His research areas include categorization, metaphor, semantic change, language and cognition, linguistic relativity and the evolution of language. He received his Master’s degree in Studies in English Language and Literature and Studies in German Language and Literature. Afterwards his interest turned towards the topic of the origin and evolution of language, and he pursued PhD studies in biology with specialization in ethology. He completed a doctoral thesis in this area but did not defend it in the end as he was required to continue his carrier in linguistics. Therefore he undertook PhD studies in linguistics and defended a dissertation written in the field of cognitive semantics. After earning his PhD, he also defended a habilitation dissertation in general linguistics. While still working and doing research in the field of language evolution, he was book review editor of LOS Forum, Journal of the Language Origins Society for seven years. He organized one of the annual conferences of the society in Pécs at his home university and edited a volume with papers from two consecutive conferences, the one in Pécs and the other in Baltimore, Maryland. The title of the volume is Language Evolution: Biological, Linguistic and Philosophical Perspectives (2001). He was the holder of a research grant in linguistics from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, working there on a research project for six months. He visited the United States several times doing research and teaching. On two occasions he received a Hungarian state research grant and worked both times for a semester as a research associate at the Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado at Denver. He also held a position as a guest lecturer for one semester at the Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. For one semester he also taught courses as a Fulbright lecturer at the Department of Anthropology and Ethnic Studies, University of Nevada Las Vegas. Besides publishing numerous papers in all of his research areas, he is the author of a monograph entitled Language as Cognitive Adaptation: From Language Evolution to Language Change (2005). He has a forthcoming monograph with the title Lexical-Semantic Change as Cultural Categorization, due to appear in 2019.