ENGL489C - Special Topics in English Language: The Cognitive Bases of Figurative Language

While the grammar of a language determines the structures of its words and sentences, and semantics assigns their basic meanings, pragmatics is what guides people as they use language to express themselves and influence others. Tropes and figures pose a particular problem for pragmatic theory, because they make it possible for speakers to somehow communicate much more than just what they literally say. Recent work in linguistics and cognitive science has shown that figures like metaphor, metonymy, irony and understatement are not merely decorative or rhetorical frills, but are actually built into the structure of human thought itself. This course explores the basic cognitive abilities underlying figurative language and imaginative thought in general. Major topics include analogy and counterfactual reasoning, imagery, narrative structure, theory of mind, embodiment and social cognition. In addition to a basic introduction to the major phenomena of linguistic pragmatics, students will gain a new appreciation for the important role played by the imagination in even the most ordinary uses of language.

Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs.


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of ARHU-English department.