ENGL779B - Seminar in Language Study; Linguistic Constructions of Affect and Identity

How does language (logos) contribute to human affective experience (pathos) and social identity (ethos)? These questions, once central to ancient linguistic and rhetorical theory, remain vitally relevant if deeply complicated in today's densely interconnected, multimedia world. At the same time, modern advances in linguistics, anthropology, and the cognitive sciences give us new ways of thinking about and finding answers to these questions.

This course introduces students to the basic tools of cognitive linguistics and discourse that can be used to study ways that affect and identity get performed, encoded and transmitted through language use. Course work will consist of three main parts: a guided course of readings, some short analytic exercises, and a short research project.

The readings —drawn from a wide a range of disciplines including rhetoric, linguistics, anthropology, social psychology, and computer science, inter alia— will provide a framework for thinking about linguistic meaning, conceptual structure and communication in general.  Major topics include prototype theory, embodied cognition, frame semantics, conceptual metaphor theory, discourse analysis, and construction-based theories of grammar. We will explore these topics through a series of case studies on the structure and history of English, with a particular focus on verbs speech, thought, perception and emotion.

Exercises will focus on building skills for analyzing lexical and grammatical patterns in language, both across texts (for example, in electronic corpora) and within particular communicative acts, texts and discourses. Finally, students will devise a research project focusing either on a single linguistic construction or a single text of their choice, and examining the relation between language use and affective, ethical, and extra-logical forms of experience.