Cognitive Linguistics is a relatively modern school of linguistics which consists of several research areas, all united by the belief that language reflects patterns of thought. Studying language can therefore be regarded as opening a window into human cognition, into how we perceive the world and then conceptualise these experiences in our minds.
In this course, we will get a first overview of the multifaceted field of Cognitive Linguistics. We will see how humans use categorisations to organise their knowledge and how they conceptualise abstract notions (such as metaphor and metonymy). Then, we will look into how our perception and bodily experience of the world around us shapes and structures our conceptual and linguistic system, for example through image schemas, frames or scripts. Another aspect we will address in the course is the field of construction grammar, i.e. the idea that language is based on form-meaning pairings, so-called constructions.
Language use cannot be separated from its situational context; whatever we do when we interact is necessarily shaped by the situations, encounters, and relationships we find ourselves in. On the other hand, language also constructs contexts – how we are speaking or writing sets the stage for an interaction and will have great effects on what is accomplished through it.
This course will focus on a very particular type of language-in-context, the interface between language and crime, and its scientific study, the field of forensic linguistics. We are going to address this topic from various perspectives, drawing on relevant case studies but also conducting our own analyses. Aspects to be covered in class include: authorship identification, detecting plagiarism, witness narratives and statement analysis, vulnerable witnesses, voice identification, policespeak and courtroom interaction. We will get to know different methods to approach these areas of investigation, e.g. statistics, corpus linguistics, phonetic analysis, etc. Text types to be discussed range from fictional narratives to courtroom transcripts, threat texts, suicide letters, emergency calls, and hate mail.
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