“Cognition” refers to all conscious or unconscious mental activities such as thinking, remembering, reflecting, and learning. Cognitive and social psychologists define “cognition” as the mechanism “through which people attribute events to causes to make sense of experiences and to construct mental models of the environment” (Sperber, 1995:1). Depending on the definition of Diederik Aerts’ in “Quantum Structures in Cognitive and Social Science” (Aerts et al., 2016: 5–7), the general aim of implementing the Cognitive Approach at any scope of research is to study the mechanisms that control how the brain processes the information of this field, how it transforms this information into memories, how the brain recalls this information and uses it in interaction.
Cognitive Linguistics(CL) aims to go beyond the visible structure of language to explain, or discover, the cognitive mechanisms through which the language operates in (inter)(re)action (Fauconnier, 2006; Moreno-Fernández, 2016). It is to say, CL studies how the received linguistic structures (the input) are processed and rearticulated (the output). CL considers that the “context” is an unavoidable element in such analysis. The binary language-context focus paved the way for the Cognitive Sociolinguistics (CSl) approach. Willem Hollmann (2013) defines CSl as the “study of linguistic variations from the combined perspective of social and cognitive constrains” (Hollmann, 2013: 2). CSI does not limit the analysis to the input and output as CL does. CSl enriches its findings by considering cultural diversities as an essential trigger for language variation. CSl studies how processing the language, the input, and the (re)articulation of these linguistic structures, the output, shapes social values and promotes (or demote) social equality and diversity, the outcome. However, the approach is in its initial stages. Scholars are still working to put this approach together (Kristiansen, 2008; Geeraerts et al., 2010; Pütz et al., 2014; Moreno-Fernández, 2016; Guerrero González and Haska, 2017, Condamines, 2018; Zandi et al, 2020).
2.1. Towards a Comprehensive Imagination theory
Noam Chomsky’s theories on mind, body, and thoughts opened a new path for linguists. In the second half of the 20th century, linguists shifted their focus from grammatical to cognitive structures. However, not all scholars agreed on Chomsky’s separation between the mind and the body or Chomsky’s denial of culture’s important role in human language acquisition and production. The second generation of CL elaborated the term “Embodiment” that goes beyond the body’s physical sense to involve every experience, meaning, thought, and language we go through in our life. “Embodiment” determines what we think about and how we think; how we involve our multi-experiences (physical, emotional, psychological experiences) in the process of thinking and interaction (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999, Winkielman et al., 2015; Turner, 2018, Hart, 2019). Lakoff and Johnson (1999), the first to coin the term, argue that “Embodiment” is not limited to personal experiences. It extends to refer to social and cultural experiences stored in our cognition. The speaker’s embodied experience influences, or even controls, their language production in social interaction. Accordingly, the linguistic output is based on personal assumptions and self-interpretation of the situation based on previously received discourse or social experiences−.
Mark Johnson, in his book The Body in the Mind: the Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason(1987), uses the term “embodiment” to refer to the mental structures of imagination we create to understand abstract concepts (such as time, love, and success). He argues that these mental structures are not arbitrary. On the contrary, they are based on emotional, historical, social, and linguistic experiences stored in our mind and body, the process of embodiment. Johnson explores the crucial role of human imagination in the “meaning-making” process. As our reasoning is part of our cultural and linguistic experiences, the imagination structures are these shared embodied (spatial, temporal, cultural) understandings that make our communication mutually understood. This process is called meaning-making. It is to say, we do not understand things individually. We instead understand things collectively as members of a (linguistic) community. Accordingly, Jonson asserts that the study of the meaning-making process requires a comprehensive theory on imagination which needs to cover the following cognitive processes (1987: ch1):
Categorization: the process in which we break up our experiences into simpler patterns to order them and quickly come back to them when needed. It is an unconscious and continuous process in which new categories are created constantly (e.g., what is appropriate, not appropriate to do in a five-star restaurant; how to order in a fast-food restaurant and how to order in a daily menu restaurant; etc.)
Image Schemata: (or mental frames) it is the storage, the mental structures, where the categories are stored. Unsimilar to the categories, they are hardly modified or created (e.g., the Restaurant Frame that includes all the categories of restaurants).
Metaphorical projection: the tool by which we conceptually put in order and elaborate our mental frames. (e.g., social standards usually consider a five-star restaurant is UP and fast-food restaurant is DOWN on the scale of class stratification).
Metonymy: another tool to project and develop meanings (e.g., the use of “McDonald’s” to refer to an entire categorization of restaurant-prototype).
Narrative structure: the complex unity between the linguistic and the cognitive levels (e.g., how we frame all the previously mentioned mental processes into words in our daily interaction).
Imagination works on all these levels to give meaning to our experiences and control our reasoning about them. Each level is a wide field of research and an essential pillar in CCDA (we will go through some of them below). It is important to note that new approaches to the “Imagination Theory” appeared at the beginning of the XIX century.
2.2. A Semiotic Approach into Meaning-making Process:
Ferdinand De Saussure, the founder of the Linguistics approach, argued that social signs consist of a signifier and a signified. As he was a linguist, he considered the written words or their pronounced sounds as signs. The signifier refers to the word’s letters, as C A T in the word cat, or it can be the sound of the word cat /kæt/. The signified is the concept, the four-legged animal with fur. He explains that these signs allow us to communicate and covey meaning in our daily interaction easily; it is to say, there is no need to look for a cat and show it up to convey the meaning of the animal. De Saussure’s argument focused on language, arguing that there is no inherited relationship between the signifier and the signified. There is no inherited meaning between the “cat” word or sound and the animal.
In an attempt to incorporate De Saussure’s theory into social studies, Charles Pierce (1960) suggested more than one way to find out the relationship between the signifier and the signified. He argues that signs can be an icon, an index, or a symbol. An icon is anything with a physical resemblance to the evoked idea (a photograph of a cat evokes the concept of a cat); an index is linked to the evoked concept by a direct relation as smoke comes from fire. A symbol has no relation between the signifier and the signified. The relationship comes from our decision as a society that the link should be that way. Language is a perfect example of symbols. Traffic lights are another example of a symbol. There is no inherited meaning between the red light and the fact that cars have to stop and the green light and the fact that cars can shove off. It is established by society and globally adopted.
Depending on Pierce’s argument, various scholars draw a difference between the use of the term sign and the term symbol (Hausman 1989, Kaldis 2013, and Forte 2014). Kaldis (2013) assumes that signs have an inherited meaning which is an inseparable part of it. While symbols stand for another meaning that they do not usually refer to.
In the meaning-making process, all the linguistic approaches (pragmatics, semiotics, and cognitive linguistics) agree on the importance of mutual knowledge for any successful socio-linguistic interaction. Johnson’s Imagination Theory asserts the importance of the shared mutual knowledge of social signs on all cognitive levels: (Categorization, Image schemata, Metaphor and Metonymy structures, narrative structure). But does mutual knowledge necessarily mean comprehension?
Sperber and Wilson (1980) argued that mutual knowledge in communication does not necessarily indicate comprehension. If we receive mutual knowledge on a cultural sign or symbol, then we process this mutual knowledge from our own cultural frame of reference, we will miss the point. For example, the zebra way is a symbol that indicates the place through which pedestrians can cross the road. In the Spanish context, the zebra way gives the right to pedestrians to cross the road; cars must stop to let them cross. Spanish pedestrians would not pay a lot of attention to all the directions because they know that the driver will pay attention to them if a car is coming through.
On the contrary, in the United Kingdom, zebra way gives the driver the priority to drive through the road; British Pedestrians need to make sure that no car is around. Or they calculate how fast the vehicles are to know if they can reach the other side of the footway save and sound. Drivers do not have an obligation to pay a lot of attention to whether someone on the footway desire to cross the road or not. Both British drivers and Spanish drivers share mutual knowledge on the zebra way symbolism. But what would be the result if a British driver drove through Spanish roads without prior knowledge on how Spanish process the zebra way symbolism? The disastrous results are due to processing the mutual knowledge from the British cultural frame of reference instead of reaching the Spanish frame of reference on the same symbol. In (inter)cultural communication, it is essential to activate our conscious thoughts to distinguish between the minority-related values on their cultural sing or symbol and our understanding of their signs from our own values.
Mutual knowledge and how we, as communities, process this knowledge are part of the focuses of CCDA methodology, as we will see below. The analysis need not be limited to the cognitive levels of “Imagination Theory.” The analysis needs to include the social, political, religious, or any peculiar factors involved in the process which might lead to cognitive variation in the meaning-making process.
2.3. Conceptual Metaphors Theory CMT in Meaning-making process:
Lakoff and Johnson’s (1980) Metaphors We Live By ignited the interest in metaphorical studies. The book argued that our conceptual system is metaphorical in nature. It is to say, what we think and what we experience every day are just matters of metaphors. They defined Conceptual Metaphors (CM) as follows: “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in term of another” (LOVE IS JOURNEY) (1980: 5). Antonio Barcelona’s definition of CM (2003) is based on a mapping between two conceptual domains: the source domain (tangible concept, JOURNEY) and the target domain (conceptual and nontangible concept, LOVE). Barcelona uses the term “Conceptual Metaphor” to refer to “the cognitive mechanism whereby one experiential domain is partially “mapped,” i.e., projected, onto a different experiential domain, so that the second domain is partially understood in terms of the first one” (2003: 3). A more straightforward definition is introduced by Zoltan Kovecses, who states that metaphors are cross-domain mappings that represent the relationship between two frames with the notion of A (abstract concept, the target) is B (more physical, the source) (2006:116). Kovecses’ definition of conceptual metaphors is grounded on mental categorization and metaphorical projections in Johnson’s “Imagination Theory” (mentioned above). He asserts that these cognitive structures are “essential for survival” and the “backbone” of language and thoughts (2006: 17).
In more recent studies on CM, Christopher Hart (2017) defines CM as “a cognitive process of frame projection which is reflected in and effected through metaphorical expressions in discourse” (2017:6). Similar to Kovecses, Hart asserts our need for conceptual metaphors to process unfamiliar or abstract concepts mentally. Hart highlights that conceptual metaphors are not merely a personal device; it is a collective device in which mutual knowledge is an essential element that gives meaning to social values, events, and situations. Accordingly, CM is part of the cognitive processes involved in meaning-making in general and in making decisions, actions, and emotional responses in particular (Hart 2011a, 2014; Kovecses, 2020; Taylor 2021). Hart (2017) explains that CM can highlight certain aspects of any situation as important and marginalize other aspects. In doing so, “they problematize situations in specific ways, promote particular solutions to those ‘problems’ and pave the way for actions which accord with the metaphor” (Hart, 2017: 11). Currently, several scholars in social science approaches are more interested in CM analysis due to its capability to offer up interpretations on social phenomena due to its mechanisms of highlighting similarities and differences and prioritizing situations.
As I mentioned before, having a basic knowledge of CM is essential to fully comprehend CCDA methodology. To do so, I summarize some relevant components, 5 out of 12, listed by Kovecses (2006: ch8). Firstly, as I mentioned before, each metaphor consists of two main domains: the source domain (more physical, represented by the letter B) and the target domain (more abstract, represented by the letter A). The relationship between both is represented as A is B. In other technical words, target is source “AFFECTION IS WARMTH” and “LOVE IS JOURNEY.” The target domain can be attached to several sources “LOVE IS WAR,” “LOVE IS JOURNEY,” which is called the range of target.
Secondly, each metaphor acquires an experiential basis, our embodied experience, that remains unconscious most of the time. It helps any language users to understand the metaphors’ meanings easier. For example, we accept substantial metaphors such as “AFFECTION IS WARMTH” without difficulty because the feeling of affection correlates with the bodily experience of warmth. Thirdly, there are comprehensive mappings between the source and the target domains. For example, in the metaphor “LOVE IS JOURNEY,” mappings are as follows: lovers are travelers, love relationship is a vehicle, progress made in a relationship is distance covered, and so on.
Fourthly, there is a connection between the linguistic metaphor (rhetoric) and the conceptual metaphor (cognitive). Conceptual metaphors manifest through linguistic expressions. Finally, conceptual metaphors produce cultural models (or mental frames, defined below) which operate in thoughts. They are “culturally specific mental representations of aspects of the world” (2006: 126). These cultural models stand for mutual knowledge toward any abstract concept, such as LOVE, which is processed identically among the members of that culture. The LOVE range of target I have mentioned above is a good example. The different understandings of the target domain, LOVE, depend on the particular meaning in focus. Each of the sources, WAR, and JOURNEY, imposes an entirely different understanding of the target LOVE because each depends on the cultural, individual, bodily, and emotional experiences of being in love. Even when two cultures mutually understand the LOVE concept through the JOURNEY metaphor, each culture processes and maps this metaphor differently according to the related values system.
Lakoff and Johnson (1980) listed three kinds of conceptual metaphors. Firstly, “orientational metaphors” are metaphorical structures built on organizing concepts concerning spatial orientations such as up-down and front-back. For example, the expression “I feel up today” comes from the fact that HAPPY is oriented UP in the “HAPPINESS IS UP” metaphor. Such metaphorical orientations are not randomly assigned. They are simply grounded on the speaker’s physical and cultural experience. As a sequence, these metaphorical structures might vary from one culture to another.
Secondly, “ontological metaphors” refer to understanding experiences in terms of objects and substances. These metaphors allow the speaker to treat parts of their experience as discrete entities or substances of a uniform kind. The structure of ontological metaphors depends on our experience with the physical objects around us, e.g., MIND IS AN ENTITY is elaborated to be THE MIND IS A MACHINE, e.g., he broke down. The range of such metaphors is immense. Besides, they could vary within the cultural context. Some of the most used ontological metaphors are the following: containers metaphors (IN/OUT), entity metaphors (MIND IS A BRITTLE OBJECT, e.g., he cracked up), and personification (INFLATION IS A PERSON, e.g., inflation has attacked the foundation of our economy, the dollar has been destroyed by inflammation, inflammation has given birth to a money-minded generation).
Thirdly, “structural metaphors” provide the most abundant source of metaphorical elaboration. They allow the speaker to use one highly designated concept to structure another sub-concept. Such kinds of metaphors are more flexible than the previous ones. For example, structural metaphors provide us with more understandings of what communication, argument, and war are. Additionally, they are grounded on the systematic correlations with the speaker’s experiences, e.g., IDEAS ARE BUILDING, ARGUMENT IS WAR, and LIFE IS JOURNEY.
These three metaphors do not necessarily contain universal metaphors, even if they depend on the same primary experiences. Even primary experiences (similar to mutual knowledge) might lead to a diversity of metaphors because cultural experiences are inevitably involved in categorizing, understanding, and framing these experiences (Kovecses, 2005:4; Bucholtz and Hall, 2016:186).
Metaphor variation occurs within and across cultures. The different embodied experiences of a shared conceptual metaphor (mutual knowledge) create diverse mental framing of the same sign, ritual, or practice. The core meaning focus of conceptual metaphors is significant due to their cultural sensitivity. In other words, the meaning focus of metaphors provides us with the source of differences in processing the same source and target between two social diversities (whether it is a value, a practice, an abstract concept, or a sign), such as the example I made above; two social diversities map the metaphor LOVE IS JOURNEY differently according to each cultural value. The meaning focus also reveals the different framings of the same target across social dimensions in the same society, such as the class dimension, the ethnic dimension, gender dimension, and religious dimension
2.4. Mental Frames and Conceptual Metaphors
In the Imagination Theory, Johnson promotes categorization as the first cognitive process. Categorization is a continuous unconscious process of analyzing situations around us and finding out a proper reaction. Everything we look at or think about is an “input” organized in an already established category. When our mind does not find a perfect match, a new category is created (Johnson, 1987). These mental categories are stored in the “Image schemata” (see Johnson’s “Imagination Theory” above). Scholars have given image schemata different names: scenario, scene, cultural models, cognitive models or, image schemas. All these terms stand for coherent, categorized structures of human experiences (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980; Johnson, 1987; Lakoff, 1987; Kovecses, 2006, 2005; Zeim, 2014, Dancygier, 2017). In my research, I use Kovecses’ term “mental frames” because I agree with him that the term “mental frames” provides the “structured” mental representation that other definitions might miss (Kovecses 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006).
Based on the cognitive studies included in this paper, mental frames can be defined as the cognitive structures where we store the categorizations of our experiences of all types (bodily, emotional, social, religious, cultural, etc.). Mental frames provide us with models of reasoning based on what is considered “normal” or “acceptable” criteria to produce (re)action. They are stored in the scaffolds of our minds, not fixed nor stable, yet they hardly change. Lakoff and Johnson argue that we cannot make a radical and massive change in our mental system through the conscious act of recategorization even though we are regularly exposed to new mental frames. Our mental frames are deep and rooted in our cognition, so it takes too much time, effort, and consciousness to change them. Kay Brugge (2011) draws the attention that humans cannot think beyond these mental frames’ scaffolds. It means our mind cannot go beyond these mental frames and think in an abstract uncategorized manner. Besides, human cognition is unable to think through a mental frame that it has never experienced, heard, or read about.
Brugge (2011) extends that conceptual metaphors provide the mental scaffold (frames) on which our thoughts can rest because they explain our lives’ abstract aspects. He notes that our thoughts can only go as high as the scaffold permits. We live within the lines that mark our mental frames’ borders, which become our life stage. These lines, or boxes, can be self-imposed (e.g., inner forces of underestimating or well-estimating of the self) or imposed by others (e.g., the social norms imposed on individuals). Elena Semino (2008) and Cristopher Hart (2019) agree that conceptual metaphors are not merely reflections of the mental frames we have in our cognitions. They are powerful tools that can modify and create new mental frames or expand the already existing ones. When new metaphors emerge from understanding new social situations, new mental frames might gradually emerge too.
Hart (2019) asserts that conceptual metaphors are a robust framing tool due to their ability to interpret how social situations, events, and values are understood, reasoned about, and responded at emotionally and physically. As he argues that mental frames are open-ended conceptual structures of different levels of generality and specificity, he explains that one frame can be seen as a “more specific instantiation of another frame” depending on the relationship between the metaphors in between (2019: 6). Semino (2008) states that using a particular metaphor rather than another is not a random decision. It is tied to what this metaphor highlights as foreground and background, the provided interferences, what kind of emotions and triggers are associated with this metaphor, etc. In this process, the discourse producers pragmatize situations in specific ways, promote particular solutions to those “problems,” and pave the way for action that accords with the metaphor. Jonathan Charteris-Black (2011:32) asserted that in political discourse, metaphors are used to frame how we view or understand political issues by eliminating alternative points of view. As conceptual metaphors are expressed linguistically, mental frames are not separable from the language we receive and produce. The received language contributes to building our mental frames, and we reveal our mental frames through the language we speak.
CL and cognitive psychology argue that the words we use to talk about any social experience or sign evoke already-established mental frames that attribute meaning to that experience or sign (Kovecses 2006; Tompkins, 2011; Boroditsky, 2011, 2018). The discourse circulated in the community is the tool that gives meaning to our social experiences and constructs our mental frames on social life. When I say “discourse,” I do not refer to everyday language, which CMT and MF used to analyze in Kovecses and George and Lakoff’s studies (cited above). I refer to all discourses we are exposed to daily (everyday language, public discourse, political discourse, etc.). In the last decade, multiple studies emerged to incorporate the analysis of conceptual metaphors in discourse analysis. Taylor (2021) argues that applying CM analysis in discourse analysis provides researchers with insights into the receptor’s perspectives. However, all these studies incorporated the analysis of MF as the output of CM analysis. In this paper, I argue that applying Cognitive Linguistics analysis consists of two separated but correlated approaches: CM and MF. I argue that the analysis of MF includes CM but is not limited to it. This separation is what makes CCDA more inclusive than the multiple attempts to include Cognitive Linguistics in CDA