Conceptual schemata and cognitive operations involved in compound constructions
The paper develops a characterization of nominal compounds. The analysis is carried out on frame-schematic and construction-grammatical grounds. It rests on assumptions about cognitive processing long since known within cognitive linguistics, but it criticizes certain linguistic applications of Fauconnier & Turner’s theory of conceptual integration, which historically is a reelaboration of Lakoff & Johnson’s theory of metaphor. The first section sums up two classical approaches in the analysis of nominal compounds; it comments on their inadequacies, and how these have been assessed by Fauconnier & Turner; next, it sketches out the way these two authors and other scholars in blending theory have traditionally analyzed nominal compounds in terms of conceptual integration, and finally one of the major drawbacks of this approach is identified: viz., its limited descriptive import. In the following section, the authors unfold their own semantic analysis. A non-trivial and non-standard compositional theory is proposed, likely to capture the general way in which semantic parts of a compound configure into a semantic whole. Hereafter the authors proceed to a summary survey of how this scaffolding is actually instantiated or processed cognitively. A crucial difference between processing of literal and metaphorical compounds is established. Thus, the approach has a double scope: it aims at characterizing both the semantics of compounds and the way the semantics is cognitively accessed.