The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

15 Jul 2008


Now that study time is over but many of the books, authors, linguistic concepts… seen in these last five years not yet forgotten, I think of the subjects I took in Filología Inglesa at the UNED as the landscape I could see at a particular stage of this 'academic journey'. It is true that a huge amount of all those pieces of knowledge that were so familiar throughout a term seemed to vanish all of a sudden, as soon as the exam was done and grades were published, but it is not less certain that others remain, if not as clear as they used to appear, at least as remembrances of old acquaintances or, more difficult to discern, blurred and integrated as part of a recently revised mental model.

Anyway, I'd like now to look back for a moment and talk about my favourite subjects (trying to recall just the good things and omit all that was dull, hard to learn or too puzzling regarding its organisation) and I'll take Semántica y Lexicografía Inglesa for a start. I remember especially enjoying two issues included in that course: Prototype Theory, about how "natural conceptual categories are structured around the 'best' examples or prototypes of the categories, and that other items are assimilated to a category according to whether they sufficiently resemble the prototype or not" (Cruse 2004, p.129) and the sections devoted to Metaphor. I found the reflections on the latter issue really interesting. Metaphors were analysed as conceptual in nature, far from the approach as a mere stylistic resource. It is amazing to discover all the variety of expressions produced from parallelisms such as LIFE IS A JOURNEY, ARGUMENT IS WAR or ANGER IS HEAT OF FLUID IN CONTAINER.


  1. I had the idea that SEMANTICS did not captivate me but now that I revise concepts like prototype theory I think what I did not like about it had more to do with the way it was presented, at least in my year, than with the contents of it, lots of pages to photocopy from the Cruse and Saeed books if you did not buy them and also the two parts of the exam, one being a multiple choice test, rather than the contents.

    I also remember enjoying paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations, Speech Acts and so on. The fact that I took PRAGMATICS the following year makes me think so.


  2. I´m sorry very much, believe me. I would like not to think this way but I can´t help it. With many aspects of Linguistics my attitude is a little skeptical. I mean, all right: "natural conceptual categories are structured around the 'best' examples or prototypes of the categories, and that other items are assimilated to a category according to whether they sufficiently resemble the prototype or not" That´s true, so what? In which way this unquestionable axiom affects life, or my use of language or whatever?
    It seems to me that what linguistics does is, often, just ‘describe the landscape’. For example, you are with your mate, your best friend or your favourite pet, watching the landscape at dusk, by the sea. And she/he/it says:
    “Nice sunset, uh?”
    And you:
    “Yeeah, really nice!”
    And then, you both watch how the sun sets, slowly, peacefully… But, what does such clever comment add to the reality of the world that you were already seeing? I´m afraid that it happens the same with many linguistic statements.
    The Reluctant Grammarian

  3. Well, I’m not that sure that all linguistic studies are merely descriptive. If I mentioned ‘prototype theory’ as something I found interesting, it is because it opened my mind to a new way of looking at categories, linguistic of course because we deal with words but, above all, conceptual. To think about how concepts, and consequently language, are influenced by cultural or geographical conditions allows us to be more critical towards ‘absolutes’ and therefore more understanding towards others’ choice of words or points of view. But I also believe that this theory is just one approach as valid as other approaches such as the logical categorisations based on semantic features. Summarising, I’d say that description, analysis, attempts to explain mental and language phenomena… help understand a bit better (just a bit, it is true) the world around us in general and human behaviour in particular.