George Lakoff

George P. Lakoff (/ˈleɪkɒf/; born May 24, 1941) is an American cognitive linguist and philosopher, best known for his thesis that lives of individuals are significantly influenced by the central metaphors they use to explain complex phenomena.

The conceptual metaphor thesis, introduced in his and Mark Johnson's 1980 book Metaphors We Live By has found applications in a number of academic disciplines. Applying it to politics, literature, philosophy and mathematics has led Lakoff into territory normally considered basic to political science. In his 1996 book Moral Politics, Lakoff described conservative voters as being influenced by the "strict father model" as a central metaphor for such a complex phenomenon as the state, and liberal/progressive voters as being influenced by the "nurturant parent model" as the folk psychological metaphor for this complex phenomenon. According to him, an individual's experience and attitude towards sociopolitical issues is influenced by being framed in linguistic constructions. In Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf (1991), he argues that the American involvement in the Gulf war was obscured or "spun" by the metaphors which were used by the first Bush administration to justify it.[1] Between 2003 and 2008, Lakoff was involved with a progressive think tank, the now defunct Rockridge Institute.[2][3] He is a member of the scientific committee of the Fundación IDEAS (IDEAS Foundation), Spain's Socialist Party's think tank.

The more general theory that elaborated his thesis is known as embodied mind. Lakoff served as a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1972 until his retirement in 2016.[4]

George Lakoff
George Lakoff
Professor George Lakoff, 2012
BornMay 24, 1941 (age 77)
ResidenceBerkeley, California, United States
NationalityUnited States
Alma materIndiana University
Known forConceptual metaphor theory
Embodied cognition
Spouse(s)Robin Lakoff (divorced), Kathleen Frumkin (current spouse)
Scientific career
FieldsCognitive linguistics
Cognitive science
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Berkeley


Reappraisal of metaphor

Although some of Lakoff's research involves questions traditionally pursued by linguists, such as the conditions under which a certain linguistic construction is grammatically viable, he is best known for his reappraisal of the role that metaphors play in the socio-political life of humans.

Metaphor has been seen within the Western scientific tradition as a purely linguistic construction. The essential thrust of Lakoff's work has been the argument that metaphors are a primarily conceptual construction and are in fact central to the development of thought.

In his words:

"Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature."

According to Lakoff, non-metaphorical thought is possible only when we talk about purely physical reality; the greater the level of abstraction, the more layers of metaphor are required to express it. People do not notice these metaphors for various reasons, including that some metaphors become 'dead' in the sense that we no longer recognize their origin. Another reason is that we just don't "see" what is "going on".

In intellectual debate, for instance, the underlying metaphor according to Lakoff is usually that argument is war (later revised to "argument is struggle"):

  • He won the argument.
  • Your claims are indefensible.
  • He shot down all my arguments.
  • His criticisms were right on target.
  • If you use that strategy, he'll wipe you out.

According to Lakoff, the development of thought has been the process of developing better metaphors. He also points out that the application of one domain of knowledge to another offers new perceptions and understandings.

Linguistics wars

Lakoff began his career as a student and later a teacher of the theory of transformational grammar developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Noam Chomsky. In the late 1960s, however, he joined with others to promote generative semantics[5] as an alternative to Chomsky's generative syntax. In an interview he stated:

During that period, I was attempting to unify Chomsky's transformational grammar with formal logic. I had helped work out a lot of the early details of Chomsky's theory of grammar. Noam claimed then — and still does, so far as I can tell — that syntax is independent of meaning, context, background knowledge, memory, cognitive processing, communicative intent, and every aspect of the body...In working through the details of his early theory, I found quite a few cases where semantics, context, and other such factors entered into rules governing the syntactic occurrences of phrases and morphemes. I came up with the beginnings of an alternative theory in 1963 and, along with wonderful collaborators like "Haj" Ross and Jim McCawley, developed it through the sixties.[6]

Lakoff's claim that Chomsky asserts independence between syntax and semantics has been rejected by Chomsky, who has given examples from within his work where he talks about the relationship between semantics and syntax. Chomsky goes further and claims that Lakoff has "virtually no comprehension of the work he is discussing" (the work in question being Chomsky's).[7] His differences with Chomsky contributed to fierce, acrimonious debates among linguists that have come to be known as the "linguistics wars".

Embodied mind

When Lakoff claims the mind is "embodied", he is arguing that almost all of human cognition, up through the most abstract reasoning, depends on and makes use of such concrete and "low-level" facilities as the sensorimotor system and the emotions. Therefore, embodiment is a rejection not only of dualism vis-a-vis mind and matter, but also of claims that human reason can be basically understood without reference to the underlying "implementation details".

Lakoff offers three complementary but distinct sorts of arguments in favor of embodiment. First, using evidence from neuroscience and neural network simulations, he argues that certain concepts, such as color and spatial relation concepts (e.g. "red" or "over"; see also qualia), can be almost entirely understood through the examination of how processes of perception or motor control work.

Second, based on cognitive linguistics' analysis of figurative language, he argues that the reasoning we use for such abstract topics as warfare, economics, or morality is somehow rooted in the reasoning we use for such mundane topics as spatial relationships. (See conceptual metaphor.)

Finally, based on research in cognitive psychology and some investigations in the philosophy of language, he argues that very few of the categories used by humans are actually of the black-and-white type amenable to analysis in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. On the contrary, most categories are supposed to be much more complicated and messy, just like our bodies.

"We are neural beings", Lakoff states, "Our brains take their input from the rest of our bodies. What our bodies are like and how they function in the world thus structures the very concepts we can use to think. We cannot think just anything — only what our embodied brains permit."[8]

Lakoff believes consciousness to be neurally embodied, however he explicitly states that the mechanism is not just neural computation alone. Using the concept of disembodiment, Lakoff supports the physicalist approach to the afterlife. If the soul can not have any of the properties of the body, then Lakoff claims it can not feel, perceive, think, be conscious, or have a personality. If this is true, then Lakoff asks what would be the point of the afterlife?

Many scientists share the belief that there are problems with falsifiability and foundation ontologies purporting to describe "what exists", to a sufficient degree of rigor to establish a reasonable method of empirical validation. But Lakoff takes this further to explain why hypotheses built with complex metaphors cannot be directly falsified. Instead, they can only be rejected based on interpretations of empirical observations guided by other complex metaphors. This is what he means when he says[9] that falsifiability itself can never be established by any reasonable method that would not rely ultimately on a shared human bias. The bias he's referring to is the set of conceptual metaphors governing how people interpret observations.

Lakoff is, with coauthors Mark Johnson and Rafael E. Núñez, one of the primary proponents of the embodied mind thesis. Lakoff discussed these themes in his 2001 Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow, published as The Nature and Limits of Human Understanding.[10] Others who have written about the embodied mind include philosopher Andy Clark (See his Being There), philosopher and neurobiologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela and his student Evan Thompson (See Varela, Thompson & Rosch's The Embodied Mind), roboticists such as Rodney Brooks, Rolf Pfeifer and Tom Ziemke, the physicist David Bohm (see his Thought As A System), Ray Gibbs (see his Embodiment and Cognitive Science), John Grinder and Richard Bandler in their neuro-linguistic programming, and Julian Jaynes. The work of these writers can be traced back to earlier philosophical writings, most notably in the phenomenological tradition, such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger. The basic thesis of "embodied mind" is also traceable to the American contextualist or pragmatist tradition, notably John Dewey in such works as Art As Experience.


According to Lakoff, even mathematics is subjective to the human species and its cultures: thus "any question of math's being inherent in physical reality is moot, since there is no way to know whether or not it is." By this, he is saying that there is nothing outside of the thought structures we derive from our embodied minds that we can use to "prove" that mathematics is somehow beyond biology. Lakoff and Rafael E. Núñez (2000) argue at length that mathematical and philosophical ideas are best understood in light of the embodied mind. The philosophy of mathematics ought therefore to look to the current scientific understanding of the human body as a foundation ontology, and abandon self-referential attempts to ground the operational components of mathematics in anything other than "meat".

Mathematical reviewers have generally been critical of Lakoff and Núñez, pointing to mathematical errors. Lakoff claims that these errors have been corrected in subsequent printings. Although their book attempts a refutation of some of the most widely accepted viewpoints in philosophy of mathematics and advice for how the field might proceed, they have yet to elicit much of a reaction from philosophers of mathematics themselves. The small community specializing in the psychology of mathematical learning, to which Núñez belongs, is paying attention.[11]

Lakoff has also claimed that we should remain agnostic about whether math is somehow wrapped up with the very nature of the universe. Early in 2001 Lakoff told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): "Mathematics may or may not be out there in the world, but there's no way that we scientifically could possibly tell." This is because the structures of scientific knowledge are not "out there" but rather in our brains, based on the details of our anatomy. Therefore, we cannot "tell" that mathematics is "out there" without relying on conceptual metaphors rooted in our biology. This claim bothers those who believe that there really is a way we could "tell". The falsifiability of this claim is perhaps the central problem in the cognitive science of mathematics, a field that attempts to establish a foundation ontology based on the human cognitive and scientific process.[12]

Political significance and involvement

Lakoff has publicly expressed both ideas about the conceptual structures that he views as central to understanding the political process, and some of his particular political views. He almost always discusses the latter in terms of the former.

Moral Politics (1996, revisited in 2002) gives book-length consideration to the conceptual metaphors that Lakoff sees as present in the minds of American "liberals" and "conservatives". The book is a blend of cognitive science and political analysis. Lakoff makes an attempt to keep his personal views confined to the last third of the book, where he explicitly argues for the superiority of the liberal vision.[3]

Lakoff argues that the differences in opinions between liberals and conservatives follow from the fact that they subscribe with different strength to two different central metaphors about the relationship of the state to its citizens. Both, he claims, see governance through metaphors of the family. Conservatives would subscribe more strongly and more often to a model that he calls the "strict father model" and has a family structured around a strong, dominant "father" (government), and assumes that the "children" (citizens) need to be disciplined to be made into responsible "adults" (morality, self-financing). Once the "children" are "adults", though, the "father" should not interfere with their lives: the government should stay out of the business of those in society who have proved their responsibility. In contrast, Lakoff argues that liberals place more support in a model of the family, which he calls the "nurturant parent model", based on "nurturant values", where both "mothers" and "fathers" work to keep the essentially good "children" away from "corrupting influences" (pollution, social injustice, poverty, etc.). Lakoff says that most people have a blend of both metaphors applied at different times, and that political speech works primarily by invoking these metaphors and urging the subscription of one over the other.[13]

Lakoff further argues that one of the reasons liberals have had difficulty since the 1980s is that they have not been as aware of their own guiding metaphors, and have too often accepted conservative terminology framed in a way to promote the strict father metaphor. Lakoff insists that liberals must cease using terms like partial birth abortion and tax relief because they are manufactured specifically to allow the possibilities of only certain types of opinions. Tax relief for example, implies explicitly that taxes are an affliction, something someone would want "relief" from. To use the terms of another metaphoric worldview, Lakoff insists, is to unconsciously support it. Liberals must support linguistic think tanks in the same way that conservatives do if they are going to succeed in appealing to those in the country who share their metaphors.[14]

Between 2003 and 2008, Lakoff was involved with a progressive think tank, the Rockridge Institute, an involvement that follows in part from his recommendations in Moral Politics. Among his activities with the Institute, which concentrates in part on helping liberal candidates and politicians with re-framing political metaphors, Lakoff has given numerous public lectures and written accounts of his message from Moral Politics. In 2008, Lakoff joined Fenton Communications, the nation's largest public interest communications firm, as a Senior Consultant.

One of his political works, Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, self-labeled as "the Essential Guide for Progressives", was published in September 2004 and features a foreword by former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Disagreement with Steven Pinker

In 2006 Steven Pinker wrote an unfavorable review of Lakoff's book Whose Freedom? in The New Republic.[15] Pinker argued that Lakoff's propositions are unsupported, and his prescriptions are a recipe for electoral failure. He wrote that Lakoff was condescending and deplored Lakoff's "shameless caricaturing of beliefs" and his "faith in the power of euphemism". Pinker portrayed Lakoff's arguments as "cognitive relativism, in which mathematics, science, and philosophy are beauty contests between rival frames rather than attempts to characterize the nature of reality." Lakoff wrote a rebuttal to the review[16] stating that his position on many matters is the exact reverse of what Pinker attributes to him. Lakoff states that he explicitly rejects cognitive relativism, arguing that he is "a realist, both about how the mind works and how the world works. Given that the mind works by frames and metaphors, the challenge is to use such a mind to accurately characterize how the world works."[16]



  • 2012 with Elisabeth Wehling. The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic. Free Press. ISBN 978-1-476-70001-4.
  • 2008. The Political Mind : Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain. Viking Adult. ISBN 978-0-670-01927-4.
  • 2006. Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-15828-6.
  • 2006. Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-53090-7.
  • 2005. "A Cognitive Scientist Looks at Daubert", American Journal of Public Health. 95, no. 1: S114.
  • 2005. "The Brain's Concept: The Role of the Sensory-Motor System in Conceptual Knowledge"-Vittorio Gallese, Università di Parma and George Lakoff University of California, Berkeley[17]
  • 2004. Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Chelsea Green Publishing. ISBN 978-1-931498-71-5.
  • 2003 (1980) with Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press. 2003 edition contains an 'Afterword'. ISBN 978-0-226-46800-6.
  • 2001 Edition. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-46771-9.
  • 2000 with Rafael Núñez. Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-03771-2.
  • 1999 with Mark Johnson). Philosophy In The Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought. Basic Books.
  • 1996. Moral politics : What Conservatives Know that Liberals Don't. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-46805-1.
  • 1989 with Mark Turner. More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-46812-9.
  • 1987. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46804-6.
  • 1980 with Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-46801-3.
  • 1970 Irregularity in Syntax. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. ISBN 978-0030841453.
  • —— (February 1968). "Instrumental Adverbs and the Concept of Deep Structure". Foundations of Language. 4 (1): 4–29. JSTOR 25000311.


  • How Democrats and Progressives Can Win: Solutions from George Lakoff DVD format. OCLC 315514475

See also


  1. ^ Compare: Lakoff, George. "Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf". The Sixties Project. Retrieved 2018-10-04. The most natural way to justify a war on moral grounds is to fit this fairy tale structure to a given situation. This is done by metaphorical definition, that is, by answering the questions: Who is the victim? Who is the villain? Who is the hero? What is the crime? What counts as victory? Each set of answers provides a different filled-out scenario. [...] As the gulf crisis developed, President Bush tried to justify going to war by the use of such a scenario. At first, he couldn't get his story straight. What happened was that he was using two different sets of metaphorical definitions, which resulted in two different scenarios [...].
  2. ^ "George Lakoff". Rockridge Institute. Archived from the original on 2007-06-11. Retrieved 2007-06-13.
  3. ^ a b Lakoff, George (2002). Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46771-6.
  4. ^ White, Daphne (May 2, 2017). "Berkeley author George Lakoff says, 'Don't underestimate Trump'".
  5. ^
  6. ^ John Brockman (03/09/99),, "Philosophy In The Flesh" A Talk With George Lakoff
  7. ^ "Chomsky Replies", The New York Review of Books, 1973 20;12
  8. ^ "EDGE 3rd Culture: A Talk with George Lakoff". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  9. ^ Lakoff, G., and M. Johnson, 1999, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought, New York: Basic Books
  10. ^ ed. Anthony Sanford, T & T Clark, 2003. Summary at Archived 2011-06-14 at the Wayback Machine by Brannon Hancock.
  11. ^ G. Lakoff & R. Núñez. (2000). Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being. New York: Basic Books.
  12. ^ Dehaene, S. (1997) The number sense: How the mind creates mathematics. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513240-8
  13. ^ Lakoff, George (2002). Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 143–176. ISBN 0-226-46771-6.
  14. ^ Lakoff, George (2002). Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 415–418. ISBN 0-226-46771-6.
  15. ^ ""Block that Metaphor!" New Republic October 8, 2006.
  16. ^ a b ""When cognitive science enters politics"". Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved 2006-10-15.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link),, 12 October 2006.
  17. ^

Further reading

  • Dean, John W. (2006), Conservatives without Conscience, Viking Penguin ISBN 0-670-03774-5.
  • Harris, Randy Allen (1995). The Linguistics Wars. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509834-X. (Focuses on the disputes Lakoff and others have had with Chomsky.)
  • Haser, Verena (2005). Metaphor, Metonymy, and Experientialist Philosophy: Challenging Cognitive Semantics (Topics in English Linguistics), Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-018283-5 (A critical look at the ideas behind embodiment and conceptual metaphor.)
  • Kelleher, William J. (2005). Progressive Logic: Framing A Unified Field Theory of Values For Progressives. La CaCañada Flintridge, CA: The Empathic Science Institute. ISBN 0-9773717-1-9.
  • McGlone, M. S. (2001). "Concepts as Metaphors" in Sam Glucksberg, Understanding Figurative Language: From Metaphors to Idioms. Oxford Psychology Series 36. Oxford University Press, 90–107. ISBN 0-19-511109-5.
  • O'Reilly, Bill (2006). Culture Warrior. New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-2092-9. (Calls Lakoff the guiding philosopher behind the "secular progressive movement".)
  • Renkema, Jan (2004). Introduction to Discourse Studies. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. ISBN 1-58811-529-1.
  • Rettig, Hillary (2006). The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way. New York: Lantern Books. ISBN 1-59056-090-6. (Documents strong parallels between Lakoff's nurturant parent model of progressive thought and psychologist Abraham Maslow's model of the self-actualized individual. Also discusses framing in the context of marketing and sales with the aim of bolstering progressive activists' persuasive skills.)
  • Richardt, Susanne (2005). Metaphor in Languages for Special Purposes: The Function of Conceptual Metaphor in Written Expert Language and Expert-Lay Communication in the Domains of Economics, Medicine and Computing. European University Studies: Series XIV, Anglo-Saxon Language and Literature, 413. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. ISBN 0-8204-7381-2.
  • Soros, George (2006). The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror. ISBN 1-58648-359-5. (discusses Lakoff in regard to the application of his theories on the work of Frank Luntz and with respect to his own theory about perception and reality)
  • Winter, Steven L. (2003). A Clearing in the Forest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-90222-6. (Applies Lakoff's work in cognitive science and metaphor to the field of law and legal reasoning.)

External links

Cognitive activism

Cognitive activism is a type of activism that aims to bring about social change by evolving the way we think about things, often by reframing debates or redefining terms. Frank Luntz and George Lakoff are exemplary cognitive activists, although most activists participate in cognitive activism to some degree.

Conceptual metaphor

In cognitive linguistics, conceptual metaphor, or cognitive metaphor, refers to the understanding of one idea, or conceptual domain, in terms of another. An example of this is the understanding of quantity in terms of directionality (e.g. "the price of peace is rising") or the understanding of time in terms of money (e.g. "I spent time at work today").

A conceptual domain can be any coherent organization of human experience. The regularity with which different languages employ the same metaphors, which often appear to be perceptually based, has led to the hypothesis that the mapping between conceptual domains corresponds to neural mappings in the brain. This theory has gained wide attention, although some researchers question its empirical accuracy.This idea, and a detailed examination of the underlying processes, was first extensively explored by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their work Metaphors We Live By in 1980. Since then, the field of metaphor studies within the larger discipline of Cognitive Linguistics has increasingly developed, with several, annual academic conferences, scholarly societies, and research labs contributing to the subject area. Some researchers, such as Gerard Steen, have worked to develop empirical investigative tools for metaphor research, including the Metaphor Identification Procedure, or MIP. In Psychology, Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr., has investigated conceptual metaphor and embodiment through a number of psychological experiments. Other cognitive scientists, for example Gilles Fauconnier, study subjects similar to conceptual metaphor under the labels "analogy", "conceptual blending" and "ideasthesia".

Conceptual metaphors are seen in language in our everyday lives. Conceptual metaphors shape not just our communication, but also shape the way we think and act. In George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's work, Metaphors We Live By (1980), we see how everyday language is filled with metaphors we may not always notice. An example of one of the commonly used conceptual metaphors is "argument is war". This metaphor shapes our language in the way we view argument as war or as a battle to be won. It is not uncommon to hear someone say "He won that argument" or "I attacked every weak point in his argument". The very way argument is thought of is shaped by this metaphor of arguments being war and battles that must be won. Argument can be seen in other ways than a battle, but we use this concept to shape the way we think of argument and the way we go about arguing.

Conceptual metaphors are used very often to understand theories and models. A conceptual metaphor uses one idea and links it to another to better understand something. For example, the conceptual metaphor of viewing communication as a conduit is one large theory explained with a metaphor. So not only is our everyday communication shaped by the language of conceptual metaphors, but so is the very way we understand scholarly theories. These metaphors are prevalent in communication and we do not just use them in language; we actually perceive and act in accordance with the metaphors.


Essentialism is the view that every entity has a set of attributes that are necessary to its identity and function. In early Western thought Plato's idealism held that all things have such an "essence"—an "idea" or "form". In Categories, Aristotle similarly proposed that all objects have a substance that, as George Lakoff put it "make the thing what it is, and without which it would be not that kind of thing". The contrary view—non-essentialism—denies the need to posit such an "essence'".

Essentialism has been controversial from its beginning. Plato, in the Parmenides Dialogue, depicts Socrates questioning the notion, suggesting that if we accept the idea that every beautiful thing or just action partakes of an essence to be beautiful or just, we must also accept the "existence of separate essences for hair, mud, and dirt" . In biology and other natural sciences, essentialism provided the rationale for taxonomy at least until the time of Charles Darwin; the role and importance of essentialism in biology is still a matter of debate.

In gender studies the essentialist idea that men and women are fundamentally different continues to be a matter of contention.


Experientialism is the philosophical theory that experience is the source of knowledge. It was originally formulated by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson and its first widely known formulation is to be found in the book Metaphors We Live By.

In Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, Lakoff has expanded on the foundation of experientialism by his research into the nature of categories.

Generative semantics

Generative semantics is the name of a research program within linguistics, initiated by the work of various early students of Noam Chomsky: John R. Ross, Paul Postal, and later James McCawley. George Lakoff and Pieter Seuren were also instrumental in developing and advocating the theory.[1]The approach developed out of transformational generative grammar in the mid-1960s, but stood largely apart from, and in opposition to, work by Noam Chomsky and his later students. This move led to a more abstract framework and lately to the abandonment of the notion of the CFG formal grammar induced deep structure.

A number of ideas from later work in generative semantics have been incorporated into cognitive linguistics, head-driven phrase structure grammar (HPSG), construction grammar, and into mainstream Chomskyan linguistics.

Idealized cognitive model

An Idealized Cognitive Model, or ICM, is the name given in cognitive linguistics to describe the phenomenon in which knowledge represented in a semantic frame is often a conceptualization of experience that is not congruent with reality. It has been proposed by scholars such as George Lakoff and Gilles Fauconnier.

Invariance principle (linguistics)

In cognitive linguistics, the invariance principle is a simple attempt to explain similarities and differences between how an idea is understood in "ordinary" usage, and how it is understood when used as a conceptual metaphor.

Kövecses (2002: 102) provides the following examples based on the semantics of the English verb to give:

She gave him a book. (source language)Based on the metaphor CAUSATION IS TRANSFER we get:

(a) She gave him a kiss.

(b) She gave him a headache.However, the metaphor does not work in exactly the same way in each case, as seen in:

(a') She gave him a kiss, and he still has it.

(b') She gave him a headache, and he still has it.The invariance principle offers the hypothesis that metaphor only maps components of meaning from the source language that remain coherent in the target context. The components of meaning that remain coherent in the target context retain their "basic structure" in some sense, so this is a form of invariance.

George Lakoff and Mark Turner originated the idea under the name invariance hypothesis, later revising and renaming it. Lakoff (1993: 215) defines the invariance principle as: "Metaphorical mappings preserve the cognitive topology (that is, the image-schema structure) of the source domain, in a way consistent with the inherent structure of the target domain".

List of Jewish American linguists

This is a list of notable Jewish American linguists.

For other famous Jewish Americans, see List of Jewish Americans.

Cyrus Gordon. Semiticist, held ancient Crete Minoan was Northwest Semitic

Dan I. Slobin, (psycho)linguist, studies linguistics and acquisition of signed languages of the deaf

Deborah Tannen, sociolinguist with a focus on gender linguistics

Dennis Baron, linguist

Edward Sapir, anthropologist-linguist, founder of enthnolinguistics

Fred Lukoff, linguist

Geoffrey Nunberg, linguist

George Lakoff, sociolinguist, focuses on how language influences politics

Jay Jasanoff, Indo-European linguist

Jerry Fodor, philosopher and cognitive scientist

Joseph Greenberg, language classification, created a unified classification of African languages

Joshua Fishman, sociolinguist

Leonard Bloomfield, linguist

Leonard Talmy, linguist

Maria Polinsky, linguist

María Rosa Lida de Malkiel, Spanish philologist

Mary Haas, linguist

Max Weinreich, linguist

Michel Thomas, linguist, language teacher

Morris Halle, linguist

Morris Swadesh, linguist

Noam Chomsky, linguist and political philosopher (atheist)

Ray Jackendoff, linguist

Roman Jakobson, Prague School of linguistics

Samuel Noah Kramer, Sumerologist, known as the "father of Assyriology and Sumerology"

Talmy Givón, linguist

Uriel Weinreich, linguist

William Labov, sociolinguist, awarded the Neil and Saras Smith Medal for Linguistics by the British Academy (2015)

Yakov Malkiel, Romance philologist

Zellig Harris, structural linguist

Mark Johnson (philosopher)

Mark L. Johnson (born 24 May 1949 in Kansas City, Missouri) is Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. He is known for contributions to embodied philosophy, cognitive science and cognitive linguistics, some of which he has coauthored with George Lakoff such as Metaphors We Live By. However, he has also published on philosophical topics such as John Dewey, Immanuel Kant and ethics.

Mathematics, Form and Function

Mathematics, Form and Function is a survey of the whole of mathematics, including its origins and deep structure, by the American mathematician Saunders Mac Lane.

Metaphors We Live By

Metaphors We Live By is a book by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson published in 1980.

Paul Postal

Paul Martin Postal (born November 10, 1936 in Weehawken, New Jersey) is an American linguist and member of the faculty of New York University. Postal received his PhD from Yale University in 1963. He taught at MIT until 1965, then took a research position at IBM where he remained until 1994

An important figure in the early development of generative grammar, he became a proponent of the generative semantics movement along with George Lakoff, and James D. McCawley.

Since his involvement with generative semantics, he has remained a vocal critic of Noam Chomsky and work done in Chomsky's frameworks.

Rafael E. Núñez

Rafael E. Núñez is a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego and a proponent of embodied cognition. He co-authored Where Mathematics Comes From with George Lakoff.


Relativism is the idea that views are relative to differences in perception and consideration. There is no universal, objective truth according to relativism; rather each point of view has its own truth.The major categories of relativism vary in their degree of scope and controversy. Moral relativism encompasses the differences in moral judgments among people and cultures.Truth relativism is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture (cultural relativism). Descriptive relativism seeks to describe the differences among cultures and people without evaluation, while normative relativism evaluates the morality or truthfulness of views within a given framework.

Reuben Hersh

Reuben Hersh (born 1927) is an American mathematician and academic, best known for his writings on the nature, practice, and social impact of mathematics. This work challenges and complements mainstream philosophy of mathematics. ("Hersh" is his professional or pen name. His family name is Reuben Laznovsky.)

After receiving a B.A. in English literature from Harvard University in 1946, Hersh spent a decade writing for Scientific American and working as a machinist. After losing his right thumb when working with a band saw, he decided to study mathematics at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. In 1962, he was awarded a Ph.D. in mathematics from New York University; his advisor was P.D. Lax. He has been affiliated with the University of New Mexico since 1964, where he is now professor emeritus.

Hersh has written a number of technical articles on partial differential equations, probability, random evolutions (example), and linear operator equations. He is the (co)author of four articles in Scientific American, and 12 articles in the Mathematical Intelligencer.

Hersh is best known as the coauthor with Philip J. Davis of The Mathematical Experience (1981), which won a National Book Award in Science.Hersh advocates what he calls a "humanist" philosophy of mathematics, opposed to both Platonism (so-called "realism") and its rivals nominalism/fictionalism/formalism. He holds that mathematics is real, and its reality is social-cultural-historical, located in the shared thoughts of those who learn it, teach it, and create it. His article "The Kingdom of Math is Within You" (a chapter in his Experiencing Mathematics, 2014) explains how mathematicians' proofs compel agreement, even when they are inadequate as formal logic. He sympathizes with the perspectives on mathematics of Imre Lakatos and Where Mathematics Comes From, George Lakoff and Rafael Nunez, Basic Books.

Rockridge Institute

The Rockridge Institute was an American non-profit research and progressive think tank founded in 1997 and located in Berkeley, California from 2003 until April 30, 2008. Its stated goal was to strengthen democracy by providing intellectual support to the progressive community. The Rockridge Institute promoted progressive ideas and values, studied their implications, and worked to provide an effective articulation of those values to shift public discourse.

Strict father model

The strict father model of parenting is one which values strict discipline, particularly by the father, in parenting.

Ideas involved in this model include:

That children learn through reward and punishment, as in operant conditioning. Corporal punishment, such as spanking, is favored in this model relative to other models.

That children become more self-reliant and more self-disciplined by having strict parents.

That the parent, particularly the father, is meant to mete out rewards for good behavior as well as punish bad behavior.This model of child-rearing would involve, for example, allowing children to cry themselves to sleep on the grounds that picking up a child when it should be sleeping on its own improperly fosters dependence on the parents. In his book Dare to Discipline, James Dobson advocates the strict father model. However, some researchers have linked authoritarian childrearing with children who withdraw, lack spontaneity, and have lesser evidence of conscience.The strict father model is discussed by George Lakoff in his books, including Moral Politics, Don't Think of an Elephant, The Political Mind, and Whose Freedom?. In these books, the strict father model is contrasted with the nurturant parent model. Lakoff argues that if the metaphor of nation as family and government as parent is used, then conservative politics correspond to the strict father model. For example, conservatives think that adults should refrain from looking to the government for assistance lest they become dependent.

Where Mathematics Comes From

Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being (hereinafter WMCF) is a book by George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist, and Rafael E. Núñez, a psychologist. Published in 2000, WMCF seeks to found a cognitive science of mathematics, a theory of embodied mathematics based on conceptual metaphor.

Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things

Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind is a non-fiction book by the cognitive linguist George Lakoff. The book, first published by the University of Chicago Press in 1987, puts forward a model of cognition argued on the basis of semantics. The book emphasizes the centrality of metaphor, defined as the mapping of cognitive structures from one domain onto another, in the cognitive process. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things explores the effects of cognitive metaphors, both culturally specific and human-universal, on the grammar per se of several languages, and the evidence of the limitations of the classical logical-positivist or Anglo-American School philosophical concept of the category usually used to explain or describe the scientific method.

The book's title was inspired by the noun class system of the Dyirbal language, in which the "feminine" category includes nouns for women, water, fire, violence, and certain animals.

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