Cognitive Linguistics’ seven deadly sins

Ewa Dabrowska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)
74 Downloads (Pure)


Cognitive Linguistics is an approach to language study based on three central premises: that the function of language is to convey meaning, that linguistic description must rely on constructs that are psychologically real, and that grammar emerges from usage. Over the last 40 years, this approach to studying language has made enormous strides in virtually every aspect of linguistic inquiry, achieving major insights as well as bringing about a conceptual unification of the language sciences. However, it has also faced problems, which, I argue, must be addressed if the approach is to continue to flourish. Some of these are shared with generative linguistics, while some are peculiar to the cognitive approach. The former include excessive reliance on introspective evidence; paying only lip service to the Cognitive Commitment; too much focus on hypothesis formulation (and not enough on hypothesis testing); ignoring individual differences; and neglecting the social aspects of language. The latter include assuming that we can deduce mental representations from patterns of use and equating distribution with meaning. I conclude by sketching out how these pitfalls could be avoided.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-491
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number4
Early online date27 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2016

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