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Illocution and cognition: the case of apologies

Universidad de La Rioja
Publication Date
  • Economics


This paper analyzes the speech act of apologizing from the point of view of the conceptual tools provided by Cognitive Linguistics. Speech acts have not received a lot of attention in this approach to language. Notable exceptions are Panther & Thornburg (1998), Pérez (1997, 2001), Sweetser (2000), and Pérez & Ruiz de Mendoza (2002). While Sweetser¿s study focuses on the performative value of metaphor, the studies carried out by Panther & Thornburg, on the one hand, and Pérez & Ruiz de Mendoza, on the other, share a commitment with reinterpreting traditional speech act theory in terms of cognitive modeling. Thus, Panther & Thornburg (1998) claim that illocutionary force is a form of inferential activity grounded in metonymy. Pérez & Ruiz de Mendoza (2002), in turn, have developed a more sophisticated theory according to which the illocutionary value of an utterance is a function of a number of cognitive models which interact in different but predictable ways. Pérez & Ruiz de Mendoza have thus analyzed the interpretation of directive speech acts as a combination of metaphorical and metonymic operations performed on propositional cognitive models of interpersonal nature, in connection to pre-conceptual sensorimotor and spatial representations, such as the FORCE image-schema. Here we extend Pérez & Ruiz de Mendoza¿s account to the domain of expressive speech acts with an especial focus on apologies. We show that expressive speech acts are also sensitive to an analysis based on interpersonal cognitive models and image-schematic representations. In order to do so, we outline the essentials of an illocutionary scenario for apologies and explore the way it is exploited by means of other cognitive operations, especially metonymy. We additionally show that Pérez & Ruiz de Mendoza¿s cost-benefit idealized cognitive model, which these authors have postulated for directive and commissive speech acts, also lies at the base of our understanding of expressive categories.

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