Imagination gives us the ability to invent new concepts so we can develop arts, science, religion, culture, sophisticated tools, and language. In this course, we focus on how human mind operates largely behind the scenes to create new meaning. Almost invisibly to consciousness, we create meaning every day. As opposed to the general view that meaning is given or prepackaged in linguistic expressions, meaning construction should be understood as something that we actively participate in as a product of interaction with others in specific contexts. We perform it with lightning speed. More often than not, we do not find it difficult at all to produce and understand language we have not heard of before when we communicate with others.
In order to understand how we construct meaning, it is necessary to get a grasp of how we organise knowledge about the world in terms of different culture models and frames, how we understand abstract concepts in terms of more concrete ones, and how we integrate information from various domains to understand a scenario, real or fictional.
The construction of meaning is also crucial to the understanding of our own culture. Cultural models are not only ideas that reside in our minds. They are often embodied in a wide array of material artefacts. In this course, a number of examples of thinking strategies will be shown that involve the interaction of mental structure and material structure. A case in point is a wristwatch. The important point of analysing the watch is to consider the powerful cognitive work in our cultural model of time for a single day. Another fascinating example is a game of trashcan basketball. Underlying this innovative cultural practice is a complex network of cognitive models that resembles the process of meaning construction in language.
- Prototypes, linguistic relativity, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis: How do we acquire our categories? What is the experimental evidence for this categorisation?
- Frames as cultural constructs: What is a frame? What are frames good for in the understanding of our own culture?
- Metonymy and conceptual metaphors: What is metonymy? What is a conceptual metaphor? How do they relate to our cognition and culture?
- Conceptual blending and different types of integration networks: What is blending or conceptual integration?
- Blends in material culture and cultural practice: How do we make sense of mundane activities that we perform in our culture?
- Describe and explain the hidden complexities of how our mind involves in meaning construction
- Critically examine the mental process of creativity and reflect on the central role of this process in the way we think and the way we live.
- Apply knowledge of imaginative operations to understand new words and cultural concepts
- Demonstrate an awareness of the intricate relationship between meaning in mind, language and culture
The course has three timetabled hours per week. The first two hours will involve a mixture of formal lecturing and discussion. The third timetabled hour will be used for tutorials.
Assessment is by 100% coursework, consisting of:
- Attendance and participation (10%)
- Quizzes (30%)
- Presentation (20%)
- Term essay (40%)
A list of required and recommended readings will be provided.