Realistic versus cognitive semantics

P. Gärdenfors. Conceptual Spaces, chapter Six Tenets of Cognitive Semantics. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2000.

On of the core concepts of cognitive semantics is that meaning of expression is mental in the first place. The author describes the six tenets that he consider foundamental for supporting this statement.
1. Meaning is a conceptualization in a cognitive model (not truth conditions in possible words): a semantic for a language is seen as a mapping from the expressions of the language to some mental entities. Truth concerns the relation the mental structure and the world.
2. Cognitive models are mainly perceptually determined (meaning is not independent of perceptions): we can translate between the visual form of the representation and the linguistic code. A central hypothesis of cognitive semantics is that the way we store perceptions in our memories has the same form as the meanings of words.
–> Because of this bound between what we see and what we say what is the cognitive process of putting meanings to places? This can be one of the angle of the thesis.
3. Semantic elements are based on spatial or topological objects: the mental structures applied in cognitive semantics are the meanings of the linguistic expressions. The framework the author proposes is called “conceptual space”, which consists of a number of quality dimensions. Examples of quality dimensions are: color, pitch, …
4. Cognitive models are primarily image–schematic: image–schemas have an inherent spatial structure.
5. Semantics is primary to syntax a partly determines it. (example: tenses)
6. Concepts show prototype effects: a concept is often represented in the form of an image schema and such schemas can show variations just like concepts normally do.

The procedure the author suggest to build a semantics, which is the relation between the language and a cognitive structure, is building a conceptual space: a) specifying the mapping between the lexicon of the language and the appropriate conceptual space; b) describing the operations on the image schemas (which are defined with the aid of the conceptual space. that correspond to different syntactic formation rules. A function which maps the individuals onto a conceptual space will be called a location function.

The author argue against Putnam arguments about the social meaning of semantics saying that there is a social structure of language: social meanings of the expressions of a language are indeed determined from their individual meanings together with the linguistic power that exists in the community.