What can cognitive linguistics do for the EAP community?

Sally Zacharias


Understanding and applying subject-specific abstract concepts is a major challenge for many of our learners. This paper introduces to the reader some of the key tenets of Cognitive Linguistics, an established theoretical approach to language that is used to explain and explore how language use and conceptual thinking are interconnected. More specifically, I argue that to support our learners in developing a critical disposition towards a text, EAP practitioners and their students would benefit from understanding how language use shapes our conceptual thinking. By exploring some examples of authentic academic discourse, both spoken and written, this paper guides the reader in applying some basic Cognitive Linguistics principles to these texts. In particular, I show how metaphorical reasoning abounds in academic discourse and how understanding the origin, structure and effect of the metaphorical language on the recipient, a fuller understanding of the relationship between conceptual thought and language and critical thinking can be achieved.