This chapter deals
with the discourse of cognitive linguistics in order to understand if certain
insights of this field are applicable in exploring the cognitive principles
involved in film production and comprehension. There is huge significance of
cognitive linguistics in the study of cinema and the cognitive linguists have
taken the research to the next level. Several cognitive principles which have
been developed by the linguists can be applied to the study of movies. The
chapter discusses this in a certain line of argument to establish how these
processes come into play while the audience watches films on the screen.
Cognitive linguistics subsumes films in its general theory of signification and
this can be very well validated. The cognitive principles of specificity,
focusing, perspective and prominence are the ones which are also functional in
the case of cognition of films. The meaning construction of language and films
by the human mind are also similar to each other. All these things have been
discussed in details in this chapter with examples and elucidation. More
specifically, the chapter tries to explore those cognitive principles which
play significant role in organizing the content of a frame or a shot.
3.2 Significance of cognitive linguistics in studying film as a form of
During the 1980s,
the discourse of film studies adopted the ‘new’ methodologies from social
sciences and cultural studies and these went on to displace the speculative
ideas of film theory. Film studies no longer constructed hypotheses and models
about the general structure and the viewer’s experience of the movie.
Quite a number of
film scholars across Europe and North America have, however, persisted with the
conceptual problems of film theory and have endeavored to tackle these problems
from the perspective of cognitive science. There has been quite some research
in this field of study though it is fragmented and incomplete.
Roger Odin, Michel Colin, and Dominique Chateau are theorists who worked
incessantly on the cognitive tradition in Europe. There is difference between
the two groups of researchers and this is marked in the contrast of their work.
The North American cognitivists go on to reject the basic doctrines of modern
film theory which is based on structural linguistics, semiotics, Marxism, and
psychoanalysis. On the other hand, the European cognitivists start a revolution
in the contemporary film theory by returning to and changing the very early
stage which is the semiotic stage.
Thus, it is
evident that both of these groups reject psychoanalysis and actually go on to
replace it with cognitive science. The European cognitivists assimilate
cognitive science into a semiotic framework, while the North American ones
stick to a pure cognitive framework which remains untainted by semiotics.
Although it is
very risky to treat the work of a group of individuals as a representation of
homogeneity, the North American cognitivists go on to unify the agenda of the
individual authors. On the other hand, the European cognitivists are unified in
their stand which critically responds Christian Metz’s film semiotics. They
respond in a way which transforms Metz’s semiotics by means of the theories of
cognitive science, pragmatics and transformational generative grammar.
cognitivists endeavor to overcome the ‘translinguistics’ of Metz’s film
semiotics. This means that they try to overcome his insistence that the
semiotics of film is based solely on the methods of structural linguistics. The
cognitivists combine semiotics with cognitive science and pragmatics. The
rigidity of language and the limiting capacity is overemphasized by structural
linguists. Also, a semiotics which is based solely on structural linguistics
conceptualizes all other semiotic systems in a similarly rigid manner and thus
limits and conditions the very meaning of the human experience. This is done at
the expense of the language user’s reflective and creative capacities to
cognitivists combine semiotics with cognitive science and thus restore the
balance and begin to conceptualize natural language and other semiotic systems
as both enabling and limiting. Thus, there is dual emphasis on semiotics and
cognitive science in their theoretical work.
What needs to be
recognized is the common theoretical assumption of the cognitive film
semioticians and their relation to the broader traditions of twentieth century
intellectual thought. Cognitive film semiotics is the maturation and next stage
of semiotic film theory which can lead to new understanding of the phenomenon
of film and cognition. Although the revolution has been inaugurated, this
remains virtually not known to the domain of Anglo-American film studies. This
thing is very unfortunate as this theory goes on to develop a better
understanding of film and the process of comprehension uniting semiotics and
cognitive science which neither can fetch on its own individually. It is an
omnipotent requirement in the discourse of film theory that the ground for not
agreeing with one another among the various schools of thought have to be
established and the misunderstanding has to be zeroed in.
One needs to
understand that the students of the discourse need to respect the views of the
scholar and keep on the arguments to reach new perspectives in the field.
Carroll (1996) goes on to argue that ”film theorizing should be dialectical,”
and adds “By that I mean that a major way in which film theorizing progresses
is by criticizing already existing theory. Some may say that my use of the term
‘progresses’ here is itself suspect. However, I count the elimination of error
as progress and that is one potential consequence, it is to be hoped, of
dialectical criticism. Of course, an even more salutary consequence might be
that in criticizing one theoretical solution to a problem, one may also see
one’s way to a better solution” (Carroll, 1996).
recent position is to start a dialogue with the previous theories of film
comprehension. One needs to be critical when it comes to reviewing cognitivism
and this involves the clarification of misunderstandings which would make one
get rid of all the past disagreements and tread on the path of advancement by
the dialectics of new disagreements which might arise.