Vyv Evans

The recent emergence of simulation-based accounts of language understanding (e.g. Barsalou et al. 2008; Zwaan 2004) has provided a promising perspective on the relationship between language and conceptual structure in facilitating linguistically-mediated meaning construction. However, these accounts have tended to largely equate semantic structure—semantic representation associated with language—with conceptual structure.  This potentially confuses the respective roles of the linguistic and conceptual systems in meaning construction. In this talk I argue for a principled distinction between semantic structure and conceptual structure.  The main point of the paper, based on linguistic evidence, is to delineate the nature and key characteristics of language-specific semantic structure, and non-linguistic knowledge representation.  I argue that semantic structure is highly schematic in nature, a requirement for being directly encoded in language.  Semantic structure contrasts with conceptual structure in that the latter relates to rich aspects of perceptual and subjective experience.  The importance of this finding is that the function of semantic structure is to provide a level of schematic structure which provides the necessary ‘scaffolding’ for conceptual representations, thereby facilitating linguistically-mediated meaning.


My research relates to Cognitive Linguistics, an approach to language and mind which places central importance on meaning, the role of cognition and the embodiment of experience. I specialise in cognitive semantics, particularly knowledge representation, lexical structure, the relationship between lexical structure and knowledge representation, and figurative language and abstract thought. My research has focused on investigating spatial and temporal language and cognition, and the nature of the linguistic and conceptual resources that we as humans marshal in service of meaning construction.

Background reading