The Structural Content of the Concept as a Central Category of Cognitive Linguistics

Research article
Issue: № 1 (49), 2024


This article is devoted to the analysis of the structural content of the concept, the main linguistic approaches to its study. The concept is closely related to the sphere of human activity and its life outlook. In this regard, the concept is formed under the influence of the cultural and social process in human society, which leads to the formation of polysemantic layers around the basic layer of the concept. Along with various graphical representations of the concept proposed by modern linguists, we propose to consider the concept structure in the form of a tree slice. It also arouses interest to study the concept structure from the point of view of the frame organization of the semantic field of a certain notion.

1. Introduction

In modern linguistics, the use of language is considered as a participant in the cognitive activity of a person and thanks to which there is a constant production and understanding of meanings in the speech activity of the subject. It explains the essence of the concept – a way of storing and organizing information in a person's memory. "A concept is a fact of a way of life, social consciousness, theory expressed in a linguistic form. The concept is born on the basis of the word in its full content, including connotation and specifically sensual associations... The content of the concept consists of the content of many words, contexts and texts in which a general understanding of a certain fact of consciousness is postponed..."


Regardless of the complexity, each concept has its own structure. The concept has a dynamic character of verbalization in the thinking process, it is constantly functioning, actualized in its various parts and aspects, in various fields of activity, interacting and contrasting with other concepts. Therefore, it is impossible to talk about the presence of a clear structure of the concept, because it is constantly changing, due to possible transformations and changes in the concept.

2. Research methods and principles

The concept has a complex structure. The structure of the concept includes everything that makes it a fact of culture – the original form (etymology); history, associations, evaluations, symbolism, etc., compressed to the main features of the content. In order to assimilate the meaning (concept), it is necessary to "build some structure consisting of concepts as interpreters or analyzers of the concept under consideration from the point of view of some observer"


The structure of the concept is formed in a person's thinking from the following components: direct sensory experience – perception by the senses, objective activity, mental operations with concepts already existed in his consciousness; from linguistic communication (the concept can be communicated, explained to a person in a linguistic form), through conscious cognition of linguistic units


Linguists offer different graphical representation of the concept structure: in the form of a cloud – by Z.D. Popov and I.A. Sternin, in the form of a snowball – by N.N. Boldyrev, in the form of a fetus – by I.A. Sternin. We want to offer another metaphor – the metaphor of a tree, or more precisely, its slice. For example, if we figuratively imagine the core of a tree, that is a kind of created sensory image, which is a certain code for the mental functioning of the concept, as the concept of "space", then the tree slices are the components surrounding this concept, namely urban space, interpersonal space, planetary space, etc. Each slice is interconnected with each other and directly with the core that is a base layer of the concept. The layers of the concept make up the interpretative field or periphery, which includes various definitions, currents, associates, phraseological units, from which obvious signs can be detected, therefore they (layers) are called cognitive, "because they reflect a certain result of cognition of the external world, i.e. the result of cognition… The totality of the base layer and additional cognitive features and cognitive layers make up the scope of the concept and determine its structure"


3. Main results

Being a product of cultural life of different epochs, a concept from historically different layers, different in time of formation, and in origin, and in semantics. Yu.S. Stepanov presents the concept as a three-layer formation: the main (actual) layer; additional (passive, historical) layer; internal form (usually not realized)


In the actual layer, the concept, being included in the structure of spiritual culture and mental activity of an individual, is a means of mutual understanding and communication in a certain language environment.

In the passive or historical layer, the content of the concept is relevant only when communicating in some social groups. For example, an ethnologist explores the deep layer that exists in the current state of culture in an unconscious, latent form. The historian studies the "historical" layer of the concept, resorting to historical research methods.

In the process of constructing the structure of the concept, V.I. Karasik characterizes it as a three–component formation consisting of figurative, conceptual and value elements: "The figurative side of the concept is visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, perceived by the sense of smell characteristics of objects, phenomena, events. The conceptual side is the linguistic fixation of the concept, its designation, description, characteristic structure, comparative characteristics of this concept in relation to a particular set of concepts that never exist in isolation. The value side of the concept is crucial so that the concept can be distinguished. The totality of concepts considered in the aspect of values forms a value picture of the world. In this complex mental formation, the most essential meanings for this culture are distinguished, the value dominants, the totality of which forms a certain kind of culture"


I.A. Tarasova, studying the categories of cognitive linguistics in the study of idiostyle, notes that in various types of concepts are found: subject, conceptual, associative, figurative, symbolic, value-evaluative components


According to I.A. Tarasova, the forms of representation of these layers can be different. Subject and conceptual layers are represented through frame structures, understood after V.V. Krasnykh, as "carriers of typical, logically ordered information"

. The figurative layer is described by means of metaphors, the associative and symbolic layers of the concept require a field model for their disclosure. "The associative field with which it is associated is extremely important for the concept, therefore the identification of associative complexes is the main task of describing the concept"

4. Discussion

The structure of the concept can be represented as a frame. According to M. Minsky, a person perceives the reality in terms of early acquired structures-frames. "A frame is a data structure for representing visual stereotypical situations, especially when organizing large amounts of memory"

. The frame is organized around a certain core and contains information about lexical, encyclopedic, extralinguistic knowledge associated with this core.

The concept and the frame, as noted by I.A. Tarasova, are the central categories of cognitive linguistics. Using the concept of a frame, Ch. Fillmore defines it as a cognitive structure, "the knowledge of which is supposed to be associated with a concept represented by a particular word"

. Ch. Fillmore sees the fundamental difference between a frame and a semantic field in the fact that "field theory differs from frame semantics in its commitment to the study of groups of lexemes for their own sake and the interpretation of lexico-semantic fields as proper linguistic phenomena… The differences are determined by where the search for structure is concentrated – in the language system or outside it"

5. Conclusion

Thus, analyzing the structure of the concept "it is necessary to take into account the specifics and peculiarities of its use in human life, in which not only the sensory-mental awareness of the concept by the individual is interested, but also the formation of this phenomenon under the influence of cultural and social processes in society"

, the basis for the study of the concept structure as a central category of cognitive linguistics is laid in its semantic multilayering with a graphical representation in the form of a core surrounded by conceptual, figurative, associative, symbolic, evaluation layers and in the form of frames.

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