Vera Tobin

Elements of Surprise / Publications / Teaching / CV

“Grammatical and Rhetorical Consequences of Entrenchment in Conceptual Blending.” In Meaning, Form, and Body. Eds. Fey Parrill, Vera Tobin, and Mark Turner. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

It is a commonplace of blending theory (e.g. Fauconnier and Turner 2002: 260) that “no one is deluded” by the conceptual integrations involved in many creative blends. This paper examines a number of cases in which it seems that people are, in fact, “deluded”–that is, cases where a given blending structure is sufficiently highly entrenched that it becomes routine, automatic, and relatively opaque to self-reflection. Specifically, I present a cluster of phenomena in which variability across a group is compressed (Fauconnier and Turner 2002) into, or conceptualized as, change in an individual.

The starting point of this paper is a new observation about English grammatical constructions for expressing change in an entity over time. Constructions that are canonically limited to expressing change in an individual turn out to show more flexible patterns of use with certain content domains. These exceptions seem to reflect a high degree of entrenchment, not of the expression, but of an underlying conceptual mapping. Analysis of these examples suggests that the semantics of certain constructions can be usefully analyzed in terms of whether they do or do not prompt for decompression of an expressed relation. This account is further supported by their use rhetorically to influence conceptualization. The resulting analysis points to new ways that grammatical data can provide evidence for blending structures, and new ways that blending theory can explain grammatical phenomena.