This chapter dealswith the discourse of cognitive linguistics in order to understand if certaininsights of this field are applicable in exploring the cognitive principlesinvolved in film production and comprehension. There is huge significance ofcognitive linguistics in the study of cinema and the cognitive linguists havetaken the research to the next level. Several cognitive principles which havebeen developed by the linguists can be applied to the study of movies. Thechapter discusses this in a certain line of argument to establish how theseprocesses come into play while the audience watches films on the screen.
Cognitive linguistics subsumes films in its general theory of signification andthis can be very well validated. The cognitive principles of specificity,focusing, perspective and prominence are the ones which are also functional inthe case of cognition of films. The meaning construction of language and filmsby the human mind are also similar to each other. All these things have beendiscussed in details in this chapter with examples and elucidation. Morespecifically, the chapter tries to explore those cognitive principles whichplay significant role in organizing the content of a frame or a shot.
3.2 Significance of cognitive linguistics in studying film as a form ofcommunicationDuring the 1980s,the discourse of film studies adopted the ‘new’ methodologies from socialsciences and cultural studies and these went on to displace the speculativeideas of film theory. Film studies no longer constructed hypotheses and modelsabout the general structure and the viewer’s experience of the movie. Quite a number offilm scholars across Europe and North America have, however, persisted with theconceptual problems of film theory and have endeavored to tackle these problemsfrom the perspective of cognitive science. There has been quite some researchin this field of study though it is fragmented and incomplete.Francesco Casetti,Roger Odin, Michel Colin, and Dominique Chateau are theorists who workedincessantly on the cognitive tradition in Europe.
There is difference betweenthe 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 modernfilm theory which is based on structural linguistics, semiotics, Marxism, andpsychoanalysis. On the other hand, the European cognitivists start a revolutionin the contemporary film theory by returning to and changing the very earlystage which is the semiotic stage.Thus, it isevident that both of these groups reject psychoanalysis and actually go on toreplace it with cognitive science. The European cognitivists assimilatecognitive science into a semiotic framework, while the North American onesstick to a pure cognitive framework which remains untainted by semiotics.Although it isvery risky to treat the work of a group of individuals as a representation ofhomogeneity, the North American cognitivists go on to unify the agenda of theindividual authors.
On the other hand, the European cognitivists are unified intheir stand which critically responds Christian Metz’s film semiotics. Theyrespond in a way which transforms Metz’s semiotics by means of the theories ofcognitive science, pragmatics and transformational generative grammar.These Europeancognitivists endeavor to overcome the ‘translinguistics’ of Metz’s filmsemiotics. This means that they try to overcome his insistence that thesemiotics of film is based solely on the methods of structural linguistics. Thecognitivists combine semiotics with cognitive science and pragmatics. Therigidity of language and the limiting capacity is overemphasized by structurallinguists. Also, a semiotics which is based solely on structural linguisticsconceptualizes all other semiotic systems in a similarly rigid manner and thuslimits and conditions the very meaning of the human experience. This is done atthe expense of the language user’s reflective and creative capacities tomanipulate signs.
The Europeancognitivists combine semiotics with cognitive science and thus restore thebalance and begin to conceptualize natural language and other semiotic systemsas both enabling and limiting. Thus, there is dual emphasis on semiotics andcognitive science in their theoretical work.What needs to berecognized is the common theoretical assumption of the cognitive filmsemioticians and their relation to the broader traditions of twentieth centuryintellectual thought.
Cognitive film semiotics is the maturation and next stageof semiotic film theory which can lead to new understanding of the phenomenonof film and cognition. Although the revolution has been inaugurated, thisremains virtually not known to the domain of Anglo-American film studies. Thisthing is very unfortunate as this theory goes on to develop a betterunderstanding of film and the process of comprehension uniting semiotics andcognitive science which neither can fetch on its own individually. It is anomnipotent requirement in the discourse of film theory that the ground for notagreeing with one another among the various schools of thought have to beestablished and the misunderstanding has to be zeroed in. One needs tounderstand that the students of the discourse need to respect the views of thescholar 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 progressesis 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 erroras progress and that is one potential consequence, it is to be hoped, ofdialectical criticism. Of course, an even more salutary consequence might bethat in criticizing one theoretical solution to a problem, one may also seeone’s way to a better solution” (Carroll, 1996).Carroll’s mostrecent position is to start a dialogue with the previous theories of filmcomprehension. One needs to be critical when it comes to reviewing cognitivismand this involves the clarification of misunderstandings which would make oneget rid of all the past disagreements and tread on the path of advancement bythe dialectics of new disagreements which might arise.