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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“Sphere” as a gendered space: Cognitive linguistic models of conceptual metaphor and embodiment in nineteenth-century women's rights discourse
by Smith, Carol Lynn Kay, Ph.D., Arizona State University, 2009, 231; 3392132
Abstract (Summary)

This study contributes an approach to understanding the cognitive models underlying rhetorical arguments about the "first wave" of women's rights discourse in the United States, which began to emerge more publically with the Seneca Falls convention in 1848 and started to gain momentum in 1851 and beyond. The usage of the lexical item "sphere" (in relation to noun phrases which appeared in primarily subject positions, and in some cases object positions) in nineteenth century woman's rights discourse was a part of the cognitive discourse which identified women and men as belonging to particular "spheres" or domains of gender, power, influence, and freedom.

Study results suggest that not only was this lexical item, "sphere," used metaphorically, but that schematic patterns common to cognitive linguistic analysis may be identified in the repeated patterns and usages of certain phrases such as woman's sphere, proper sphere, domestic sphere, true sphere, etc. Specifically, patterns related to assignment and definition, hierarchy, and containment were found in the data studied.

This study also provides additional supporting evidence for the application of cognitive modeling to discourse analysis. The evidence of schematic mappings which contributed to the construction and reconstruction of basic level and more complex cognitive models, as well as evidence of embodiment as a contributing factor in developing these ideological constructs, suggests that a Lakoffian approach to discourse analysis is both robust enough to provide relevant results, but also flexible enough to take a variety of basic and increasingly complex patterns into account.

Finally, the results of this 1848-1851 data sample suggest that further research across a wider time frame might yield even more information about inferential associations between the cognitive models apparent in the discourse and the rhetorical arguments used to advocate or refute the expansion of woman's rights and roles in both public and private "spheres." Further analysis of the correlations between the cognitive models of the past and corresponding models of the present may shed further light on the role of language in shaping and reinforcing hegemonic constraints which continue to inform and dictate the roles of men and women in society today.

Indexing (document details)
School: Arizona State University
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 71/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Womens studies
Keywords: Cognitive linguistic, Conceptual metaphor, Container metaphor, Discourse analysis, Embodiment, Nineteenth century, Prototype theory, Schema, Woman's sphere, Women's rights discourse
Publication Number: 3392132
ISBN: 978-1-109-57570-5
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