Technology, Language and Thought : Extensions of Meaning in the English Lexicon

Abstract: In this thesis, the relationship between technological innovation and the development of language and thought is analysed. For this purpose, three different fields of technology are investigated: 1) the steam engine, 2) electricity, and 3) motor vehicles, roads and ways. They have all either played an extremely important part in people’s lives, or they are still essential to us. The overall aim is to find out in what ways these inventions and discoveries have helped people to develop abstract thinking and given speakers of English new possibilities to express themselves. Questions being asked are a) if the correlations in experience between the inventions and other domains have motivated new conceptual mappings? b) if the experiences that they provide people with may be used to re-experience certain conceptual mappings, and hence make them more deeply entrenched in people’s minds? and c) if the uses of them as cognitive tools have resulted in meaning extension in the English lexicon? The study is based on metaphoric and metonymic phrases collected from a number of different dictionaries. In the material a large number of metaphorical and metonymic expressions including terms connected to the inventions and discoveries that are part of this thesis are found. As is clear from the expressions, the steam engine, electricity, motor vehicles, roads and ways have all provided us with ample tools for structuring our thoughts, and for conveying our thoughts to others. Primarily, it seems to be the different functions of the discoveries and inventions, or the effects that they have on other objects that have motivated the mappings. In addition to analysing the cognitive role of the inventions that are part of this thesis, some general conclusions concerning the relationship between language, thought and world are suggested.