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By Mutsumi Yamamoto

The idea that of 'animacy' matters the basic and cognitive query of the level to which we realize and show residing issues as saliently human-like or animal-like. In Animacy and Reference Mutsumi Yamamoto pursues major pursuits: First, to set up a conceptual framework of animacy, and secondly, to give an explanation for how the concept that of animacy will be mirrored within the use of referential expressions. Unlike Read more...

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Additional info for Animacy and reference : a cognitive approach to corpus linguistics

Sample text

Computers sometimes look as if they are thinking — this point sometimes leads us to cherish the illusion that they are sentient, although we know that it is not really the case. We can easily imagine somebody cursing his computer when it ‘misbehaved’ because of mechanical faults or ‘bugs’ it developed, saying: (7) I’ll hit you, George, if you do that again! People sometimes name computers and may refer to/address them by means of a second person personal pronoun; these points will turn out to be significant in terms of the interacting parameters, the Hierarchy of Persons and the Individuation Scale, which will be discussed in the following section.

Piaget called this type of phenomenon ‘animistic’ thinking and defined animism as “the tendency to regard objects as living and endowed with will” (1929/1969: 170). However, Tunmer (1985: 990) finds that Piaget’s definition of animism is insufficient, arguing that a consequence of this definition is that the life concept and concepts related to the life concept (such as intentionality) are interdependent; an alternative view which Tunmer proposes is that childhood animism comprises two aspects: animism per se (attributing life to inanimate objects) and ‘inferred’ animism (endowing inanimate objects with sentiency).

As has been argued in the Introduction, there is a significant difference between addressing or referring to a human being by their name and by their role, which is encoded by means of a common noun phrase; consider the following example, where somebody telephones a university office: WHAT IS ‘ANIMACY’? (20) a. b. 29 Can I speak to John, please? Can I speak to the Junior Bursar, please? The most notable difference between the above clauses is that the referent, John, who is working at a certain university as the Junior Bursar, is treated as more individual in (20a) than in (20b), in which it can be interpreted that this person is regarded as an institutionalised (and rather dehumanised/deanimalised) representative of a particular social role or function, the Junior Bursar.

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