Cognitive Linguistics, a branch of study that most interests me, approaches language as a facet of general cognition, rather than as a separate linguistic module within the brain. From general cognitive capacities arise the human potential to talk. Our general cognitive ability of foregrounding/backgrounding (a white dot on a black surface, a train whistle on a rainy day) gives rise to our linguistic ability of figure/ground in creating words, such as ‘handle‘, processing the handle on a mug as a linguistic figure conceived against the linguistic ground of the mug as a whole and, in English, assigning the word handle to it. A linguistic figure/ground configuration can be seen working at all levels of language, word, phrase, clause, sentence, and discourse.

     The imagery that is required to process handle  in this way works from the same conceptual capacities that (re)casts the head on a beer as a metaphorical extension of the head  on an animal or person, meaning the very top portion attracting most attention. Images such as this arise from embodied cognition and theories of language that integrate cognition with our ability to talk, read, or write are simply superior to ones that study language as distinct modules in the brain, a phonology module, a semantics module, a syntax module, each with their own distinct theoretical notions.

 

Here are some interesting links:

What is Cognitive Linguistics (a helpful book for purchase providing more details)

Glossary of Cognitive Linguistics (another helpful book for purchase defining terminology)

Other (an extensive list of resources for cognitive linguistics)