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Maciej Litwin

Doctor Maciej Litwin has a PhD in linguistics. Since 2015 he has worked as an assistant professor at the Institute of English Studies, University of Wrocław. He is currently working on the problem of economy in translation theory, which he investigates as the transition from pre-modern to modern theory, based on Polish, English and German sources (fifteenth to twentieth century).

Is There a “Beyond Identity” in “Identity”? Cognitive Linguistics Commentary.

Identity is a concept, and as such it may be studied using tools provided by cognitive linguistics. The category distinction between a “thing” and a “process” (Langacker 2008) reflects the time matrix behind all human conceptualisation. Building on the cognitive model of the present (Evans 2004) an analysis may be conducted (Litwin 2015) to view “identity” as a figure of the psychological present of a human conceptualiser or as a figure in the psychological present of a human conceptualiser. An interesting feature of this distinction is that it profiles basic options
of human conceptualization vis-à-vis human time, consequently postponing the philosophical question of whether “identity” should be seen as an ontological or epistemological category. Rather, focus may be now shifted to how “identity” becomes a vehicle to conceptualize complex phenomena of the present in the present. Human conceptualization is based on the ability to think in counterfactuals (Fauconnier and Turner 2002), whereby visual and other content available to human brain in a given moment defies the constraints of time and space through blends that routinely produce conceptualizations contrary to the actual (e.g. conceptualization of an actual “dirty spoon” comes with a counterfactual clean spoon and is imaginative like Platonic solids). A conceptualization of “identity” may be construed as contingent or necessary, constructivist or essentially real, but both conceptualizations depend on counterfactual thought. On the cognitivist
view, nominalist constructivism and essential realism are features of human conceptualization rather than schools of thought (Litwin 2015). Realism depends on counterfactually motivated parabolic projection. In its turn, constructivism may be seen as dependent on the capacity to differentiate praxis against counterfactual conceptualisation. Rather than two opposing views, constructivism and essential realism may be seen as two aspects of the same concept of identity whose dual fixed-fluid substrate is inalienable (Kuźniak 2009). Evans, V. (2004) The structure of time. Language, meaning and temporal cognition. London: John Benjamins. Fauconnier, G. and M. Turner (2002) The way we think. Conceptual blending and mind’s hidden complexities. New York: Basic Books. Kuźniak, M. (2009). Foreign words and phrases in English. Metaphoric astrophysical concepts in lexicological study. Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego. Langacker, R. (2008) Cognitive grammar. A basic introduction. Litwin, M. (2015) Time, being and becoming: Cognitive models of innovation and creation in English. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.