“Language Laws Are Physical Laws.” Comments on Marek Kuźniak’s Foreign Words and Phrases in English
In his Foreign Words and Phrases in English Marek Kuźniak advances a meta-discursive
metaphor, L a n g u a g e L a w s a r e P h y s i c a l L a w s . His method goes beyond Leonard Talmy’s Force Dynamics project by positing analogy where isomorphism is not to be found. This decision is justified because strict identity, as postulated by analytic philosophers, is impossible according to the cognitive paradigm. Analogies may be problematic but they have explanatory power, as evidenced in Zeno’s paradox, which could ultimately be solved with the development of mathematics. The analogy underlying the central metaphor of Kuźniak’s project is founded on correspondence in a mathematical-logical sense (forces and mass in physics and CRACn value in corpus studies). Both “mass” and “CRACn” value ultimately refer to semantics, and their symbolic renderings under mathematical formulas are ontologically equivalent. There is no fixed substrate for “meaning” nor for “matter” in both respective domains that would not be cognitively motivated. Elaboration of the basic metaphoric mapping shows that the temporal transience which rendered Zeno’s paradox insoluble is also at work in conceptualisation across two domains. Elements corresponding to different time frames (“occurrence,” “individual,” “planet,” “language”) appear together. Such discrepancies may be accounted for under modern physical theories and model-dependent realism with no loss to argument cogency. Different ontological levels are acceptable for a meta-discursive mapping. Kuźniak ultimately uses his metaphor to speculate about language change. His argumentation is valid but the ontology of language change that he proposes might be simplified: it may be derived from the perceptual moment cognitive basis.