Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 October 2013
This chapter continues the exploration of the symbolic function of language by considering an important text that marks the transition from the premodern to the modern period. It then moves to explore the cognitive role that Arabic plays in connecting thought with reality. This chapter examines two modes of performing this task: the behaviour-centred and the structure-centred approaches, with emphasis on the former, owing to its dominance in attempts to study Arabic from a cognitive perspective. The data for this analysis are a set of texts in Arabic and English, which, in spite of their differences, exhibit similarities in terms of method, as reflected in the use of cross-cultural comparisons and literal translation. The loose nature of the behaviour-centred approach brings many of the findings based on it close to ideological advocacy. This proximity invites language symbolism into the cognitive domain through the back door, in a way that blurs the difference between them. As a result, the overall effect is not one of looking at Arabic through a cognitive prism, but through an ideological gaze that uses the power of language as a proxy to construct a largely negative view of Arab culture. Both Arab and non-Arab authors participate in this mode of doing politics through language as a cultural product.
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