Which branch of linguistics educates on and plunges into the contents of this helpful answer? I must read more about these concepts because Function Words especially in English cause many problems for me and derange me.

I am suspecting either Semantics, Pragmatics, or Discourse Analysis? I was thinking of reading some introductory textbooks in the correct branch.

Please suggest where I can find detailed explanations or relevant resources?

3 Answers 3


This is a bit more complicated than just the branch. Both semantics and pragmatics will deal with aspects of this issue but you also need to pick the right school and the right people to read. People who have done most work in this area are people working in cognitive linguistics and certain branches of functional linguistics.

The ultimate book that will deal with all of these topics in the way you mention is Towards Cognitive Semantics by Leonard Talmy.

It is quite a tome, though. Perhaps a gentler introduction to this kind of thinking about language is Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors we Live By even though it does not deal with all elements of what you're interested in, it outlines the agenda for that kind of thinking about language and meaning. (Read the 2003 edition - it has an important new chapter in it).

From the functional perspective, perhaps Talmy Givon's work on tense, aspect and modality is the most relevant. I think it is complementary to the cognitive work but it is a very different kind of approach.


Anthropological linguistics. Cultural anthropologists have long had a burning interest in the relationship between a people's worldview and other aspects of their culture. My former teacher, Cora Dubois, was the first to incorporate psychological testing into anthropological field work.

And of course there is the intriguing work of Benjamin Lee Whorf, who proposed that the Hopi conception of time was embedded in their language, and was akin to that of modern physics. (I'm sorry that I can't be more specific.)


Affirmation, Causality,

I hereby swear that I will ...tell the truth;
I launch this ship;
I take this man, I take this woman..

An early work of great clarity is How to do Things with Words, J L Austin

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