Cognitive dimensions of stylistic novelty in Australian literary expression

Waldemar Skrzypczak (Toruń)

In most general terms cognitive stylistics deals with how linguistic choices produce desired literary effects. Cognitive Stylistics emerges from the ground that is shared by Cognitive Linguistics (semantics and grammar), Text Linguistics, Discourse Analysis and Literary Studies. Since Cognitive Semantics and Cognitive Grammar offer a set of well-established tools which are bound to facilitate a clear-cut description of the relationship between meaning and grammar (or: content and form) in both literary and non-literary modes of expression, they seem legitimate for providing explanation how universal cognitive mechanisms can account for the uniqueness of personal and cultural experience.

Australian experience bears the quality of utmost uniqueness, especially when viewed from an externalist perspective. Users of English in Australia have been immersed in a highly unique natural and social environment for more than 200 years, which has led to the emergence of what now is known under the label of the 'Australian character' (regardless of how dynamic and elusive this stereotype may appear today in the age of multiculturalism and globalisation). In the domain of language the uniqueness of Australian experience is broadly reflected on such levels as pronunciation, rhythm and intonation patterns, vocabulary, morpho-syntactic encoding and sociolinguistic/pragmatic modes of interaction.

Uniqueness of experience of any kind, be it Australian or Martian, calls for the quality of novelty of imaginative expression, literary expression being its most specific and refined form. The article aims to present a range of universal cognitive mechanisms that are suitable candidates for dealing with such novelty, and thus providing access to the uniqueness of cognitive processes and dimensions of imagery, which require specific linguistic choices on the level of vocabulary and morpho-syntax in order to produce desired literary effects. Cognitive mechanisms which underpin the interface between language and conceptualisation are: focal adjustments and construal operations, categorisation by schema and prototype, frames, scripts, scenarios along with metaphoric and metonymic cognitive models, and novel selective projections in blended mental spaces. Even though the mechanisms in question bear a universal-human characteristics, the status of their descriptive and explanatory applicability needs to be acknowledged as fully legitimate for handling unique experiential and interactional contexts. This state of affairs is possible due to both - the embodied and the imaginative nature of human cognition.