Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New article: Comics, linguistics, and visual language

I recently had a new paper published in an exciting book collection, Linguistics and the Study of Comics, edited by Frank Bramlett. The collection looks at various facets of comics under the lens of linguistics, ranging from the structural and cognitive to the socio-cultural.

My own chapter reviews the diverse previous research that looks at sequential images using linguistic methods. As I demonstrate, various approaches from linguistics have looked at comics, including structuralism, generative linguistics, cognitive linguistics, and others. These studies range from full theories of the structure of layout, meaning, and graphic signs, all the way to specific approaches to metaphor in comics. 

Throughout, I argue that the notion of "comics" is separate from the "visual language" that they are written in. I then outline how the structure of this visual language is analogous to spoken and signed languages, and I describe how it can be studied using the same questions that guide the study of those linguistic systems. 

In many ways, this chapter is a precursor to my book that will be published next Fall, and I recommend it for anyone seriously interested in the underlying theory behind sequential image structure.

Go check it out!

Cohn, Neil. 2012. Comics, linguistics, and visual language: The past and future of a field. In Bramlett, Frank (ed). Linguistics and the Study of Comics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Monday, May 21, 2012

More changes

As of yesterday I fully received my PhD (and the fancy hood!) from Tufts University. It was a long and great journey, but now it's on to the next venture. As I mentioned in my last post, I will be spending next year working on an introductory book on visual language theory that is due for Fall of 2013. I've been working hard on it lately and am very excited about it.

I will also be joining the Center for Research in Language at UC San Diego as a post-doctoral fellow starting in September. I'll be further investigating the neurocognition of sequential image processing (i.e., what happens in the brain when people are reading comics). I also plan to start learning techniques for measuring eye-movements, so we can begin to examine what people are looking at in comic panels (and how that relates to what goes on in the brain). I'm very excited for this opportunity and the potential for enlightening new collaborations and research.

In the meantime, hopefully I can start posting on the blog more often. Hopefully...

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning

Lo and behold, I now have a new book out! My mentor, Ray Jackendoff, has a new book, A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning, and it is chalk full of illustrations by me! (... along with some choice Zippy strips by Bill Griffiths)

He has been working on this book throughout my time as his student, and I think the result is truly excellent. If you're looking for a good book about language, meaning, thought, and their relations, this is a good, non-technical read. I can't recommend it enough, and not just because my name is on the cover page. Check it out!

From the publisher's description:
A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning presents a profound and arresting integration of the faculties of the mind - of how we think, speak, and see the world. Ray Jackendoff starts out by looking at languages and what the meanings of words and sentences actually do. He shows that meanings are more adaptive and complicated than they're commonly given credit for, and he is led to some basic questions: How do we perceive and act in the world? How do we talk about it? And how can the collection of neurons in the brain give rise to conscious experience? As it turns out, the organization of language, thought, and perception does not look much like the way we experience things, and only a small part of what the brain does is conscious. Jackendoff concludes that thought and meaning must be almost completely unconscious. What we experience as rational conscious thought - which we prize as setting us apart from the animals - in fact rides on a foundation of unconscious intuition. Rationality amounts to intuition enhanced by language. Written with an informality that belies both the originality of its insights and the radical nature of its conclusions, A User's Guide to Thought and Meaning is the author's most important book since the groundbreaking Foundations of Language in 2002.