Religion, Language, and the Human Mind

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Paul Chilton, Monka Kopytowska
  • Oxford, England: 
    Oxford University Press
    , May
     536 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Jamin A. Hübner forthcoming.


What is religion? How does it work? Many natural abilities of the human mind are involved, and crucial among them is the ability to use language. This volume brings together research from linguistics, cognitive science and neuroscience, as well as from religious studies, to understand the phenomena of religion as a distinctly human enterprise.

The book is divided into three parts, each part preceded by a full introductory chapter by the editors that discusses modern scientific approaches to religion and the application of modern linguistics, particularly cognitive linguistics and pragmatics. Part I surveys the development of modern studies of religious language and the diverse disciplinary strands that have emerged. Beginning with descriptive approaches to religious language and the problem of describing religious concepts across languages, chapters introduce the turn to cognition in linguistics and also in theology, and explore the brain's contrasting capacities, in particular its capacity for language and metaphor. 

Part II continues the discussion of metaphor - the natural ability by which humans draw on basic knowledge of the world in order to explore abstractions and intangibles. Specialists in particular religions apply conceptual metaphor theory in various ways, covering several major religious traditions-Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.

Part III seeks to open up new horizons for cognitive-linguistic research on religion, looking beyond written texts to the ways in which language is integrated with other modalities, including ritual, religious art, and religious electronic media. Chapters in Part III introduce readers to a range of technical instruments that have been developed within cognitive linguistics and discourse analysis in recent years. What unfolds ultimately is the idea that the embodied cognition of humans is the basis not only of their languages, but also of their religions.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Paul Chilton received his doctorate from the University of Oxford. His research and writing have spanned several fields, including linguistics, discourse analysis, politics, international relations, and religious literature. He has worked in several universities, including Warwick, Lancaster, and Stanford, and has also lectured widely in China. His current research is in cognitive linguistics, discourse analysis, and their links with neuroscience. 

Monika Kopytowska received her Ph.D. from the University of Lodz, Poland, where she is currently affiliated with the Department of Pragmatics. Her research interests revolve around the interface of language and cognition, identity, media discourse and the pragma-rhetorical aspects of the mass-mediated representation of religion, ethnicity, and conflict/terrorism. She is co-editor of and contributor to Languages, Cultures, Media (2016) and Why Discourse matters: Negotiating Identity in the Mediatized World (2014), editor-in-chief of Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, and associate editor of Moral Cognition and Communication.

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