A Cognitive Study of the Construction of Euphemistic Meaning Via the Process of Negation in Persian

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Ph.D. Graduated of Linguistics, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.

2 Associate Professor of Linguistics, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.

3 Professor of Linguistics, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.


The aim of this article is to explain the construction of euphemistic meaning via the process of negation from the perspective of cognitive linguistics. The main question of the present study is how the cognitive mechanism of negation acts for constructing euphemistic meaning and consequently for motivating euphemistic linguistic structures. The present research explains euphemism in Persian by a descriptive-analytical method. Data were also collected manually from mostly library resources containing several Persian-language dictionaries. In this study, it is shown that the cognitive process of negation is volitionally applied to a conceptual content by the conceptualizer and consequently a pleasant conceptual content is activated and attention is drawn toward it. Based on the negation process, the negated pleasant concept is represented phonetically and the strength of attention over the unpleasant content which has not been represented at the linguistic level will decrease. Due to the representation of the negated pleasant concept at the linguistic level and based on the type of guided attention distribution pattern encoded in the negative linguistic forms, the speaker tries to distribute a portion of the listener's attention sources over the pleasant content and he/she tries to decrease the strength of attention on the unpleasant concept. In fact, instead of directly encoding an unpleasant concept at the linguistic level, the speaker uses indirect methods and encodes "the negated pleasant concept". By this indirect reference, lesser attention is assigned to the unpleasant concept than when the concept is directly represented in the language. Therefore, linguistic negations structure the concepts in such a way that the window of attention does not open on the unpleasant aspects of the entity in question and does not put them at the center of attention, and through this way, euphemistic meaning will be constructed. It should be noted that the present study re-emphasizes on the interaction and overlap of language and other general cognitive abilities.


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Volume 11, Issue 2
February 2021
Pages 199-222
  • Receive Date: 22 January 2020
  • Revise Date: 18 March 2021
  • Accept Date: 26 November 2020
  • First Publish Date: 27 November 2020