BLEND is one of the key notions of the Conceptual Integration Theory (the Conceptual Blending Theory) developed by Mark Turner and Gilles Fauconnier. Blend is a mental space that is formed as a result of the integration, or blending, of two or more mental spaces (input spaces). Although the blend “inherits” the structure, the roles and values from the input spaces, it acquires emergent properties, which cannot be reduced to the sum of the properties of the “parental” spaces.

For example, in the word-combination caffeine headache we observe the blending of two input spaces: the first space is structured by the frame CAFFEINE, and the second space is structured by the frame HEADACHE. The blend inherits the structure of the second mental space (headache as a person’s physical condition, its symptoms and reasons for it), and from the first mental space it borrows the characteristic “caffeine as a stimulant that provokes dependence”. It is the latter characteristic that leads to significant changes in the structure and the content of the blend: caffeine headache is the pain caused not by caffeine, but by its absence. Besides the input spaces, there is a generic space, which is more abstract in character and serves as the basis for the integration of the input spaces. In fact, generic space points to the generalized frame (scenario) that underlies the input spaces. In the example, mentioned above, the generic space is structured by the abstract frame [influence of a substance on a human organism].

It is important to mention that although the configuration of the four mental spaces is compressed, the speaker/listener has access to all of them. That is why the interlocutors easily create, interpret and modify blends (for example, they create new blends by analogy with the old ones, as in island hopping – bar hopping).

 Different types of mappings are established between mental spaces: mappings of cause, similarity, time, space, whole-part, analogy and disanalogy, compression and decompression, identity, etc. Four types of blends can be distinguished.  Simplex and mirror blends are built from one frame. A single-scope blend  inherits the structure of the frame of one input space and separate elements from the other input space. A double-scope blend borrows the structure and the roles from both input spaces.

The Conceptual Blending Theory was originally developed for the description of metaphoric processes, and is currently used for the analysis of a wide range of linguistic phenomena – from texts to word building.

Further reading

Coulson S. Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction. — Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Fauconnier G., Turner M. Blending as a Central Process in Grammar // Conceptual Structure, Discourse and Language / Ed. A. Goldberg. Stanford, Ca: CSLI Publications, 1996. — P. 113 — 130.

Fauconnier G., Turner M. Mental spaces: conceptual integration networks // Cognitive linguistics: basic readings / edited by Dirk Geeraerts. — Berlin:Walter de Gruyter, 2006. — P. 303-371.

Ирисханова О. К. О теории концептуальной интеграции // Изв. РАН, СЛЯ. Т. 60. № 3. М., 2001. — C. 44 — 49.

Ekaterina Ivashko

Translated by Maria Bulchenko