Biography

George P. Lakoff is an American cognitive linguist and professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972.

Although some of his research involves questions traditionally pursued by linguists, such as the conditions under which a certain linguistic construction is grammatically viable, he is most famous for his ideas about the centrality of metaphor to human thinking, political behavior and society. He is particularly famous for his association with the concept of the embodied mind, which he has written about in relation to mathematics. In recent years he has applied his work to the realm of politics, exploring this in his books. He is a member of the scientific committee of the Fundacion IDEAS, Spain's Socialist Party's think tank. He was the founder of the now defunct progressive think tank the Rockridge Institute.

Lakoff began his career as a student and later a teacher of the theory of transformational grammar developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Noam Chomsky. In the late 1960s, however, he joined with others to promote generative semantics as an alternative to Chomsky's generative syntax. Lakoff's original thesis on conceptual metaphor was expressed in his book with Mark Johnson entitled Metaphors We Live By in 1980. Metaphor has been seen within the Western scientific tradition as purely a linguistic construction. The essential thrust of Lakoff's work has been the argument that metaphors are primarily a conceptual construction, and indeed are central to the development of thought. Lakoff's theory has applications throughout all academic disciplines and much of human social interaction. Lakoff has explored some of the implications of the embodied mind thesis in a number of books, most written with coauthors.

Lakoff is, with coauthors Mark Johnson and Rafael E. Núñez, one of the primary proponents of the embodied mind thesis. Lakoff discussed these themes in his 2001 Gifford Lectures at the University of Glasgow, published as The Nature and Limits of Human Understanding. Lakoff's application of cognitive linguistics to politics, literature, philosophy and mathematics has led him into territory normally considered basic to political science.

Between 2003 and 2008, Lakoff was involved with a progressive think tank, the Rockridge Institute, an involvement that follows in part from his recommendations in Moral Politics. Among his activities with the Institute, which concentrates in part on helping liberal candidates and politicians with re-framing political metaphors, Lakoff has given numerous public lectures and written accounts of his message from Moral Politics. In 2008, Lakoff joined Fenton Communications, the nation's largest public interest communications firm, as a Senior Consultant.