A mental spaces analysis of religious identity discourse

Charles Mueller, Peter Richardson, Stephen Pihlaja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Religious identity is often viewed as a relatively stable construct, reflecting an individual’s personal worldview. However, individuals living within modern multi-cultural societies often must engage in extensive reflection to orient themselves to faith traditions in ways that are coherent and personally relevant. Although some work has examined the connection between narratives of religious experience, identity and cognition (cf. Richardson, 2012 ; Richardson & Nagashima, 2018 ; Richardson & Mueller, 2019 ), the relationship between thinking and speaking about this identity is still a developing area of enquiry, with important consequences for how religious faith and practice are understood. This article presents a detailed analysis of an interview with a UK-based Jewish woman based on the mental spaces ( Fauconnier, 1994 ) and conceptual blending ( Fauconnier & Turner, 2002 ) frameworks. The analysis shows how mental spaces and the relationship between elements within those spaces emerge over the course of a discourse event so as to constitute a personal account of religious identity. The concluding section furthermore discusses how within- and across-space contrast links are utilized, along with general processes of compression and decompression, to develop a blend that dynamically expresses the interviewee’s religious identity as an integrated and coherent position lying between competing attractor states.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of Cognitive Linguistics
Early online date11 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jul 2023


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