Cognitive linguistics is an interdisciplinary branch of linguistics, combining knowledge and research from both psychology and linguistics. It describes how language interacts with cognition, how language forms our thoughts, and the evolution of language parallel with the change in the common mindset across time.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word "cognitive" is defined as "of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering)".
Merriam-Webster also defines linguistics as "the study of human speech including the units, nature, structure, and modification of language". Combining those two definitions together to form cognitive linguistics would provide the notion of the concepts and ideas discussed in the realm of CL. Within CL, the analysis of the conceptual and experiential basis of linguistic categories is of primary importance. The formal structures of language are studied not as if they were autonomous, but as reflections of general conceptual organization, categorization principles, processing mechanisms, and experiential and environmental influences.
Since cognitive linguistics sees language as embedded in the overall cognitive capacities of human beings, topics of special interest for cognitive linguistics include: the structural characteristics of natural language categorization (such as prototypicality, systematic polysemy, cognitive models, mental imagery, and conceptual metaphor); the functional principles of linguistic organization; the conceptual interface between syntax and semantics; the experiential and pragmatic background of language-in-use; and the relationship between language and thought, including questions about linguistic relativity and conceptual universals.
What holds together the diverse forms of cognitive linguistics is the belief that linguistic knowledge involves not just knowledge of the language, but knowledge of the world as mediated by the language. In addition, cognitive linguistics argues that language is both embodied and situated in a specific environment.