Zachary Bekowies

Ph.D. Student (Romance Languages & Literatures)

Zack Bekowies is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Romance Languages & Literatures with a specialization in Italian, Romanian, and French. As a cognitive linguist, Zack’s research interests center on semantics, pragmatics, and syntax and their interface with conceptual structure. In line with current trends in cognitive linguistics, his research seeks to integrate linguistic and non-linguistic elements in investigating human communication both as an inherently multimodal phenomenon and as something that is best understood when analyzed holistically, i.e. as it manifests within and across broader systems of discourse. In particular, Zack is interested in authoritarian propaganda – and especially that of Mussolini’s Italy and that of Ceauşescu’s Romania – across a range of modalities (e.g. linguistic, visual, and in combination) and the kinds of knowledge structures (i.e. ‘frames’) that it exploits in crafting its messages, and the ways in which it goes about doing so.

Zack’s dissertation is entitled Authoritarian Semantics: Constructing the Cult of Personality in Fascist Italy and Communist Romania, in which he demonstrates the usefulness that a cognitive-linguistic framework has for helping our understanding of the ways in which cults of personality are structured in authoritarian regimes. Drawing on such theories as Frame Semantics, Conceptual Metaphor Theory, Conceptual Metonymy Theory, Conceptual Blending Theory, and Multimodal Construction Grammar, this project elucidates the ‘ordinary’ cognitive mechanisms involved in quintessential and seemingly ‘extraordinary’ cult phenomena such as the proliferation of competing ‘image-types’ of the leader, the manipulation and appropriation of time, and political ritual.

Other research interests include comparative Romance linguistics, grammaticalization, clitic phenomena in Romance, and the syntax-semantics interface, and he has recently completed a chapter (co-authored with Mairi McLaughlin) for the forthcoming volume Variation in Change in Gallo-Romance Grammar (OUP: 2020) entitled “The Loss of Clitic Climbing in French: A Gallo-Romance Perspective.”