A little while back I encouraged you to check out The Bloomsbury Companion to Cognitive Linguistics. But I'm afraid that might have been a bit premature: there's a better resource out there that promises to be the gracious guide you're looking for. I've been reading through it for the past few months and absolutely love it! It's called Cognitive Exploration of Language and Linguistics(2nd edition, 2004), and is part of a broader series called "Cognitive Linguistics in Practice", with the following expressed goals:
A text book series which aims at introducing students of language and linguistics, and scholars from neighboring disciplines, to established and new fields in language research from a cognitive perspective. Titles in the series are written in an attractive, reader-friendly and self-explanatory style with assignments, and are tested for classroom use at university level.
I typically use these sorts of resources as reference works, but the writing style and topics covered have turned this into a volume that I'm currently reading from cover to cover. Here's the table of contents to give you a taste of what's in store.
1. The cognitive basis of language: Language and thought (1-23)
2. What’s in a word?: Lexicology (25-48)
3. Meaningful building blocks: Morphology (49-74)
4. Putting concepts together: Syntax (75-100)
5. The sounds of language: Phonetics and Phonology (101-126)
6. Language, culture and meaning: Cross-cultural semantics (127-148)
7. Doing things with words: Pragmatics (149-177)
8. Structuring texts: Text linguistics (179-201)
9. Language across time: Historical linguistics (203-230)
10. Comparing languages: Language: classification, typology, and contrastive linguistics (231-258)
Subject index (269-277)
As you can see a wide range is covered, and from what I've read, covered well. Personally, I was so happy to see basic level introduction to lexicology (a term that's often neglected or confused with lexicography). And when I got to morphology I was reminded of many basic categories and distinctions that'd I once learned and forgotten, or glossed over on my initial pass in other introductory works.
One of the unique aspects of this volume is it's bent towards a cognitive linguistic framework. You might wonder how this gets played out in chapters on morphology and syntax, so here's a screen shot to give you a taste (taken from pages 69–70).
Finally, if you're interested in discourse analysis (which you probably are if you read this blog), chapter 8 on "Text linguistics" is a must read. Well, I hope I've convinced that this volume is certainly worth your time, and should probably be #1 on your reading list if you're new to linguistics and want a cognitive based introduction to the many subfields of the discipline.
If you can't afford to buy it in print, there's a saying I heard somewhere that's proven true for me:
You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.