Lecture 4 18 Oct., 2005 Cognitive Grammar Helena Gao
Required readings: • Langacker, R. (l998). Conceptualization, symbolization and grammar. In M.Tomasello(ed.) The New Psychology of Language. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishes. pp. 1-39 • Hsieh, Hsin-I. (2005 to appear). Toward a Global Grammar of Chinese, Language And Linguistics Monograph Series Number W-3, 1-17. Papers In Honor Of Professor William S-Y. Wang On His Seventieth Birthday. Recommended readings: • Pinker, S. (1994). The Language Instinct. New York: Morrow. Chapter 4: How language works. pp. 83-125; Chapter 10: Language organs and grammar genes. pp. 297-331 • Goldberg, A. E. (2004). But do we need Universal Grammar? Comment on Lidz et al. (2003) Cognition 94. 77-84 • Fillmore, C., Kay, P., & O’Connor, M. C. (2003). Regularity and Idiomaticity in Grammatical Constructions: The Case of Let Alone. In M. Tomasello (ed.), The new psychology of language: Cognitive and functional approaches to language structure, Vol. 2. NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. pp. 243-270
Cognitive approaches to grammar • Theories of grammar that relate grammar to mental processes and structures in human cognition. (Wikipedia Encyclopedia by Sergei Starostin, 1953-2005) • Noam Chomsky and his fellow generative grammarians • Grammar is an autonomous mental faculty • It is governed by mental processes operating on mental representations of different kinds of symbols that apply only within this faculty. • Proponents of cognitive linguistics • Grammar is not an autonomous mental faculty with processes of its own, but it is intertwined with all other cognitive processes and structures. • The basic claim is that grammar is conceptualization. • Some of the theories that fall within this paradigm • e,.g., construction grammar, cognitive grammar, and word grammar.
Cognitive approaches to grammar - Guiding Principles • The symbolic thesis: • The basic unit of a grammar is a form-meaning pairing termed variously a symbolic assembly in Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar or a construction in a construction grammar.
A symbolic unit The relationship between semantic, phonological and symbolic units
Cognitive approaches to grammar - Guiding Principles • The usage-based thesis: • There is an intimate relationship between the grammar (defined as the mental repository of symbolic units), and language use.
Distinct Cognitive Approaches to the Study of Grammar • ‘Inventory-based’ theories • Cognitive Grammar • Construction Grammar • Fillmore and Key’s Construction Grammar • Goldberg’s Construction Grammar • Embodied Construction Grammar • Radical Construction Grammar • ‘Grammatical subsystem-based’ theories • The theory of Conceptual Structuring Systems • Grammaticalisation Theory
Inventory-based approaches to grammar - An overview of distinct cognitive linguistic theories of grammar
Characteristics of the Cognitive Approach to Grammar • The ultimate aim of a cognitive approach is to model speaker knowledge in ways which are consistent with the two key commitments which underlie the cognitive linguistics enterprise.
Generalisation Commitment • a commitment to the characterisation of general principles which are responsible for all aspects of human language • Categorisation, polysemy, metaphor • Cognitive Commitment • a commitment to providing a characterisation of general principles for language which accords with what is known about the mind and brain from other disciplines. • Attention, categorization, metaphor
The Generalization Commitment • Lexicology:e.g., Over • a. The picture is over the sofa [‘above’] • b. The picture is over the hole [‘covering’] • c. The ball is over the wall [‘on-the-other-side-of’] • d. The government handed over power [‘transfer’] • e. She has a strange power over me [‘control’] • Morphology:e.g., Agentive –er Suffix • a. teacher • b. villager • c. toaster • d. best-seller • Syntax: e.g., Ditransitive construction • Subject Verb Object 1 Object 2
The Cognitive Commitment • Attention • The boy kicks over the vase [ACTIVE] • The vase is kicked over [PASSIVE] • The vase smashes into bits [SUBJECT-VERB-COMPLEMENT] • The vase is in bits [SUBJECT-COPULA-COMPLEMENT]
Basic Concepts of Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar: An Overview • 1) Attention: “…attention is intrinsically associated with the intensity or energy level of cognitive processes, which translates experientially into greater prominence or salience” (Langacker, 1987: 115)
Focal adjustments: • Linguistic expressions relate to conceived situations or “scenes” • The concepts employed to structure conceived situations can vary along three parameters: selection, perspective and abstraction. • Such variation is termed focal adjustment • By choosing particular focal adjustments and hence organising a scene in a particular way, through language, the speaker or hearer provides a particular construal of the scene in question
Selection: Focal adjustments of selection determine which aspects of a scene are being dealt with: • i) Conceptual Domains: a body of knowledge within our conceptual system that contains and organizes related ideas and experiences
Basic Domain SPACE COLOUR PITCH TEMPERATURE PRESSURE PAIN ODOUR TIME EMOTION Pre-conceptual Basis Vision, touch, kinaesthesia Vision Hearing Touch, somesthesia Touch, kinaesthesia, somesthesia Touch, somesthesia Smell Temporal awareness Affective system Basic conceptual domains (Langacker, 1987)
Examples • a. The tree is quite close to the garage [spatial] • b. It’s already close to Christmas [temporal] • c. The paint is close to the blue we want for the dining room [colour] • d. Steve and his sister are very close [emotion]
ii) Profiling: the conceptualisation designated by a linguistic utterance constitutes its profile, a focal point. However, a particular focal point is always prominent with respect to a particular context. This constitutes profile/base organisation.
a) Open class subsystem • e.g., Profile-base organisation for elbow • b) Closed class subsystem • John hit the ball • The ball was hit
Perspective: Perspective relates to the position from which a scene is viewed, with consequences fro the relative prominence of its participants • i) Trajector and landmark: In an action chain, trajector (TR)/Landmark (LM) • Organisation relates to the participants in a profiled relationship. • While the TR constitutes the focal participant, the landmark constitutes the secondary.
a. The boy hit the ball [active] • b. The ball was hit by the boy [passive] • “boy” “ball” TR-LM organisation relates to subject/object distinction.
An instance of the more general phenomenon of figure-ground organisation: ii) Viewpoint: The perspective and orientation taken on a scene provides a different way of construing it, e.g., from the perspective of the agent or patient as in active/passive distinction
Abstraction: Abstraction relates to the degree of specificity at which a scene is portrayed. • a. The basketball player is tall • b. The basketball player is over six feet tall • c. The basketball player is about six feet five inches tall • d. The basketball player is exactly six feet five and one half inches tall
Some concepts in Langacker’s cognitive grammar (1991) • “Force-dynamics” • “Active zone” • “energy flow”, • “energy source” • “energy sink”
Examples in Chinese- the verb da Gao, 2001: 27
Physical Contact and Social Interaction Gao, 2001: 131
Human cognitive system is built up on the basis of a whole complex structure but on the surface level of linguistic structures details are backgrounded or visualized only in the brain but not explicitly expressed in speech. (Gao, 2001: 27)