COGNITIVE GRAMMAR (CG)
-a usage-based approach to grammar
that emphasizes symbolic and semantic
definitions of theoretical concepts that
have traditionally been analyzed as
ETYMOLOGY: Introduced by Ronald W.
Langacker in his two-volume study
Foundations of Cognitive Grammar.
EXAMPLES AND OBSERVATION
Portraying grammar as a purely
formal system is not just wrong but
wrong-headed. I will argue instead,
that grammar is meaningful. That is
so in two respects: For one thing, the
elements of grammar, like
vocabulary item, have meanings in
their own right.
Additionally, grammar allows us to
construct and symbolize the more
elaborate meanings of complex
expressions (like phrases, clauses,
and sentences). It is thus an essential
aspect of the conceptual apparatus
through which we apprehend and
engage the world.
CG IS BASED ON THE FOLLOWING
The grammar of a language is part of
human cognition and interacts with other
cognitive faculties specially with
perception, attention and memory.
The grammar of a language reflects and
presents generalizations about
phenomena in the world as its speakers
Forms of grammar are like lexical items,
meaningful and never “empty” or
meaningless as after assumed in purely
structural models of grammar.
The grammar of a language represents
the whole of a native speaker’s
knowledge of both the lexical categories
and the grammatical structure of the
The grammar of a language is usagebased in that it provides speakers
with a variety of structural options to
present their view of a given scene. (
G. Radden and R. Dirven, Cognitive
English Grammar, John
Ronald Langacker, the founder of CG and
still one of its main practitioners, originally
called his approach “Space Grammar” in
the mid 1970’s. Langacker developed CG
as a reaction against Chomky’s Generative
Grammar (GG) which privileges a logically
formal approach to grammar that does
not and cannot take into consideration
either usage or figurative language.
In CG linguistic semantics is neither
autonomous nor formal and a
complete analysis of meaning is
tantamount to a complete account
of developmental cognition. This
consequence is terribly inconvenient
for linguistic theorists imprinted on
autonomous formal systems, but
that is not a legitimate argument
against its validity. (Langacker 1990)
Grammar represents an abstract
symbolic structure and forms in
regard with the lexicon. “When we
use a particular construction or
grammatical morpheme, w select a
particular image to structure the
conceived situation for
communicative purposes. (L. 1990)
CG’s non-formal image-based
understanding of grammar does not
lead to a focus on uncovering “deep”
grammatical structure or a set of
CG claims that grammatical structure
is almost entirely overt. Surface
grammatical form does not conceal a
“truer” deeper level of grammatical
organization; rather, it itself
embodies the conventional means of
language employs for the structuring
and symbolization of semantic
Grammatical diversity is real instead
of only apparent, and although
grammatical universals can still be
sought and formulated. They must
be limited and flexible enough to
accommodate the variability actually
encountered. (L 1987)
1. Linguistic structure
can be studied independently of
2. Grammar is fully
3. Grammar is modular.
4. Grammar is innate.
(Croft & Cruse 2004
1. Language is not
2. Grammar is conceptualization.
3. Knowledge of language emerges
from language use
The primary concern in the above
and in most grammar books is
What come after the verbs are not
Form Subject Be Verb Contraction
2nd Person you
3rd Person He, She, It is
1st Person pl we
2nd Person pl you
3rd Person pl they
He’s, She’s, It’s
It can be linked to
An identifying element (1a)
A category or class (1b)
a characteristic (1c)
A given place (1d)
The notion of mere experience (1e)
1a. The place on the map here is the Sahara.
1b. The Sahara is a desert.
1c. The Sahara is a dangerous territory.
1d. The desert is in North Africa.
1e. There is a desert in North Africa.
(Dirven & Verspoor, 2004)S