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Cognitive grammar

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A paper on Cognitive grammar

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Cognitive grammar

  1. 1. Cognitive Grammar A paper in Cognitive Linguistics March 2014 Safwan A. Aziz
  2. 2. Key Concepts - Cognitive grammar is a comprehensive and unified theory of linguistic structure. - At its inception, cognitive grammar constituted a radical alternative to generative Theory. the central claim of cognitive grammar — that grammar is fully reducible to assemblies of symbolic structures. - - Grammar is strongly shaped by semantic and functional considerations. A cognitive approach to language can also be a pragmatic approach, for cognition figures crucially in linguistic behavior, social interaction, and contextual understanding. - Cognitive grammar explicitly denies the existence of any sharp or specific boundary between pragmatic and linguistic considerations. It is in fact a pragmatically grounded theory of language in regard to its organization, its view of semantics, and even its account of grammar.
  3. 3. Organization Language serves the basic semiological function of allowing conceptualizations to be symbolized by phonological sequences for purposes of thought and speech. To permit the phonological symbolization of meanings, a language must at least comprise: Semantic structures, phonological structures, and symbolic links between the two. A fundamental claim of cognitive grammar is that only these are necessary. It is claimed, in particular, that lexicon, morphology, syntax, and even discourse patterns form a continuum (rather than discrete components) whose full description resides in assemblies of symbolic structures (i.e. symbolic linkages between semantic and phonological structures). In this way the theory achieves a substantial conceptual unification. This relationship is illustrated as follows: Semantic structures symbolic links phonological structures
  4. 4. Elements of the Linguistic system in CG: (i) semantic, phonological, and symbolic Structures. (ii) schematizations of permitted structures. (iii) categorizing relationships between permitted structures. A language is therefore limited to structures derivable from such data by the fundamental cognitive abilities of abstraction (schematization) and categorization. Language use (and the basis for language acquisition) consists of usage events, in which full, contextually grounded understandings are paired with phonological occurrences in all their phonetic detail. See fig. 2 below.
  5. 5. Conceptualist Semantics and Grammar The centrality of meaning is reflected in a fundamental claim of Cognitive Grammar (henceforth CG), namely that lexicon and grammar form a continuum consisting solely in assemblies of symbolic structures. . A pivotal claim of cognitive grammar is that grammatical units are also intrinsically symbolic. A symbolic structure is nothing more than the pairing of a semantic structure and a phonological structure. It follows from this claim that grammar itself is meaningful, just as lexical items are. Grammatical meanings are generally more abstract than lexical meanings. This is, however, a matter of degree, so there is no clear line between lexicon and grammar. Meaning resides in conceptualization. It subsumes both fixed and novel conceptions; sensory and motor experience. As the basis for its meaning, every expression and every symbolic unit invokes some body of conceptual content, and on that content it imposes a particular construal. Content comprises a set of cognitive domains, each pertaining to a different facet of the element’s semantic value.
  6. 6. Basic conceptual domains (Langacker, 1987) 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
  7. 7. Any kind of conceptualization is capable of being invoked in this capacity, from the basic experience of time, space, color, taste, etc. It follows that a particular expression may assume a slightly different value on every occasion of its use since every expression and every symbolic unit imposes a particular construal on the content it invokes. Therefore construal might be viewed as our capacity to conceive and portray the same situation in alternate ways. Dimensions of construal include Perspective and prominence. These are illustrated below. A speaker who wishes to describe a certain conceived situation must, for example, make decisions concerning its scope — which aspects of the situation are to be included in the expression’s intended coverage — as well as the level of specificity at which they are to be characterized. The speaker must also adopt some perspective on the situation. Perspective may include: - Vantage point, be it spatial or more abstract. - How objectively or subjectively a given entity is construed, i.e. whether it is put ‘onstage’ as a specific object of conception, or whether it remains ‘offstage’ and implicit . - Global and Local perspective: as in the difference between “ Jack is brilliant…or Jack is being smart.
  8. 8. Prominence • Prominence includes focal prominence and profiling. The conceptualization 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 organization. • Many expressions are analyzed as profiling relationships. Thus the adverbial (before) profiles a relationship of temporal antecedence between two schematically conceived events . Expressions that profile relationships manifest another kind of prominence in how they portray their participants. One participant, termed the trajector, is generally singled out as the primary figure within the profiled relation (in the case of arrive, for instance, the trajector is the mover). If a second participant is also singled out for focal prominence, it is called the landmark (analyzed as the secondary figure). Move is thus a verb, as it profiles the change through time in a spatial relationship. On the other hand, mover is a noun, even though it evokes the same conceptual content. All aspects of conceptualist Semantics are illustrated in the diagram below:
  9. 9. The pervasive importance of construal shows clearly that linguistic meaning does not reside in the objective nature of the situation described but is crucially dependent on how the situation is apprehended. Indeed, the situation in question is very often a mental construction which has no objective existence in the first place. Much of what we express linguistically is imaginative in nature, even in talking about actual occurrences. Grammar as Symbolization: Lexicon and grammar form a continuum of symbolic elements. Like lexicon, grammar provides for the structuring and symbolization of conceptual content, and is thus imagic in character. When we use a particular construction or grammatical morpheme, we thereby select a particular image to structure the conceived situation for communicative purposes. Because languages differ in their grammatical structure, they differ in the imagery that speakers employ when conforming to linguistic convention. Grammatical constructions have the effect of imposing a particular profile on their composite semantic value. When a head combines with a modifier, for example, it is the profile of the head that prevails at the composite structure level.

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