Cognitive-Functional Linguistics

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Cognitive-Functional Linguistics
– Some Basic Tenets I
Rolf Theil
Bergen, June 19, 2006
– More juice!
 Nothing could seem less remarkable than a
one-year-old child requesting More juice!
 But the remarkable fact is that even this
baby utterance differs from the communicative activities of other animal species in a
number of fundamental ways.
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– Doggie gone!
 Nothing could seem less remarkable than a
one-year-old child commenting Doggie
gone!
 But the remarkable fact is that no other
animals make disinterested comments to
one another about missing dogs.
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The most astounding fact
 From an ethological perspective, perhaps the most
astounding fact is that about 80 percent of all
Homo sapiens cannot understand these simple
utterances at all.
 Whereas the individuals of all nonhuman species
can communicate effectively with all of their conspecifics, human beings can communicate effectively only with other persons who have grown up
in their same linguistic community.
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Language learning
 Whatever may be the reasons for this unique,
indeed bizarre, situation, one immediate outcome
is that, unlike most other animal species, human
beings cannot be born with any specific set of
communicative behaviors.
 Yound children must learn the set of linguistic
conventions used by those around them, which for
any given language consists of tens of thousands,
or perhaps even hundred of thousands, of individual words, expressions, and constructions.
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Flexibility
 The human species is biologically prepared for
this prodigious task in ways that individuals of
other species are not.
 But this preparation cannot be too specific, as
human children must be flexible enough to learn
not only all of the different words and conventional expressions but also all of the different types
of abstract constructional patterns that these
languages have grammaticized historically.
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Many years
 It thus takes many years of daily interaction
with mature language users for children to
attain adult-like skills.
 This is a longer period of learning with
more things to be learned – by many orders
of magnitude – than is required of any other
species on the planet.
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The Innateness Hypothesis
Our ability to speak and understand a natural
language results from – and is made possible
by – a richly struc-tured and biologically
determined capacity specific both to our species
and to this domain. […] the language faculty is
a part of human biology, tied up with the
architecture of the human brain, and distinct in
part from other cognitive faculties.
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P. 216 in S. R. Anderson and D. Lightfoot (2002):
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The Language Organ.
Linguistics as Cognitive Physiology.8
The Language Organ
The path of development which
we observe suggests that the
growth of language results from
a specific in-nate capacity
rather than emerging on a
purely inductive basis from
observation of the language
around us. The mature system
incorporates properties that
could not have been learned
from
observation
or
any
plausibly available teaching.
Anderson & Lightfoot (2002: 2)
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Arguments for the Innateness
Hypothesis
 Speed of Acquisition
 Language is acquired in a remarkably short period, which
would not be possible if humans did not have an innate
language faculty.
 Poverty of Data
 The grammar acquired by children is much more complex
than one should expect on the basis of the language data
the children is exposed to from people around them.
 Language Universals
 Languages resemble each other in structural features that
are not necessary properties of a language. These universal
structural properties must be explained on the basis of
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innate knowledge.
Arguments against innateness I
 Speed of Acquisition
 In order to assess this argument, we need to know what it means to
acquire language in «a remarkably short period», and this information has
never been supplied.
 Poverty of Data
 This statement about the poverty of data, which was done years before
anyone had done serious research on the nature of the speech addressed to
children, has not been supported by later research.
 Language Universals
 The number of language universals is not that impressive, and not large
enough to justify the postulation of an innate language faculty.
Geoffrey Sampson (2005): The ‘Language Instinct’ Debate.
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Arguments against innateness II
 Speed of Acquisition
It thus takes many years of daily interaction with mature language users for
children to attain adult-like skills. This is a longer period of learning with more
things to be learned – by many orders of magnitude – than is required of any
other species on the planet.
 Poverty of Data
The principles and structures whose existence it is difficult to explain without
universal grammar (such Chomskian things as the subjacency constraints, the
empty category principle, and the binding principles) are theory-internal
affairs and simply do not exist in usage-based theories of language.
 Language Universals
Virtually all linguists … involved in the detailed analysis of individual
languages cross-linguistically … agree that there are very few … specific
grammatical categories and constructions … present in all languages.
Michael Tomasello (2003):
Constructing a Language. A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition.
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Language Universals
 Of course there are language universals.
 It is just that they are not universals of form – …
not particular kinds of linguistic symbols or grammatical categories or syntactic constructions – but
rather … universals of communication and cognition and human physiology.
 Because all languages are used by human beings
with similar social lives, all peoples have the need
to solve in their languages certain kinds of communicative tasks …
Michael Tomasello (2003): Constructing a Language.
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The Cognitive-Functionalist
Linguists
– Who are they?
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Joan L. Bybee (1945–)
An active and productive scholar, in
particular within the fields of
phonology, morphology, typology and
psycholinguistics. Recently, she was
elected President of the Linguistic
Society of America. In 1985, her book
Morphology: a study of the relation
between meaning and form became a
great source of inspiration for linguists
at the University of Oslo, and her work
contributed greatly to the establishment
of a Cognitive Linguistics group there
– a group that has steadily grown to
become a meeting place for new
students, research fellows and visiting
scholars.
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Ronald W. Langacker (1942–)
Develops the central ideas of Cognitive
Grammar in his two-volume Foundations of Cognitive Grammar (1987,
1991), which became a major departure point for the emerging field of
Cognitive
Linguistics.
Cognitive
Grammar treats human languages as
consisting solely of semantic units,
phonological units, and symbolic units
(conventional pairings of phonological
and semantic units). Cognitive Grammar extends the notion of symbolic
units to the grammar of languages.
Langacker further assumes that linguistic structures are motivated by general
cognitive processes.
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George P. Lakoff (1941–)
The author of Moral Politics: How
Liberals and Conservatives Think, 2nd
Ed., (2002). He is also the author of
Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things:
What Categories Reveal About The
Mind (1987) and co-author of Metaphors We Live By (1980), More Than
Cool Reason (1989), Philosophy in the
Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its
Challenge To The Western Tradition
(1999), Where Mathematics Comes
From: How the Embodied Mind Brings
Mathematics Into Being (2000) and,
most recently, Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values, Frame the
Debate (2004).
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Leonard Talmy
A professor of linguistics and philosophy at the University at Buffalo in
New York. In Toward a Cognitive Semantics (2000), Talmy basically defines the field of cognitive semantics.
He approaches the question of how
language organizes conceptual material
both at a general level and by analyzing a crucial set of particular conceptual domains: space and time, motion
and location, causation and force interaction, and attention and viewpoint.
Talmy maintains that these are among
the most fundamental parameters by
which language structures conception.
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Adele E. Goldberg
Professor of Linguistics at Princeton University. Her research interests include argument structure,
constructionist approaches to language, language acquisition, categorization, and the role of information structure in syntax. Books:
Constructions: A Construction
Grammar Approach to Argument
Structure (1995); Constructions at
Work. The Nature of Generalization in Language (2006).
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William Croft
William Croft is a professor of
linguistics at the University of New
Mexico, from January 2006; earlier
at the University of Manchester.
Books:
Cognitive
Linguistics
(2004) with D. A. Cruse; Radical
Construction Grammar: Syntactic
theory in typological perspective
(2001); Explaining Language
Change (2001); Typology and
Universals, 2nd ed. (2003; 1st ed.
1990);
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Cognitive-Functional Linguistics
– What’s that?
1.
2.
3.
4.
The Cognitive Commitment
The Generalization Commitment
The Functionalist Commitment
The Embodied Mind
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1. The Cognitive Commitment
 Language and linguistic organization should
reflect general cognitive principles.
 Principles of linguistic structure should
reflect what is known about human
cognition from other disciplines
 Accordingly, cognitive linguistics rejects
the modular theory of mind.
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The Modular Theory of Mind
 The human mind is organized into
distinct ‘encapsulated’ modules of
knowledge.
 One of these is the language module.
 Linguistic structure and organization are
markedly distinct from other aspects of
cognition.
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2. The Generalization
Commitment
 Identify common structural principles that
hold across phonology, semantics, pragmatics, morphology, syntax, and other aspects
of language.
 Language is not divided into separate
modules.
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The Modular Theory of Language
 Language is divided into distinct subsystems
or modules – e.g. the phonology module, the
syntax module, and the semantics module.
 These modules are organized in significantly
divergent ways, on the basis of different kinds
of primitives.
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3. The Functional Commitment
 The Usage-Based Thesis: Language
structure emerges from language use.
 Language use is integral to our knowledge
of language, our ‘mental grammar’.
 The distinction between competence and
performance is rejected.
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Competence and
Performance




Competence: Knowledge of language.
Performance: Use of language.
Competence determines performance.
Performance does not influence
competence.
 Performance can be affected by
language-external factors – tiredness,
distraction, intoxication – and often fails
to
adequately
reflect
competence.
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The Cognitive Commitment
and its Implications for a
Linguistic Theory
 Principles of linguistic structure should reflect
what is known about human cognition from
other disciplines.
 Central aspects of this knowledge about human
cognition is represented by six basic psychological
terms – presented on the following slides.
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Six Basic Psychological Terms
Entrenchment (innprenting)
Abstraction (abstraksjon)
Comparison (samanlikning)
Composition (komposisjon)
Association (assosiasjon)
Embodiment (kroppsleggjering)
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ENTRENCHMENT
NORWEGIAN: INNPRENTING
 The occurrence of psychological events leaves
some kind of trace that facilitates their
reoccurrence.
 Through repetition, even a highly complex event
can coalesce into a well-rehearsed routine that is
easily elicited and reliably executed.
 It equals “routinization”, “automatization” and
“habit formation”.
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Entrenchment: Unit
NORWEGIAN: EINING
 When a complex structure comes to be manipulated as a “pre-packaged” assembly, no longer
requiring conscious attention to its parts or their
arrangement, it has the status of a unit.
 Examples:
 Writing your signature
 Shifting gear
 Saying How do you do?
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ABSTRACTION
 The emergence of a structure through
reinforcement of the commonality inherent
in multiple experiences.
 By its very nature, this abstractive process
”filters out” those facets of the individual
experiences which do not recur.
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Abstraction: Schematization
NORWEGIAN: SKJEMATISERING
 Schematization is a special case of
abstraction.
 It involves our capacity to operate at
varying levels of ”granularity” or
”resolution”.
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An Example of Schematization
The visual image of a person seen at a distance
versus
The visual image of a person seen close up
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Another Example of
Schematization
A buffalo herd versus individual buffalos
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Other Examples of Schematization
 The structure of a sonnet versus the structure of an
individual sonnet.
 The meaning of animal versus the meaning of
dog.
 A consonant versus [p].
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Abstraction:
Schema and Instance
 A schema is an ‘abstract’ or ‘coarsegrained’ representation vis-à-vis its more
fully specified instances.
 The instances elaborate the schema in
contrasting ways.
 A solid arrow represents the relationship
between a schema and an instance:
A → B means ‘B instantiates / elaborates A’
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Schema and Instances
First example
SCHEMA
Animal
INSTANCE
Dog
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INSTANCE
Cat
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INSTANCE
Cow
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Schema and Instances
Second example
SCHEMA
Vowel
INSTANCE
[i]
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INSTANCE
[a]
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INSTANCE
[u]
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COMPARISON
 Fundamental to cognition is the ability to
compare two structures and detect any
discrepancy between them.
 Comparison involves an inherent
asymmetry: one structure functions as a
standard of comparison, the other as its
target.
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Comparison
(by Americans)
 Standard: USA
 Target: Turkey
 The standard is
familiar and well
entrenched
 The target is
unfamiliar
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Comparison:
Categorization
 Categorization is a special case of comparison:
the standard represents an established unit and the
target (at least originally) is novel.
 When there is no discrepancy between standard
and target, there is an instantiation relationship
between them: A → B.
 When there is a discrepancy between them, there
is an extension relationship between them: A⇢ B.
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Categorization: Trees
oak
oak
instantiation
oak
birch
extension
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Categorization:
Face Recognition
Suzanne
Kemmer
as a good
instance of
Suzanne
Kemmer.
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Suzanne
Kemmer
as a poor
instance of
Sydney
Lamb.
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COMPOSITION
 The combination of simpler structures to
yield a more complex structure.
 It involves the integration of two or more
component structures to form a composite
structure.
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The Buddhist Monk
佛
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A Buddhist Monk begins at dawn one
day walking up a mountain, reaches the
top at sunset, meditates at the top for
several days until one dawn when he
begins to walk back to the foot of the
mountain, which he reaches at sunset.
Make no assumptions about his starting
or stopping or about his pace during his
trip.
Riddle: Is there a place on the path that
the monk occupies at the same hour of
the day on the two separate journeys?
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Arthur Koestler
This is the amazing riddle
that Arthur Koestler presents
in The Act of Creation. […]
Imagine that the monk is
taking both ways on the same
day. There must be a place
where he meets himself, and
that place is the one we are
looking for. Its existence
solves the riddle.
Fauconnier & Turner (2002):
The Way We Think.
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ASSOCIATION
 The well-known phenomenon in which one
kind of experience is able to evoke another.
 The smell of bananas always reminds me of my
week in hospital in 1952. I always had bananas
on my night table.
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Association
 The particular kind of association that
concerns us is symbolization:
 The association of conceptualization with
the mental representations of observable
entities such us sounds, gestures, and
written marks.
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Association: The Symbolic Unit
An established symbolic relationship – a symbolic unit – is
conveniently given as [ [ A ] / [ a ] ], where upper and lower
case stand respectively for a conceptualization and a symbolizing structure. The slash ( / ) stands for the symbolization
relationship.
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The Bipolar
Symbolic
Structure
[ [ TREE ] / [tɹiː]
]
 A symbolic structure is
bipolar.
 The conceptualization
is the semantic pole.
 The symbolizing
structure is the
pole. RT/CFL/I
June phonological
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EMBODIMENT
NORWEGIAN: LEKAMLEGGJERING, KROPPSLEGGJERING
 Experience is embodied:
 We have a species-specific view of the world due to the
unique nature of our physical bodies.
 In other words, our construal of reality is likely to
be mediated in large measure by the nature of our
bodies.
 The human mind – and therefore language –
cannot be investigated in isolation from human
embodiment.
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Mind/Body Dualism
Since René Descartes
(1596– 1650) developed
the idea that mind and
body are distinct entities,
there has been a common assumption within
philo-sophy that the mind
can be studied without
recourse to the body, and
hence without recourse to
embodiment.
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The Rationalist Approach
In modern linguistics this
rationalist approach has been
most
evident
in
formal
approaches such as the
Generative
Grammar
developed by Noam Chomsky
(1928–) and formal approaches
to semantics, such as the
framework
developed
by
Richard
Montague
(1930–
1971). It is argued that
language can be studied as a
formal system, without taking
into account the nature of
June
19, 2006 bodies
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human
or human
experience.
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Embodiment: Image Schemas
NORWEGIAN: BILETSKJEMA [image: (mentalt) bilete]
One way in which embodied
experience manifests itself at
the cognitive level is in terms
of image schemas:
”A recurring dynamic pattern
of our perceptual interactions
and motor programs that
gives coherence to our experience”.
(M. Johnson 1987: xiv.)
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Image Schemas
 Human bodily movement, manipulation of
objects, and perceptual interactions involve
recurring patterns without which our experience would be chaotic and incomprehensible. I call these patterns ‘image schemas’,
because they function primarily as abstract
structures of images.
Johnson (1987: xix)
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More on image schemas
 IMAGE
 The term ‘image’ is equivalent to the use of this
term in psychology, where
imagistic experience relates to and derives from
our experience of the external world. Another term
for this type of experience
is sensory experience.
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 SCHEMA
 The term ‘schema’ tells us
that image schemas are
not rich or detailed concepts, but rather abstract
concepts consisting of patterns emerging from repeated instances of embodied experience.
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A Selective List of Image Schemas
‘Most of the more important’ (Johnson 1987: 126)
CONTAINER
BALANCE
COMPULSION
BLOCKAGE
COUNTERFORCE
RESTRAINT REMOVAL
ENABLEMENT
ATTRACTION
MASS-COUNT
PATH
LINK
CENTRE-PERIPHERY
CYCLE
NEAR-FAR
SCALE
PART-WHOLE
MERGING
SPLITTING
FULL-EMPTY
MATCHING
SUPERPOSITION
ITERATION
CONTACT
PROCESS
SURFACE
OBJECT
COLLECTION
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CFL – Basic Tenets
 End of Part I
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