From: Guillaume Desagulier <gdesagulieruniv-paris8.fr>
Subject: A Cognitive Model of Variation and Language Change Based on an Examination of some Emerging Constructions in Contemporary English
Institution: University of Bordeaux 3
Program: Doctorat d'Etudes Anglophones
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005
Author: Guillaume Desagulier
Dissertation Title: A Cognitive Model of Variation and Language Change Based on an Examination of some Emerging Constructions in Contemporary English
Subject Language(s): English (eng)
This dissertation explores the mechanisms of variation and language change within the cognitive framework of Construction Grammars. From a usage-based perspective, a construction is both conservative and innovative. On the one hand, the symbolic form/meaning pairing is relatively stabilized insofar as it is the conventional product of an abstraction from linguistic experience on a collective scale. On the other hand, speakers do not reproduce exactly the same pairings, which makes reanalysis possible. That differential defines a zone of potential development for each construction, which is precisely what enables grammar to keep pace with language flexibility. Our working assumption is that it is by studying intermediate forms that we can gain a better understanding of creativity and innovation, from both a linguistic and a cognitive perspective. That is why we argue in favor of a Fuzzy Construction Grammar. Our case studies tend to show that form/function reshuffling is best understood as a grammatical blend, for which we offer a new definition, based on a critical examination of the works by Fauconnier and Turner (1996). We see those constructional integration networks as the keystone of our model. They hinge on the following principle: a construction that is cognitively salient provides solid ground for the structure of speakers' mental grammar. This stable symbolic unit can thus (i) be retrieved wholly or partially to provide a template for the composition of new constructions (ii) help speakers/hearers gain access to more complex pairings.
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