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Review of Cognitive Linguistics and Non-Indo-European Languages
Date: Thu, 27 Nov 2003 21:00:20 +0100 From: Wolfgang Schulze Subject: Cognitive Linguistics and Non-Indo-European Languages
Casad, Eugene H. and Gary B. Palmer, ed.( 2003) Cognitive Linguistics and Non-Indo-European Languages. Mouton de Gruyter, Cognitive Linguistics Research 18.
Wolfgang Schulze, University of Munich
Perhaps, a potential reader of Casad & Palmer 2003 (C&P) will first be (slightly) irritated by the title of the volume: The term 'Indo- European' is conventionally is to denote a genetically motivated language family and hence belongs into the domain of historical comparative linguistics. 'Non-Indo-European' languages thus are just those languages that do not figure as members of this stock. Now, how is it possible to link the subject of a study that is defined by historical or comparative parameters, to the paradigm of cognitive linguistics (unfortunately called a 'theory' by Casad and Palmer in the 'Introduction'? Perhaps, the first idea would be ask in which way cognitive linguistics can contribute to the genetic classification of languages outside the Indo-European family. However, to my knowledge, cognitive linguistics has rarely been used in this respect (a fact which is deplorable enough). In other words: It would not be very wise to expect from the title of C&P that the book deals with just this perspective. In fact, what C&P refer to by the term 'Non-Indo- European' is thought to represent a heuristic class rather than a structurally or analytically motivated subject. In introducing the volume to the reader, C&P say: "The proponents of a linguistic theory that lays claim to applying universally must demonstrate its application to the study of all spoken languages and not just the standard Western European and other well-known Indo-European languages" (p.1).
This phrasing used to define the scope of the book raises a number of problems some of which may appear sophistic. Others, however, are crucial to the general layout of the volume. First of all, it remains opaque what C&P mean by 'standard Western European': This terms reminds us of Whorf's 'Standard Average European' (SAE), although the reader is not told whether C&P intend to adopt the Whorfian (and often criticized) way of defining SAE. In addition, C&P postulate 'other well-known Indo-European languages' without illustrating when such a language is well-known and in which respect. In my eyes, the use of a family-tree related term to define the scope to which a 'linguistic theory' is applied only makes sense if the theory contributes to the structure of the 'family-tree' itself. In the given case, I cannot escape the impression that the term 'Non-Indo-European' is used in a journalistic way rather than in a scientific one. In fact, what we have at hands is a 'view from the periphery': C&P importantly contribute to a cognition-based approach to languages that do not belong to the central 'space' of linguistic experience as documented in a number of e.g. English centred paradigms. Crucially, C&P also include Cognitive Linguistics into this 'centred' perspective: "In view of the apparent potential of Cognitive Linguistics as a general theory applicable to all languages, we are surprised by what appears to be an increasing dominance of representation from English and other IE ('Indo- European', W.S.) languages in Cognitive Linguistics forums" (p.3). By itself, this observation is undoubtedly correct and a good argument in favour of preparing a volume as the book at issue. Nevertheless, it also includes a rather problematic claim, namely that we have deal with Cognitive Linguistics in terms of a 'theory applicable to all languages'. However, Cognitive linguistics surely is not a one- dimensional 'general' principle or body of principles used to explain linguistic phenomena (in terms of a causa efficiens or a causa finalis), but rather a heterogeneous set of approaches to language(s) based on common assumptions about the motivation of language phenomena.
If ever the term 'theory' is applicable in the given context, it should refer to specific types of generalization as they characterize for instance Langacker's Cognitive Grammar or the Lakoffian type of Cognitive Semantics. It is interesting to see that (in their 'Introduction') C&P oppose Cognitive Linguistics to approaches as formal syntax, typology, and comparative linguistics (p.3). If we bear in mind that formal syntax is basically 'cognitive' (although from a different perspective) and that both typology and comparative linguistics turn out to have a 'cognitive correlate' (Cognitive Typology in the broader sense and grammaticalization 'theory'), the concept of 'Cognitive Linguistics' turns out to be more a special type of linguistic practice rather than a 'theory'. In sum, the general perspective taken by the editors (as it is encapsulated in the title) draws the reader's attention to a problematic direction. In fact, a paraphrase like 'Cognitive approaches to language phenomena: A view from the periphery' more accurately describes the contents of the present volume.
The volume contains sixteen articles of different length, preceded by an introduction of the editors and followed by both a subject index and a language index. The articles are arranged geographically, starting in South America (Quechua), touching upon central America (Cora and Nahuatl), North America (Salish), hopping to Asia and the Western Pacific Rim (Hawaiian, Isnag, Tagalog, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) and ending up in Europe (Finnish). In their introduction, C&P review the sixteen papers from a topic point of view (the labels in brackets are mine): 1. Metaphor, metonymy, polysemy and cultural models (that is Cognitive Semantics in a broader sense); 2. Causativity, voice, subjectivity and reference points (syntax); 3. Nominals: salience, polysemy and prototypicality (referential semantics), 4. Spatial semantics: Locatives (again Cognitive Semantics), 5. Comparisons and contrasts (typology). The fact that all papers are oriented in basically the 'same' direction is perhaps related to the fact that they are the output of a theme session ('Cognitive Linguistics and Non-Indo-European languages') held at the International Cognitive Linguistics Association Conference in Stockholm (1999). In addition, this 'common direction' is also due to the fact that nearly all papers are strongly oriented to two 'classical' perspectives taken in Cognitive Linguistics, namely Cognitive Grammar (�� la Langacker) and Cognitive Semantics (�� la Lakoff). On the one hand, the 'theoretical' commonalities of the individual papers (unfortunately rarely addressed as such) render the book rather homogenous. On the other hand, however, some readers may have difficulties to always follow the lines of arguments because they are strongly related to a given framework (such as Cognitive Grammar) [an example is the two impressive figures in David Tuggy's article (p.103-4) which illustrate the Reduplication Construction in Nahuatl].
In their 'Introduction' already referred to above, C&P concentrate on two jobs: First, they try to outline the dimension of Cognitive Linguistics with respect to Non-Indo-European languages. Here, they convincingly argue that "the world of non-Western languages offers a breathtaking opportunity to delve into a wide spectrum of empirical and theoretical issues, some of which are new (...) and others that have hitherto resisted satisfactory explanations constructed in other linguistics theories" (p.2). In addition they want to show that the volume is intended to avoid "the insularity for which (e.g., W.S.) generative linguistics was so strongly criticized in its early years" (p.3). It goes without saying that both arguments are nicely met in all the papers of the volume. C&P correctly state: "This book will contribute to the advancement of cognitive linguistic theory (sic!) by giving it a wider scope of applications and testing it against a wider spectrum of languages". Sure, the data and analyses presented in the book put new complexion on both Cognitive Linguistics and the languages hitherto discussed in this perspective. However, this claim becomes relativized if we look at one of the (few) passages in the Introduction that 'define' the 'theory' of Cognitive Linguistics. On p.4, C&P say: "[We]e believe that cognitive linguistics offers the greatest potential for a scientific theory of language that relates syntax to semantics and studies language in a away that is consistent with current research on neural network theory as well as cultural theory". This quote contains a number of highly questionable claims and terms. For instance: If there is a 'scientific theory of language': What is and which role does play a 'non-scientific' theory of language? And: Is it really the main goal of cognitive linguistics to relate syntax and semantics? In my view, this assumption deprives Cognitive Linguistics from its perhaps most powerful 'axiom', namely that any kind of linguistic reality or phenomenon is grounded in cognition, be it synchronically or diachronically (see Schulze 1998:1-14 for a discussion of this 'axiom'). The alleged triade Cognitive Linguistics' <> Neural Network theory <> Cultural theory is far from being more than a mere scientific project (or: speculation). Note that C&P use the singular 'theory' for both the Neural Network and the Cultural domains giving the illusion that there would be just a single theory (which certainly is not the case). In other words: The sloppy formulations given in the Introduction are at risk to denounce the project of Cognitive Linguistics rather than to lay the ground for a substantive discussion.
Second, the Introduction carefully summarizes the sixteen articles given in the volume. Once getting into the data, C&P present a much more consistent and highly illuminating view of what Cognitive Linguistics may be about. The authors carefully discuss the highlights of the individual papers and aim at contextualizing the different arguments with the help of cross-references and more general remarks. Finally, C&P come back to Cognitive Linguistics itself by suggesting a number of issues for further studies. Here, another weak point in the efforts to describe the Cognitive Linguistics enterprise becomes obvious: Just as is it true for the empirics of Cognitive Linguistics (see above), Cognitive Linguistics is characterized by an 'increasing dominance of representation from English' (to use the wordings of C&P). In other words: The many studies in Cognitive Linguistics written in languages others than English (among others in French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and German) are rarely considered by English-based practitioners of Cognitive Linguistics. This aspect sets mainstream Cognitive Linguistics itself at risk to be marked for 'insularity' just as it has been deplored by C&P for the empirics of Cognitive Linguistics. This aspect becomes especially evident when looking at the section on 'future studies'.
Unfortunately, space does not allow to discuss at length the important and in parts brilliant papers included in the volume. The following summaries perhaps help to stimulate the reader's interest just as C&P's introductory summary stimulated the interest of the reviewer.
In his article "Completion, comes and other "downers": Observations on the semantics of the Wanca Quechua directional suffix -lpu" (pp.39-64), Rick Floyd proposes a complex analysis of the functional scope of the 'down' location in Quechua. Contrary to vertical location strategies for instance in East Caucasian, the directional morpheme -lpu seems not to be related to the distal, but rather to the proximal (which again can be transposed from the speaker to another entity). Hence, -lpu is coupled with subjectivity in its broadest sense. Floyd nicely elaborates the metonymic and metaphorical extensions of -lpu and compares them to for instance the use of 'down' in English and ka- in Cora. The article undoubtedly lays the ground for a more general model of the metonymic and metaphorical potential of the conceptualization of verticality.
Eugene H. Casad brings the reader back to one of the perhaps most studied Uto-Aztecan language, namely Cora. His article "Speakers, context, and Cora conceptual metaphors (pp.65-89) departs from metaphorical expressions for "talking about everyday goofs, shortcomings and failures" (p.65) to arrive at a complex model of Cora metaphorization processes which include (among others) image schemas, the speaker's vantage point, mental spaces, landmark/trajector specifications, and fictive motion. The analysis is again based on locative constructions (preverb plus the verb 'icee glossed 'pass by a conceptual reference point').
David Tuggy ("Reduplication in Nahuatl: Iconicity and paradoxes" (pp.91-133) explores the interaction of form and function/semantics with respect to the domain of reduplication in Nahuatl. His findings will surely stimulate comparable research in other heavy reduplicating languages.
David Beck talks about "Conceptual autonomy and the typology of parts of speech in Upper Necaxa Totonac and other languages" (pp.136-156). His article aims at contextualizing Langacker's Cognitive Grammar in a typological perspective, concentrating on "a cross-linguistic viable semantic characterization of parts-of-speech" (p.135). He uses the concept of 'closedness' to account for the well-known scale (not continuum, as Beck says!) THING <> RELATION (note that this article heavily relies on Cognitive Grammar which means that it does not question some basic assumptions of Cognitive Grammar such as the closedness of THING which in fact may turn out to be just a secondary construction (see Schulze 2001)).
Kenneth William Cook turns the reader's attention to "Hawaiian 'o as an indicator of nominal salience" (pp. 157-171). He suggests that 'o is not a copula verb but (from a formal point of view) a copular preposition (note that most of his arguments against a copular verb interpretation are difficult to subscribe from the point of view of copular typology, see Pustet 2003). From a functional point of view, Cook convincingly arrives at the conclusion tat we have to deal with a "marker of nominal salience" (p.167).
In his article "Animism exploits linguistic phenomena" (pp. 173-192), Rodolfo R. Barlaan discusses the Isnag (Northern Luzon, Philippines) taboo terminology with respect to their cognitive layers and the conceptual and linguistic processes to derive the taboo words (e.g. borrowing, phonological disguise etc.).
Gary B. Palmer's article ("The Tagalog prefix category PAG-: Metonymy, polysemy, and voice" (pp.193-221)) deals with one of the Tagalog verbal prefixes (pag-), analyzing it for its conceptual contents and functional behavior. He arrives at the conclusion that the "schema that subsumes all the PAG forms is action or process that is either profiled in the root or stem or latent in its base".
Douglas Inglis' article ("Conceptual structure of numeral classifiers in Thai" (pp.223-246) is the first of four articles devoted to Thai. His treatment surely importantly improves the general typology of classifiers.
Kingkarn Thepkanjana brings the reader back to syntax: In "A cognitive account of the causative/inchoative alternation in Thai" (pp.247-274) the author nicely elaborates the dynamics of the causative/stative (or: causative/inchoative) pairing (which can also be called 'labile', adopting the terminology for transitive/intransitive pairings e.g. in East Caucasian) and - by questioning the assumption of basicness - arrives at the following conclusion: "I therefore claim that the verb and its noun argument(s) (...) express distinct gestalts" (p.270).
Margaret Ukosakul explores Thai from the point of view of Cognitive Semantics. In her article "Conceptual metaphors motivating the use of Thai 'face'" (pp.275- 303), relates the basic concept of 'face' to the domains of shame and honor and illustrates how and to which degree metaphorical processes are provoked by cultural scripts and models.
The 'Thai section' of the volume ends in Jordan Zlatev's contribution "Holistic spatial semantics of Thai" (pp.305-336). The author refers to his framework of 'Holistic Spatial Semantics' (HSS) in order to show that "a theory of the linguistic expression of spatial meaning that stems from the conceptual framework of situated embodiment" (p.308) for situated (or, in his somewhat unfortunate terms: holistic) spatial semantics in Thai. Zlatev, among others, shows that the famous opposition 'verb framed languages' vs. 'satellite-framed language' (Talmy 185) does not hold in a universal perspective. His final conclusion is worth being quoted: "While formalist approaches err in ignoring the semantic dimension, cognitive approaches tend to err by ignoring the distributional/structural dimension" (p.332). It can hardly be said better!
Ning Yu deals with "The bodily dimension of meaning in Chinese: what do we do and mean with 'hands'?" (pp.337-362). The author takes up the well-known embodiment hypothesis to analyse the grammaticalization effects of Chinese shou 'hand' together with semantic effects in compounding. Crucially, the basic level concept of HAND is related to temporal relations (especially inchoatives) which opens a new window for explaining the grammaticalization path of certain tense/aspect forms.
In a case study from Japanese and Korean, Kaoru Horie asks "What cognitive linguistics can reveal about complementation in non-IE languages" (pp.363-388). The author opts for combining Cognitive and Typological explanations (an enterprise successfully accessed for instance in a number of papers in Gildea 1999). Interestingly enough, the author of this paper is modestly criticized by the editors in the 'Introduction'. Their main point is that Horie's critics of the frame typology already above-mentioned does not necessarily hold for clausal interdependencies. In this context, they suggest to refer to the Langacker framework to explain Horie's finding (p.27), instead of (?) approaching "the problem from a broadly conceived Cognitive Linguistics viewpoint" (p.25-6).
Satoshi Uehara also discusses Japanese issues in his article "Zibun reflexivization in Japanese: A Cognitive Grammar approach" (pp.388- 404). Comparing the use of zibun to English reflexives as they show in the English translation of newspaper editorials, Uehara depicts the schematic differences between the two constructional types.
Mari Siiroinen brings the reader back to Europe: "Subjectivity and the use of Finnish emotive verbs" (pp.405-417) discusses the well-known problem of emotive verb construction types in terms of Langacker's notion of subjectivity.
The final article by Foong-Ha Yap and Shoichi Iwasaki turns to a grammaticalization issue: "From causatives to passives: A passage in some East and Southeast Asian languages" (pp.419-445) is a nice elaboration of the causative>passive path based on the grammaticalization of the lexical concept GIVE. They come to the conclusion that "semantic and functional extensions from causatives to passives is (sic!) a natural and fairly robust phenomenon crosslinguistically" (p.440). The grammaticalization path proposed by the authors can importantly help to explain parallel features in other languages of the world.
It is out of question that all articles published in C&P represent highly scholarly and important reflections on language(s). The individual papers offer a wide range of both linguistic data and explanatory perspectives. Some of the papers will probably strongly influence analyses related to the languages under discussion, others will stimulate researchers to look for parallel data, processes, or explanatory options in 'their' languages or in a cross-linguistic perspective. A drop of bitterness, however, has to be added: After having worked through the book, the unbiased reader may be left with the impression that Cognitive Linguistics is mainly expressed in the framework of Cognitive Grammar �� la Langacker. Langacker probably is the author most often quoted in the volume. However, Cognitive Linguistics undoubtedly is more than Cognitive Grammar and even Cognitive Semantics. Perhaps, it would have wise if the editors would have stated more accurately that (and why) most of the papers given in the volume start from Cognitive Grammar, sometimes neglecting other (likewise promising) perspectives. In other words: I would have been glad if I had learnt not only about the applicability of the Langacker framework to what is called 'Non-Indo-European' languages, but also about the possible problems that would face this framework with respect to the data from the languages presented in the volume. Here, a well- known danger arises: It may well be that once a certain perspective has been taken, it tacitly decides on which data are selected in order to sustain the perspective.
The book itself is well-done, although a number of typos have not been eliminated. For instance, on p.27 both a paragraph and an example seem to be missing, and Langacker 2000 referred to in the Introduction is not given in the references. Still, such minor do not effect the overall impression: An important book, which helps to promote the study of cognitive foundations of language(s).
Gildea, Spike (ed.) 1999. Reconstructing Grammar. Comparative Linguistics and Grammaticalization. (Typological Studies in Language 43). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Pustet, Regina 2003. Copulas - Universals in the Categorization of the Lexicon . Oxford: OUP.
Schulze, Wolfgang 1998. Person, Klasse, Kongruenz. Vol. 1: Die Grundlagen. Munich: Lincom Europa.
Schulze, Wolfgang 2001. Selbstlernen und Selbstreflexion: Grundlagen einer Emergenz-Theorie der sprachlichen Interaktion auf der Basis der 'Grammatik von Szenen und Szenarien'. Munich: Working Papers in Cognitive Typology 1.
Talmy, Leonard 1985. Lexicalization patterns: sematic structure in lexical form. T. shopen (ed.). Language typology and syntactic description Vol. 3. Grammatical categories and the lexicon, 57-149. Cambridge: CUP.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Wolfgang Schulze is the Head of the Institute for General Linguistics and Language Typology at the University of Munich (Germany). His main research topics include among others Language Typology, Cognitive Typology, Historical Linguistics, language contact, the languages of the Eastern Caucasus, and 'Oriental' languages. He currently works on a Functional (Cognitive) Grammar of Udi and on a comprehensive presentation of the framework of a Grammar of Scenes and Scenarios in terms of Cognitive Typology.