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Review of Cognitive Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, and Foreign Language Teaching
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 01:11:09 -0500 From: Liang Chen Subject: Cognitive Linguistics, SLA, and Foreign Language Teaching
EDITOR: Achard, Michel; Niemeier, Susanne TITLE: Cognitive Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, and Foreign Language Teaching SERIES: Studies on Language Acquisition 18 PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2004
Liang Chen, University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
SYNOPSIS The book under review is the 18th one of 'Studies on Language Acquisition' series published by Mouton de Gruyter. In addition to an introductory chapter by the editors, it consists of 11 contributions on second language acquisition and pedagogy unified by the framework of cognitive linguistics. In this review, I will first briefly report the content of each chapter, and then focus on the issue of the relevance of cognitive linguistics to language pedagogy. It is the main claim of this review that we need to take caution when we are trying to apply any theoretical framework to language pedagogy, and cognitive linguistics is no exception. As Dirven (2001) rightly points out, applied work must be based upon the best possible descriptive work, and applied linguists must approach descriptive work critically.
In ''Introduction: Cognitive linguistics, language acquisition, and pedagogy'' (pp.1-11), MICHEL ACHARD & SUSANNE NIEMEIER introduces aspects of cognitive linguistics (e.g., the symbolic function of language, meaning as conceptualization, the usage-based model) that are relevant to specific issues of second language learning and teaching dealt with by the other contributors in the rest of the book. They regard 'the cognitive linguistic model as a valuable framework for the investigation of second language learning and teaching phenomena' (p. 9).
In ''Expressing motion events in a second language: A cognitive typological perspective'' (pp. 13-49), TERESA CADIERNO is interested in whether differences in expressing motion events exist between Danish learners of Spanish and native speakers of Spanish on the one hand, and between using the native language and the second language by Danish speakers on the other. The starting point is Talmy's (1985) typological framework of motion events, according to which Danish may be classified as a satellite-framed language where Path is typically expressed by an elaborate system of satellites and Manner and Cause of motion are typically encoded in the verb (p. 20), whereas Spanish as verb-framed language where Path tends to be encoded in the verb with Manner and Cause of motion encoded separately (p.21). Sixteen adult Danish learners of Spanish and sixteen native speakers of Spanish read a wordless picture book (i.e., the frog story), and the written narrative data elicited were then subject to both quantitative and qualitative analyses. As reported by Cadierno, results 'do not show a consistent picture with respect to the role of the learner's L1 in the L2 expression of motion events' (p. 42). Limitations of the study, particularly of the experimental design, and future directions are pointed out toward the end of the paper.
In ''Construal, convention, and constructions in L2 speech'' (pp. 51-75), RENEE WAARA presents a usage-based approach to learner constructions, which are defined as constructions (meaning-syntax correspondences) 'used in a slightly unconventional manner' (p. 53). Data extracted from two corpora (a nonnative speaker corpus and a native speaker corpus) from a speaking test were analyzed, and learners' uncertainty about the permissible argument structures of light verbs like 'get' in English is argued to be 'realized by the emergence of conceptual blends, elements of transfer, and over-generalizations' (p. 64).
In ''Input versus transfer? - The role of frequency and similarity in the acquisition of L2 prepositions'' (pp. 77- 94), WANDER LOWIE & MARJOLIJN VERSPOOR deal with the extent to which L2 lexical development (with a focus on prepositions) is related to the frequency of L2 input or L1/L2 similarity (i.e., L1 transfer). Seventy-five Dutch learners of English at four different levels of proficiency took a cloze test 'consisting of 25 rather simple English sentences, with the blank to be filled with a targeted prepositions' (p. 84). The frequency and similarities of the targeted prepositions in Dutch and English were obtained through CELEX/COBUILD corpus (Baayen, Piepenbrock & van Rijn, 1993). Results show that while students of the low and intermediate levels of proficiency are sensitive to both similarity and frequency, students of the highest level of proficiency are not. One word of caution is relevant here. The relative frequency of prepositions in the corpus does not necessarily correspond to the frequency of prepositions in the actual input the students receive. Therefore, validity of the experimental design is comprimised.
In ''Linguistic and cultural diversity - Reconsidered for the foreign language classroom'' (pp. 95-118), SUSANNE NIEMEIER discusses 'how the renewed attention to relativity in language and culture may be relevant to current tendencies in foreign language teaching methodology' (p. 95). Through an examination of the insights provided by cognitive linguistic approach to categorization and prototypicality, as well as to metaphor and metonymy, Dr. Niemeier claims that the framework of cognitive linguistics is compatible with most of current pedagogical concerns with 'awareness raising, the learning objective of intercultural competence, the targets of autonomous learning, multi-channel learning, holistic learning and teaching as well as the action-oriented approach to learning' (p. 96).
In ''The figure/ground gestalt and language teaching methodology'' (pp. 119-141), PETER GRUNDY argues that 'decontextualized, discrete-item, or segmental approaches to language teaching cannot work', because 'language structures crucially depend, just as visual objects do, on a background which shows their salience' (p.138). Other issues considered as implications of the figure/ground gestalt include (a) reconceptualizing level of difficulty/ease of linguistic categories as their level of salience, (b) the choice of instruction materials, and (c) 'the relationship between varied repetition, figure and ground, and learning' (p. 138).
In '''Cultural scripts': A new medium for ethnopragmatic instruction'' (pp. 143-163), CLIFF GODDARD examines the potential pedagogical applications of the 'cultural scripts' (i.e., statement about cultural norms of various kinds) approach to the teaching of cultural pragmatics (ethnopragmatics). Examples from English and Malay (Bahasa Melayu) are used to illustrate the pedagogical applications of such an approach, which is claimed to be able to not only 'identify and describe culturally preferred speech patterns' but to spell out the links between language- specific speech patterns with the cultural values and attitudes of the people concerned (p. 143).
In ''Grammatical instruction in the natural approach: A cognitive grammar view'' (pp. 165-194), MICHEL ACHARD suggests that the insights of cognitive grammar regarding language organization can be incorporated to make grammatical instruction an integral part of the Natural Approach to L2 teaching without compromising its principles and practices.
In ''Teaching temporal connectors and their prototypical non-temporal extensions'' (pp. 195-210), ANGELIKI ATHANASIADOU argues that the temporal meanings of English temporal connectors such as when, as long as, since are systematically related to their non-temporal extensions. As the title suggests, the non-temporal meanings of these temporal connectors are argued to be prototypical, and are 'systematically based on the their temporal idiosyncrasies' (p. 195). It is suggested and illustrated that the more specific, non-temporal meanings be made explicit in language classroom. This study reminds the reviewer of the study of Tyler & Evans (2001), who argue that the non- temporal meanings of tense in English are systematic and motivated extension of 'temporal reference meaning' via a process of 'pragmatic strengthening'.
In ''Expanding learners' vocabulary through metaphor awareness: What expansion, what learners, what vocabulary?'' (pp. 211-232), FRANK BOERS first reviews several experimental studies showing the short term effects of 'an enhanced metaphor awareness' (p. 211) on vocabulary learning, and then discusses the type of expansion, the type of learners, and the kind of vocabulary that may best benefit from the awareness. In a sense, this paper serves as a blue print for future research on how language learners can best benefit from the metaphor awareness in their expansion of vocabulary in the target language.
In ''A cognitive linguistic view of polysemy in English and its implications for teaching'' (pp. 233-256), SZILVIA CSÁBI reports two experiments examining the facilitative role of explaining the related senses of polysemous words (specifically, hold and keep in English) and their motivations on vocabulary development in a second language. The point of departure is the idea that 'the meaning structure of polysemous words is motivated and can be accounted for in a systematic way' (p. 233). Consequently, explicit knowledge of motivated meanings (e.g., conceptual metaphor, conceptual metonymy, and convention) in the target language should facilitate learning and teaching. The lesson to take home is that 'besides memorization, awareness and acquisition of the cognitive structure of word meanings aids teaching and learning' (p. 233).
In ''Applying cognitive linguistics to pedagogical grammar: The case of over'' (pp. 257-280), ANDREA TYLER & VYVYAN EVANS attempt to illustrate the relevance of cognitive linguistics to language teaching by examining the semantics of over, whose multiple distinct meanings (e.g., transfer, completion, on-the-other-side) are not arbitrary nor accidental, 'but rather that they are related to each other in systematic ways represented by an organized semantic network' (p. 260). A lesson plan for presenting the multiple meanings of over to second language learners is also suggested incorporating the cognitive linguistic insight into prepositional meanings. Interested readers may want to read this paper alongside Queller's (2001) study on 'the pedagogical applications of an entirely new, usage- based analysis of selected parts of the network for the English prepositional/adverbial particle over' (pp. 55-56), and see how different cognitive linguists may treat the same lexical item differently.
CRITICAL EVAULATION The major purpose of Cognitive Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, and Foreign Language Teaching is to stimulate researchers on SLA to rethink their acquisition view or to investigate the pedagogical applications of cognitive linguistics. Two applications are most prominent. First, the systematicity, non-arbitrariness, motivations of linguistic structures (particularly at the lexical level) should be made explicit to L2 learners in the classroom, and explicit instruction of metaphoric motivation can facilitate the learning of idiomatic expressions. Second, L2 teaching and learning can and should be embedded within its cultural contexts, e.g., via the teaching of construal and cultural scripts. These are certainly important suggestions, as '[T]he emergence of another language directs attention to the bi-directional influence between the two language, highlights the decisive role of the interplay of language and culture in shaping meaning, and shifts the explanatory movement from the linguistic level to the conceptual level' (Kecskes, 2002, p. 1). However, there are several things for concern that I want to address here.
First of all, conceptualization figures prominent in cognitive linguistics, and most authors in this volume regard it important to explain the conceptual motivation of linguistic forms to the second language learners. This may indeed seems necessary, as second language learners may be forced to rely on linguistic forms rather than conceptualizations while processing the target language due to a lack or low level of 'conceptual fluency' (Kecskes, 2002, p. 133). However, the physical or physiological motivations of language are rarely mentioned, if any at all, by any of the authors. Also, learning a second language by using it, which is consistent with the usage- based model of language development, is not stressed. A huge number of image schemas have been proposed in the literature of cognitive linguistics. Will the classroom time be well spent explaining these image schemas and related constructs in cognitive linguistics to the second language learners? Wouldn't interactive exposure to large quantities of natural speech in context (Langacker, 2001) and significant immersion in the target language (Kecskes, 2001) be more motivating and authentic pedagogical practices? This is an empirical matter, but so far, no carefully designed and well controlled studies seem to be available.
Second, cognitive linguistics is 'descriptive' and 'functional' in nature. We would expect that discussions of the applications of cognitive linguistics would focus on the 'functional' aspect of language and language use. As the readers can find themselves from the above brief review of the content, this is not the case. However, knowing a language doesn't guarantee accurate, appropriate and fluent use of the language. This problem is especially obvious in second language acquisition. Yoshida (1990, p. 20) has made this very clear when he says '. although I might have knowledge of what to say with who in what circumstances, that does not necessarily mean that I am able to perform accordingly. Moreover, even if I could perform in an ''American'' way if I consciously strived to do so, that does not mean that I feel comfortable doing so' (cited in Kecsceks, 2002, p. 183).
Third, while all the papers in this volume attempt to relate the ASSUMPTIONS of cognitive linguistics to pedagogical issues, the relation is not always obvious. In fact, sometimes the connection is so far-fetched that one gets the impression of going for fad. Most of the time, authors are speculating about pedagogical issues without benefit of empirical data or experimental evidence. One cannot help wondering whether 'the details and concomitant complexity of the discussion' are appropriate for L2 teaching and learning (cf. Tyler & Evans, 2001, p.98). Language teachers are often urged to integrate theoretical insights in the cognitive processes underlying and determining language in use and to bring to the learner's consciousness the conceptualizations conventionally associated with the structures of the target language. Again, the pedagogical significance of consciousness raising as used by many cognitive linguists still calls for carefully designed and well controlled empirical studies, without which the so-called applied cognitive linguistics may fare no better than the long criticized ''arm-chair'' fantasy. Moreover, if cognitive linguistics 'dwells in the streams of human experience' and 'grapples with how human beings actually make sense of their world' (Fesmire, 1994, p.150), and if we would expect a more balanced focus on both conceptual and physical-material aspects of language acquisition (Chen, 2004). Given the experiential and pragmatic background of language-in-use, a more relevant suggestion would be to 'put the students into the world of the target language, beginning with brief and simple episodes of experience and progressing to more complex ones' (Oller, 1993, p. 51).
REFERENCES Baayen, H., Piepenbrock, R., & van Rijn, H. (1993). The CELE lexical database (CD-ROM). Philadelphia: Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Pennsylvania.
Chen, L. (2004). Review of Pütz, M., Niemeier, N., and Dirven, R. (2001) (eds.). Applied Cognitive Linguistics. Vol. I and Vol.II. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Applied Linguistics, 25(3), 440-443.
Dirven, R. (2001). English phrasal verbs: theory and didactic application. In Pütz, M., Niemeier, N., and Dirven, R. (eds.), Applied cognitive linguistics II: Language pedagogy (pp. 3-27). Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Kecskes, I. (2001). The 'graded salience hypothesis' in second language acquisition. In Pütz, M., Niemeier, N., and Dirven, R. (eds.), Applied cognitive linguistics I: Theory and language acquisition (pp. 249-269). Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Kecskes, I. (2002). Situation-bound utterances in L1 and L2. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Langacker, Ronald W. (2001). Cognitive linguistics, language pedagogy, and the English present tense. In Pütz, M., Niemeier, N., and Dirven, R. (eds.), Applied cognitive linguistics I: Theory and language acquisition (pp. 3-39). Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Oller, John W., Jr. (1993). An integrated pragmatic curriculum: A Spanish program. In Oller, J. W., Jr. (Ed.), Methods That Work: Ideas for Literacy and Language Teachers. Boston, MA: Heinle and Heinle. (pp. 50-62).
Queller, K. (2001). Modelling and teaching the phrasal lexicon. In Pütz, M., Niemeier, N., and Dirven, R. (eds.), Applied cognitive linguistics II: Language pedagogy (pp. 55-83). Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Tyler, A. & Evans, V. (2001). The relation between experience, conceptual structure and meaning: non-temporal uses of tense and language teaching. In Pütz, M., Niemeier, N., and Dirven, R. (eds.), Applied cognitive linguistics I: Theory and language acquisition (pp. 63-105). Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Yoshida, K. (1990). Knowing vs. behaving vs. feeling: Studies on Japanese bilinguals. In L. A. Arena (ed.), Language proficiency. New York: Plenum Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Liang Chen is a doctoral candidate in Applied Language and Speech Sciences in the Department of Communicative Disorders at University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His current research includes theoretical semiotics, language assessment, discourse processes, and second language acquisition. Other interests include syntactic theory and Chinese linguistics.