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Review of  Cognitive and Communicative Approaches to Linguistic Analysis


Reviewer: Asunción Villamil Touriño
Book Title: Cognitive and Communicative Approaches to Linguistic Analysis
Book Author: Ellen Contini-Morava Robert S. Kirsner Betsy Rodríguez-Bachiller
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Pragmatics
Semantics
Syntax
Cognitive Science
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin
English
German
Hebrew
Japanese
Korean
Macedonian
Chiripá
Polish
Russian
Spanish
Urdu
Yaqui
Havasupai-Walapai-Yavapai
Serbian
Book Announcement: 16.1588

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Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 16:00:46 +0200 (CEST)
From: Asuncion Villamil <asunvt@yahoo.es>
Subject: Cognitive and Communicative Approaches to Linguistic Analysis

EDITORS: Contini-Morava, Ellen; Kirsner, Robert S.; Rodríguez-Bachiller,
Betsy
TITLE: Cognitive and Communicative Approaches to Linguistic Analysis
SERIES: Studies in Functional and Structural Linguistics 51
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2004

Asunción Villamil Touriño, English Department, Escuela Oficial de Idiomas
de Cuenca (Official Language School), Spain

SYNOPSIS

This volume is a collection of papers which are the product of the
Columbia School Linguistics Conference held at Rutgers University in
October 1999. The book's main motivation is to present the dialogue
between two linguistic schools, Columbia School (CS) and Cognitive Grammar
(CG). The relationships between both are first sketched in the thorough
introduction by Robert S. Kirsner (pp.1-18), which plunges the reader into
the book and raises interest on the contrasting and parallel views of CS
and CG.

The first part of the book is devoted to Cognitive Grammar and includes
two articles developed on the light shed by this current of analysis. The
first one is "Form, meaning, and behavior: The Cognitive Grammar analysis
of double subject constructions" (pp. 21-60), by Ronald W. Langacker. The
introductory sections of the article constitute a presentation of CG, with
a concise sketching of its most important concepts (trajectory, landmark,
profiling, etc.) and basic tenets (continuum of syntax, morphology and
lexicon or inherent meaning of grammatical markers and construction, among
the most salient). The advantages of this line of analysis are
persuasively presented through the analysis of double subject
constructions in a wide range of languages. Then Langacker moves on to a
detailed comparison between CS and CG, providing convincing answers to
several criticisms made by CS, such as its dependence on some concepts of
traditional grammar and its ambitious and perhaps unfeasible target of
applying knowledge about cognition to analysis. The basic difference
between both schools is revealed in their general approach to the
possibility of language analysis, since CG takes a broad and inclusive
view and CS narrows the scope of analysis due to the difficulties of
linguistic research. Apart from this difference in the starting point,
Langacker accepts the analysis proposed by CS in essence and offers the
challenging view of considering CS to be included within the wider shade
of CG.

The second article that takes CG as it framework is Michael B.
Smith's "Cataphoric pronouns as mental space designators: Their conceptual
import and discourse function" (pp. 61-90). This article provides some
insight into the somewhat neglected cataphoric pronouns appearing in
constructions such as "I despise it that John voted for the governor" by
appealing to the notion of mental spaces as described by Fauconnier and
others. The study of examples from English, but also from German and
Russian, leads the author to catalogue these pronouns as "mental space
designators" inasmuch they designate and help the building up of mental
spaces by anticipating the mental space that will be created by the
subordinate clause following them. As CG maintains that grammatical
markers are not arbitrary, but have a meaning, semantic motivations are
searched for this use. The following are suggested: accentuation of
conceptual distance, evocation of especial emphasis and accentuation of a
space's physical boundaries. Compelling evidence from examples is given to
support these claims.

Finishing with CG articles, the volume includes a second part dealing with
theoretical issues in classical sign-based linguistics. One of the
traditional assumptions of CS is the non-existence of polysemy, which is
explored the article "Monosemy, homonymy and polysemy" (pp. 93-129) by
Wallis Reid. The prepositions at, in and on are chosen for an
exemplification of the reduction of traditionally polysemous signs to one
single-meaning items. Each of them is postulated to have one single
abstract meaning (similar to the schematic meanings suggested by CG) based
on the number of dimensions that they conceptualize: in encompasses three
dimensions in location, on more than zero and less than three, and at
involves zero dimensions. Through the application of metaphor as described
by cognitive grammarians, these meanings are transferred to the temporal
sphere and to abstract domains. The abundant examples and discussions
clarify the suitability of the meanings sketched and how they can account
for the description of the three prepositions without resorting to
polysemy. This article also illustrates some bridges of cooperation
between CG and CS, such as the adoption of CG's view of metaphor.

The next chapter is devoted to the relationship between grammatical forms
and their meanings (Mark J. Elson: "On the relationship between form and
grammatical meaning in the linguistic sign", pp. 131-154). A detailed
analysis of verb paradigms in some Slavic and Romance languages
(Macedonian, Spanish, Polish, Romanian and Serbian) is the key to question
the requirement of full grammatical representation in linguistics signs,
by which all grammatical meanings are required to be represented even if
there is just one desinence (portmanteau representation). After the
compelling evidence from the analysis (although some of it is not clear
enough, as for example the source for dialectal Spanish - what kind of
dialectal Spanish is that? Mexican? Colombian? Peninsular?), some verbal
desinences in the languages under observation are shown to convey less
than the total grammatical meaning associated with the words in which they
occur. Three paradigms are recognized for analytic purposes: a formation
paradigm, a sub-paradigm and a minimal sub-paradigm. Verbal forms are
assumed to have internal paradigmatic structure and the contrast with the
rest of the paradigm appears as a strong motivation for the choice of the
grammatical meaning which will be represented. Priorities for different
meanings are suggested for each kind of paradigm level. Lastly, all these
data support the view of the morpheme as a linguistic unit and open the
room for the possibility of full grammatical representation not to be the
necessary case, but probably the optimal (prototypical?) kind of
representation. As the previous article, this chapter also displays some
links with CG, as the use of the concept of iconicity or the assumption
that language is formed by form-meaning pairings.

The article by Joseph Davis "Revisiting the gap between meaning and
message" (pp.155-174) focuses on a traditional issue within CS, the
difference between the (limited) linguistic meanings encoded in signs and
the rich communicative messages inferred from these meanings. The relation
between both was bridged by the term "strategy", but this appears
unsatisfying at the light of the evidence listed by Davis. This evidence
concerns four aspects: compatible meanings, categorical strategies,
correlation and causation, and independence of textual elements. In the
first place, CS assumes that logically incompatible meanings do not occur
or at least do so very rarely, which is not the case, as in "a (singular)
crossroads (plural)". As to the second aspect, evidence from studies in
Italian, French and Spanish clitics suggests that strategies are not
categorical, in the sense that they are not psychological realities, but
only theoretical conveniences. Thirdly, some CS studies have simplified
matters accepting that correlation implies causation; again, evidence from
pronouns le / la / lo in Spanish leads us to the contrary conclusion. This
is related to the last criticism presented: explanatory factors are not
independent and the interconnections between them could advisably be taken
into account. The enriching arguments against the misuse of the
term "strategy" conclude with the sound advice of carrying out deeper
analyses and a constant re-evaluation of hypotheses and results.

Whereas the articles so far have dealt with theoretical issues of both CS
and CG, the subsequent chapters ("Part III. Analyses on the level of the
classic linguistic sign") are devoted to practical analysis of grammatical
structures that follow the guidelines set by CS. These papers share a
common structure: (1) they present a problematic grammatical item that has
been insufficiently studied; (2) a single meaning is postulated to account
for all its uses; (3) the hypothesized meaning is checked with corpora.
Although not explicitly stated, the pedagogical implications of the
results of the analysis are indisputable. The first signs studied are the
German conjunctions als and wenn ("The givenness of background: A semantic-
pragmatic study of two modern German subordinating conjunctions", by Zhuo
Jing-Schmidt, pp. 177-203). These items are traditionally differentiated
in terms of the temporal (past, present or future times) and modal
(factual vs. non-factual) meanings of the subordinate clause they
introduce. Jing-Schmidt shows the flaws of this approach and proposes that
the speaker gives instructions to the hearer as to how he has to interpret
the following information: while als suggests that the background is
given, wenn tells the reader that the background is not given and the
speaker provides an imaginary or hypothetical situation as background. The
hypothesis is validated through examples and the explanatory power of
these meanings is displayed against traditional and pedagogical approaches.

The next phenomenon under investigation is Spanish subjunctive (Bob de
Jonge: "The relevance of relevance in linguistic analysis: Spanish
subjunctive mood", pp. 205-218"). The search for a unitary account of the
distribution of indicative and subjunctive mood is the target of the
paper. Previous descriptions used a variety of explanatory factors, such
as assertiveness vs. non-assertiveness. The hypothesis is that indicative
mood expresses assertion of the occurrence expressed by the verb but
subjunctive mood does not associate with non-assertion, but with the
expression of an alternative. These meanings are applied to analyse
quantitatively and qualitatively subordinate que-clauses from some of
García Marquez's short stories. Although limited in its scope, the
hypothesis seems to work here. As suggested by the author, future studies
will have to test its validity for a wider variety of contexts.

The following chapter ("A sign-based analysis of English pronouns in
conjoined expressions", by Nancy Stern, pp. 219-234) highlights the use of
self-pronouns in conjoined expressions such as "According to John, the
article was written by Ann and himself" (2004:219). Many native speakers
feel insecure in the use of pronouns in these expressions owing to the
confusion between object and subject pronouns. The use of self-pronouns to
avoid the choice between them seems to add extra uncertainty. As well as
the misapplication of prescriptive rules, the distribution of these
pronouns seems to be anchored on the meaning of "insistence on an entity",
added to the person, number and sex meanings. This meaning is taken as the
key to illuminate examples taken from different contemporary best-sellers.
Other factors linked to the description are the Control System among
participants in the event or differentiation of reference. Together with
prescriptivism, the article insists on the fact the distribution of these
pronouns is determined by a combination of causes.

Noah Oron and Yishai Tobin's contribution is the first to leave
Indoeuropean languages and targets at exploring the complexities of the
Hebrew verbs ("Semantic oppositions in the Hebrew verb system", pp. 235-
260). The patterns that comprise the verb system have been previously
accounted for by resorting to a somewhat random combination of syntactic,
pragmatic and semantic functions, but a sign-oriented explanation results
in a far more convincing description. Each of the eight / seven verbal
inflectional and conjugational patterns is described according to a set of
invariant meanings based on three domains (Objective vs. Subjective,
Single vs. Multiple, and Autonomy). The paper applies these meanings to
one of these verbal alternations (PAAL-HYTPAEL) showing how these general
meanings, as well as the paradigmatic contrast between the different
alternations, is the motivating force behind the different distributions.
The generalizations previously made seem to success in the description of
all 150 PAAL-HYPTAEL alternations and the application of these invariant
meanings to different types of verbs classified according to semantic
features.

A pair of morphemes from Hualapai, a language spoken in Arizona, is
surveyed in Kumiko Ichihashi-Nakayama's article ("Grammaticization of 'to'
and 'away': A unified account of -k and -m in Hualapai", pp. 261-273).
Some formerly suggested functions are reviewed in the first place to move
on to a unitary proposal for one single meaning for morphemes -k and -
m: 'inside/toward the "focal point"' and 'outside/away from the "focal
point"', respectively. The different readings of these suffixes are argued
not to be distinct meanings, but different manifestations of these root
meanings adapted to the context where they appear, namely, as noun or verb
suffixes, at the end of sentences or combining clauses. Furthermore, there
are different hints of these morphemes' movement towards
grammaticalization, although the lack of diachronic data prevents more
conclusive statements.

Classical sign-based studies give way now to the fourth section of the
volume which moves away from the sign level ("Part IV. Below and above the
level of the sign"). The focus now shifts from grammar to the application
of CS theory to phonology, lexicon and discourse. Shabana Hameed addresses
the issue of phonology in her article "Interaction of physiology and
communication in the make-up and distribution of stops in Lucknow Urdu"
(pp. 277-288). CS framework is used in this case to explain the inventory
of stop phonemes in Urdu and their distribution in words in terms of
physiology and communication. Five native informants were chosen to
collect a collection of monosyllabic words to serve as corpus. The first
step is to present the consonants of the language in several tables
according to a categorization based on the organs of articulation and
demonstrated through minimal pairs. The classification contrasts with
traditional taxonomies based on passive points of articulation in that it
is physiologically based on the articulators that play a significant role
in shaping and exciting the vocal cavity for the production of speech
sounds. The result is the selection five articulators: labium, apex,
medium, front dorsum and post dorsum.

The aim of the next section is to establish a hierarchy of adroitness of
the articulators, since it is postulated that they are not uniform in
terms of their adroitness. This hierarchy stems from the relationship of
articulators and the inventory and distribution of stop consonants; that
is, the most adroit articulator will be most productively used in the
production of consonants. Quantitative frequency measurements support this
claim. The following step is to compare the sounds in initial and final
position. Taking as a starting point that the beginning of a word carries
a greater communicative load, it is expected that there will be an
increase of frequency of more favoured stops at the beginning of the word
and, conversely, less favoured articulators will appear at the end of the
word. These contrasts demonstrate the interaction of physiology and
communication.

The interconnection between phonology and lexicon is the target of Yishai
Tobin's "Between phonology and lexicon: The Hebrew triconsonantal (CCC)
root system revolving around /r/ (C-r-C)" (pp. 289-323). The paper
postulates a general meaning ("a change in structure") for the roots
containing /r/ in Hebrew. This general meaning is shown to be present in
other phonologically related roots, which express semantic subfields that
can be considered to be included within this general meaning (either
through literal or metaphoric connections). Cognitive limitations and the
principle of "economy of effort" are interestingly used to explain the
motivation of this phenomenon. An exhaustive list of all the roots
containing /r/ is presented to back up the hypothesis. It is remarkable
that this article is a first step on the part of the author to search for
other connections between phonology and semantic fields in Hebrew.

Now is the turn of discourse and word order is the next level under
investigation. Ricardo Otheguy, Betsy Rodríguez-Bachiller and Eulalia
Canals ("Length of the extra-information phrase as a predictor of word
order: A cross-language comparison", pp. 325-340) draw from CS tenets to
account for some word order variations exclusively in terms of signs and
meanings, without resort to other syntactic constructs. They focus on the
orders of the Event, extra information about the Event and the second
Participant and their interaction with the length of the expression. Their
predictions (shorter elements will come out earlier) are put to the
statistical test of a corpus of English and Spanish texts, including
translations. Some of the initial hypotheses succeed: English shows a
tendency to place extra information and lower Participants at the end of
the sentence and the longer element at the end, while Spanish situates
extra information more freely. But surprisingly, differences between
English and Spanish seem to be a matter of degree, in that similar word
order effects were discovered in both languages, although they showed a
different magnitude in each language (Spanish exhibits more tolerance to
intervening extra information).

Word order is again an issue in "Word-order variation in spoken Spanish in
constructions with a verb, a direct object, and an adverb: The interaction
of syntactic, cognitive, pragmatic, and prosodic features" by Francisco
Ocampo (Pp. 341-360). However, this time only Spanish is the object of
analysis and the scope is narrowed to objects and adverbs. A corpus of
informal conversations is examined according to factors such as
topicality, status of the referent and adverb type among others. The
article highlights the interactions of these factors and word order when
the pragmatic function of the sentence is to convey information and when
it has an additional pragmatic function. The results, which are
schematized in a table and clearly exemplified, demonstrate the
correlation between word order and the cognitive and syntactic factors
mentioned when only information is conveyed; in this case unmarked orders
are used, but alterations make way when additional pragmatic functions
come into play.

The last article by Anita Martinez ("Estrategias discursivas como
parámetros para el análisis lingüístico", pp. 361-379) concentrates on the
alternation of the accusative pronouns le / lo in the northwest of
Argentina. In contrast to standard Argentinian or the peninsular variety
of Spanish, this variability is not to be due to "leísmo", but to the
substrate of Guaraní and Quechua. The transfer and identification between
a Quechua suffix and le condition the strategies for its use. It is argued
that in narratives the use of le correlates with a heightening of
suspense, since the use of le, with a more active meaning than lo, alerts
the listener that the second participant will play a more powerful role
than expected. This device is skillfully exploited in oral narratives, as
the analysis of the corpora and control experiments reveal.

EVALUATION

Having summarized the main points of the papers of which the volume
consists, let us now turn to some concluding evaluative remarks. Firstly,
the significance of this compilation is undeniable for analysts within the
linguistic schools represented in the papers; the book displays with
precision that it does not exist such a great distance between them. CS
makes use of some of CG tenets, and CG, as Langacker says, can profit from
CS analysis (2004: 56). CS papers make constant use of CG terms, such as
iconicity, metaphor, etc. and more basically, they share the assumption
that grammar has a meaning.

Not only does this volume cater for such a limited audience, but it will
also prove to be of great interest for any scholar with an interest in
grammatical analysis, even if not directly interested in CS or CG. The
relevant empirical data alongside the exhaustive qualitative and
quantitative analysis carried out in the papers, especially in part three
and four, provide solid ground for the hypotheses postulated, which are
nevertheless open to future extensions and modifications, as generally
stated on the papers themselves. This need for constant reevaluation is
addressed by accurate criticisms to other currents or authors or even to
the school to which the author belongs (cf. Davis 2004:155-174) and
consequently answering of criticisms from others (cf. Langacker 2004: 21-
60). The new revealing argumentations are perhaps the most enriching
contribution of the book. Even if it does not provide all the answers, it
raises many enlightening questions as to the status of linguistics as a
science and the insights of linguistic analysis. The clear structure of
the volume in general and all the papers in particular, as well as the
study of a great variety of languages (English, German, Guarani, Hebrew,
Hualapai, Macedonian, Spanish, Urdu, etc.) also contribute to the merits
of the book.

On possible drawback is the lack of balance between papers from CG and CS;
of course it should be born in mind that these papers are the product of a
CS conference. In spite of that, after the introduction and Langacker's
article, in which the most relevant contact lines between the schools are
articulated, the reader might miss more information with reference to a
further dialogue between both currents.

All things considered, this work represents a valuable and up-to-date
contribution to linguistic analysis, especially grammatical, and
constitutes a thought-provoking basis for further studies on the field.




 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER


Asunción Villamil is currently working a full-time teacher of English as a
foreign language in an Escuela Oficial de Idiomas (Spanish state language
school), and combines her teaching activities with academic research. She
is a PhD student at the English Philology Department of the Complutense
University of Madrid and her doctoral research focuses on comparative
syntax from a cognitive point of view. She has published articles on
verbal complementation, metaphor and teaching English as a foreign
language.