COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING AT ENGLISH DEPARTMENTS UDC 371.3: Vladan Pavlović - PDF

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FACTA UNIVERSITATIS Series: Linguistics and Literature Vol. 8, N o 1, 2010, pp COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING AT ENGLISH DEPARTMENTS UDC 371.3: Vladan Pavlović University

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FACTA UNIVERSITATIS Series: Linguistics and Literature Vol. 8, N o 1, 2010, pp COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING AT ENGLISH DEPARTMENTS UDC 371.3: Vladan Pavlović University of Niš, Serbia Abstract. The paper first shortly presents the basic postulates of cognitive linguistics, including A. Goldberg's construction grammar, as an important theory developing within the cognitive linguistic approach to the grammatical level of language structure. Then it moves on to examine the ways the various theoretical insights of cognitive linguistics can practically be applied to language teaching at English departments, with the focus being primarily on the syntactic and the lexical levels. Apart from the relevant theoretical literature, the paper also builds on the works of various authors who have explored the actual relation between cognitive linguistics and foreign language teaching, and lists and evaluates various ELT books in which cognitive linguistic insights have been put to practice. Key Words: Cognitive linguistics, construction grammar, ELT at English departments, the syntactic level, the lexical level. 1. INTRODUCTION The paper aims to examine some of the ways the various theoretical insights of cognitive linguistics can practically be applied to language teaching at English departments. The focus thereby will primarily be on the syntactic level, especially in view of the fact that the possible applications of the given theory to this level seem thus far not to have attracted researchers' interest to the degree the issue deserves. The possible applications of the given theory to the lexical level will also be dealt with. In connection with this, the paper will, among other things, also list and evaluate some of the (still relatively scarce) ELT books in which cognitive linguistic insights have been put to practice and present an outline of possible future research agenda in the area. Submitted February 2010, accepted in May This paper represents a revised and updated version of the paper presented at the 9 th International ESSE Conference held at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, in August 2008 80 V. PAVLOVIĆ In view of the given aims, here we will first briefly present some of the basic postulates of cognitive linguistics in general (Lakoff/Johnson, 1980; Ungerer/Schmid, 1986; Lakoff, 1987; Langacker, 1987, 1991; Taylor, 1989, 2002). Then we will also focus on A. Goldberg's construction grammar in particular, this being an important theory developing within the cognitive linguistic approach to the grammatical level of language structure. 1.1 One of the most important tenets of cognitive linguistics 1 is that everything in language is permeated with meaning. Meaning, thereby, is considered to be a matter of conceptualization of how particular language users construe the world anthropocentrically, subjectively and under the influence of a specific cultural surrounding they find themselves in. In that sense, man's conceptual system is postulated to be grounded in his physical experience, ie. conceptual categories, the meanings of words, sentences and other linguistic structures are considered to be motivated, and grounded in one's concrete, direct experience with the surrounding world, with which one interracts through perception, motion, handling different objects, etc. Language is taken to be funadamentally symbolic at all levels of its structure, including the grammatical one. In other words, the basic units of morphology, syntax and lexical semantics are said to form a continuum of symbolic structures, with neither of the levels of linguistic analysis (the phonological, morhological, syntactic ones, etc.) constituting an autonomous part of human language competence, nor is language as a whole taken to represent a separate and unique cognitive faculty. No sharp distinction is drawn between the literal and figurative language, with metaphor and metonymy, as some of the possible modes of figurative thought, consequently being considered one of the crucial traits of human symbolic thought in general. In addition, cognitive linguistics (as opposed to Chomsky's generative grammar) posits no notion of the 'deep structure' nor does it allow for syntactic transformations. Irregularities and idiosyncracies in language use are always taken into consideration, and linguistic meaning and extralinguistic context are thought inseparable. Cognitive linguistics has also come to redifine the concept of categorization (as a (most often) unconscious and automatic language-inherent mental classification process used to reduce the unlimited differences among different entities to a cognitively acceptable level). In that sense, it has put forward the prototype theory of categorization (developed as an alternative to the classical, Aristotelian approch to categorization). In such cognitive - model, the members of a category can be grouped into prototypes, on the one hand, and those members of a category that more or less aberate from the prototype in a motivated way (via metaphor, metonymy, the principle of family resemblances, gradience, meaning chains, etc.), on the other hand. 1 Suggestions have been put forward (see Antović, 2007:37) that the cognitive linguistics we have in mind here (that usually associated with the names of Lakoff, Langacker and the other authors given above) should be termed cognitive linguistics in the narrower sense, the term cognitive linguistics in the broader sense being reserved for the entire field of the exploration of not only cognitive linguistics in the narrower sense, but also of Chomsky's generative grammar, Jackendoff's conceptual theory, and other approaches (from variuos scientific disciplines) that explore human cognition. In that sense, when the term cognitive linguistics is used in this paper it will regularly refer to cognitive linguistics in the narrower sense. Cognitive Linguistics and English Language Teaching at English Departments In keeping with the aims of the paper presented aboove, here we will also briefly focus on the most important tenets of A. Goldberg's construction grammar (Goldberg 1995 and 2006; Jackendoff 1997; Goldberg/Jackendoff 2002; Östman/Fried 2005). Namely, this particular theory develops within the cognitive linguistic approach to the grammatical level of language structure, together with Fillmore, Kay and O'Connor's Unification Construction Grammar, Langacker's Cognitive Grammar [with the capital letters of the phrase] (Langacker 1987, 1991), and Croft's Radical Construction Grammar (Croft, 2001). As it would have demanded too much space here to present all these theories developing within cognitive grammar, we have chosen to focus only on the abovementioned A. Goldberg's construction grammar, hoping that, for the purposes of this paper, this theory only will be sufficient to represent some of the basic traits of the cognitive-linguistic approach to the grammatical (and more particularly syntactic) level of language structure (ie. of cognitive grammar) in general. Construction grammar holds the view that the primary unit of grammar is the grammatical construction, whereby constructions are defined as symbols, ie. pairings of form (syntactic, morphological, phonetic form) and content (semantic/pragmatic meaning). All grammatical (ie. morphological and syntactic) constructions can be distributed between the two following pairs of poles. Firstly, there is the substantivity / schematicity opposition. In other words, a construction can be completely lexically filled, ie. substantivized (eg. It takes one to know one), or completely schematized (N1 V N2 N3), or somewhere in-between the two poles (eg. The X-er, the Y-er), with the constructions of the latter two types being, naturally, prone to getting (further) substantivized (eg. She gave me a book, The more, the merrier, etc.). And secondly, all grammatical constructions can also be distributed between the poles of atomicity and complexity, with monomoprhemic words being considered atomic grammatical constructions, and units such as polymorphemic words, phrases, clauses and sentences getting progressively more complex structurally. In that sense, construction grammar holds the view that the language system can be thought of as a continuum of symbolic structures, along which different constructions can be distributed between the two given pairs of poles. In that way, this theory also tries to realize one of its most important goals to approach the totality of language without giving greater significance to any of the linguistic levels. An important point emerging from above is that all grammatical constructions, including those completely shematized ones, such as N1 V N2 N3, and those partly substantivized and partly schematized one, such as N1 V time away, carry meaning in and of themselves (abstract though that meaning may be). Thus the former construction can be ascribed the following meaning: x causes y to receive z (eg. She gave me a book, She gave me a headache), whereas the latter one can be ascribed the following meaning: x, usually wastefully, spends time doing something (He's slept the afternoon away, We punk-rocked the night away, etc.). In other words, the important point the given theory makes is that a construction can often function as the semantic head of the sentence. Namely, it stipulates that all concrete instantiations of a particular construction will have certain meaning, regardless of the verb that gets incorporated into it (as we could see from an example pertaining to the latter construction, a verb typically considered an intransitive one, such as the verb sleep, can get incorporated into an essentially transitive construction, without there occuring any significant change in the general meaning of the given construction represented above). We will come back to this shortly. 82 V. PAVLOVIĆ In connection with this, construction grammar also posits various mechanisms pertaining to the ways syntactic constructions, on the one hand, and verbs that integrate into them, on the other hand, interact. In that sense, in order to explore the given kind of interaction, the linguists dealing with construction grammar rely on the concepts such as construction argument roles, verb participant roles, role contribution, fusion, the principle of semantic coherence, the principle of correspondence, the principle of no synonymy, motivation and some others (eg. see Goldberg, 1995). For limitations of space, in this paper we cannot possibly explain all of these terms but will only focus especially on one of them, namely motivation (and partly, the principle of no synonymy as well), as it is quite important for our purposes in this paper. We will do so, however, in the following sections of the paper (section 2). In that section, we will discuss the possible applications of the main tenets of cognitive linguistics in general and of and construction grammar in particular to the syntactic level within English language teaching at English departments. 1.3 In section 3, the focus from the same perspective will be on the lexical level. In that sense, we will here first briefly discuss the importance of the concept of idioms (in the broader and the narrower sense) and of idiomaticity in the given theories, as these particular concepts can be said to form a significant driving force behind these theories in general (see Taylor, 2002: ). Idioms in the narrower sense would be those expressions whose meaning cannot be predicted from the meanings which their component parts have elsewhere in the language, ie. those whose idiomaticity resides in the special meaming that attaches to a syntactically regular phrase (eg. red herring, kick the bucket, etc.). In addition, idiomatic expressions in the narrower sense may also be those characterized by certain special aspects of the form of those expressions, such as various collocational limitations (eg. one can say by and large, but not *by and small). Idioms in the broader sense would encompass: a) formulas expressions with a conventionalized function in a laguage, which can be conventionally associated with a certain kind of situation (eg. How do you do?), or which have a distinctive discourse-structuring function (eg. to sum up, last but not the least), or which represent conventionalized ways of expressing a speaker's attitude (eg. Is that a fact?); b) pre-formed language, such as texts and texts fragments (eg. memorized religious texts, nursery rhymes, song lyrics etc.), proverbs, sayings and aphorisms (make hay while the sun shines), and cathchphrases and cliches (eg. It ain't over till the fat lady sings). A language, naturally contains many (tens of) thousands of expressions of that kind. In addition to this, construction grammar (and cognitive grammar in general) attempts to show that idiomaticity is an all-pervasive feature of language, ie. that even those categories considered to be rule-governed and non-idiomatic actually display irregularities, idiosyncracies and a smaller or larger degree of idiomaticity. For example, at the morphological level, it can be taken to be an idiomatic fact in English that only the noun arrogance, rather than the nouns such as *arrogantness, *arrogancy, etc., can be derived out of the adjective arrogant. At the syntactic level, the following example could be given. Monotransitive constructions can be said to be typically used to express an event whereby the subject referent causes the object referent to change its state or position. (especially with the verbs such as kill, kick, push etc.). No such relation between the subject and the object referent, however, is expressed in those monotransitive constructions in which the verbs of perception and cognition (eg. see, hear, remember) are used (eg. I saw Cognitive Linguistics and English Language Teaching at English Departments 83 her in the street yesterday), and especially not in those monotransitive constructions where the subject referent actually expresses the (spatial or temporal) location of an action (eg. This tent sleeps six, The fifth day saw our departure, etc.). In that sense, the monotransitive construction can be said to have a prototypical centre, and the periphery also characterized by varying degrees of idiomaticity. In that sense, rather than considering idioms and idiomaticity to be periphreal in language, constructions grammar considers them to actually be at the core of it, and a person's knowledge of a language to consists precisely of the knowledge of idioms in the broader and narrower sense (ie. constructions/symbols), and of other various idomatic / idiosyncratic facts related to the use of the various categories of a given language. It is precisely against this background that construction grammar puts forward the abovementioned view that the distinction between the lexicon (often considered to be the repository of the particular and idiosynratic) and syntax (often considered to be the domain of the regular and predictable) can not be maintained, and that both these levels can actually be thought of as inextricably linked through the above-mentioned concept of constructions/symbols, as form-meaning correspondences, which, naturally, also encompass idioms as defined above. We will come back to this, as mentioned above, in section PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS THE SYNTACTIC LEVEL In this part of the paper, we will, for limitations of space, focus only on two relevant points from among those mentioned above the concept of motivation and the concept of sentence argument structure In linguistic theory, cognitive linguistics included, the term motivation is ascribed at least two senses. First of all, it can be used to refer to different ways that various linguistic constructions can be systematically related to each other(s). And secondly, it can be used to address the question why it is possible or natural that a particular formmeaning correspondence (ie. a paritcular grammatical or any other linguistic construction) should exist in a particular language. We will focus on both of these senses in turn. As far as the first above-mentioned sense of the concept of motivation is concerned, construction grammar posits various types of inhereitance links that different types of constructions can be said to be systematically related by. In other words, the introduction of the concept of inheritance allows us to capture the fact that two constructions can be in some ways the same and in some ways different (Goldberg, 1995:72). The following types of inheritance links are posited: a) metaphorical links, b) subpart links, c) polysemy links, and d) instance links. Once again having the limitations of space in mind, here we will concentrate only on the first types of inheritance links - the metaphorical ones. In keeping with the cognitive linguistic theory in general, construction grammar, too, insists on the importance of the notion of metaphor. Assuming that the reader of these lines is acquainted with at least the basics of the conceptual theory of metaphor as propounded eg. in Lakoff/Johnson, 1980, or Lakoff, 1987, to name but two relevant sources on the issue, here will will not go into details of the given theory, but will only give several examples that may show how various linguistic structures / constructions can be related through metaphor. Construction grammar posits metaphoric extension of meaning both between /among constructions that have the same form and those whose forms are different. An example 84 V. PAVLOVIĆ of a metaphoric extension of meaning beween two constructions with the same form would be the following pair of sentences: John gave Mary an apple and I'll give you that assumption (both of which are ditransitive constructions, ie. constructions with the following formal structure: N1 V N2 N3). In this particular case, the transfer of abstract ownership, such as that of giving somebody an assumption, is, as it can be seen, conceptualized in terms of a quite concrete, physical transfer, such as that of giving somebody an apple. In other words, one can postulate the existence of the following metaphor here: TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP IS PHYSICAL TRANSFER. Metahoric extensions of meaning of this kind have been extensively discussed in the relevant literature. Metaphoric extensions of meaning can also be posited between/among construction that have different forms an issue much less explored in the relevant literature on the topic. We will cite two sets of examples for this here. Let us first take a look at the following pair of sentences (Goldberg, 1995): She brushed the dirt out of her hair and Manchester College elected him Principal in Although both of these sentences are complex-transitive, they are once again different in form in the first one (considered to be an instantiation of the 'caused motion construction') the direct object (DO) is followed by a prepositional phrase (PP) functioning as a complementing adverbial, whereas in the second one (also referred to as the 'resultative construction'), the DO is followed by a noun functioning as an objective complement (OC). The two sentences can be said to be related through metaphor THE CHANGE OF STATE IS THE CHANGE OF LOCA- TION; in other words, the change of an abstract state, such as that when one becomes a principal, is claimed to be conceptualized similarly to the conceptualization of a change of physical location. Let us now also consider the following pairs of sentences: We found the children undernourished and We found the children to be undernourished, He declared the meeting official and He declared the meeting to be official, They got him angry and They got him to be angry, Mary doesn't think he'll leave until tomorrow and Mary thinks he won't leave until tomorrow, Harry is not happy and Harry is unhappy, I taught Greek to Harry and I taught Harry Greek, Sam killed Harry i Sam caused Harry
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