LINGUIST List 15.1868

Sat Jun 19 2004

Review: Applied Ling/Lang Acq: Achard & Niemeier (2004)

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  1. Liang Chen, Cognitive Linguistics, SLA, and Foreign Language Teaching

Message 1: Cognitive Linguistics, SLA, and Foreign Language Teaching

Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004 15:20:34 -0400 (EDT)
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
Announced at

Liang Chen, University of Louisiana at Lafayette.


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

In ''A cognitive linguistic view of polysemy in English and its
implications for teaching'' (pp. 233-256), SZILVIA CS�BI 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


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).


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 P�tz, 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 P�tz, 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 P�tz, 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 P�tz, 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
P�tz, 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 P�tz, 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.


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.
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