LINGUIST List 16.872
Tue Mar 22 2005
Review: Ling Theories/Cognitive Ling: Radden & Panther
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Studies in Linguistic Motivation
Message 1: Studies in Linguistic Motivation
From: Cristiano Broccias <cribroctin.it>
Subject: Studies in Linguistic Motivation
EDITORS: Radden, Günter; Panther, Klaus-Uwe
TITLE: Studies in Linguistic Motivation
SERIES: Cognitive Linguistics Research 28
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-3347.html
Cristiano Broccias, Faculty of Modern Languages, University of Genoa
OVERVIEW AND COMMENTARY
This volume comprises twelve papers, divided into four sections, which
discuss the role of motivation in language. They are preceded by an
introduction, "Reflections on motivation",, where Radden and Panther
review the notion of motivation (and its relation to its opposite, i.e.
arbitrariness). They also highlight its non-deterministic and
multifactorial nature. They regard a linguistic unit (or target) as
being "motivated if some of its properties are shaped by a linguistic
source (form and/or content) and language-independent factors" (p.4). They
then discuss the basic semiotic relations underlying motivation as well as
various types of language-independent motivation (e.g. ecological
motivation, genetic motivation, experiential motivation, perceptual
motivation and cognitive motivation). It may be important to stress that
by "language-independent motivation" Radden and Panther mean motivation
which is not exclusive to the realm of language.
The papers are grouped into five sections, corresponding to different
types of motivation. However, the editors stress that their classification
is to some extent "arbitrary" (a pun I found very amusing). In what
follows I will offer a short summary for each of the contributions as well
as my own reactions. I would like to point out from the very start that
the book is very interesting and deserves to be used as a reference point
for future research on motivation. That is, my evaluation of the volume is
positive overall. The fact that in the paper-by-paper analysis below I
will insist, especially in some cases, on possible problems with the
analyses put forward in the volume simply stems from my desire to see some
important issues clarified in future research.
Section I: Ecological motivation
John Taylor, "The ecology of constructions", regards constructions as the
basic units of (Cognitive) Grammar and views them as being arranged in
networks. The latter point is crucial for his definition of motivation. He
claims that "[a] linguistic structure is motivated to the extent that it
is related to other structures in the language" (p.57). The reader should
therefore acknowledge that Taylor is using a more restricted definition of
motivation than Radden and Panther's in that he emphasises the interdependence
of phonological, semantic and symbolic structures (i.e. ecological motivation,
which counts as an instance of language-independent motivation in Radden and
Panther's analysis since networks are not restricted to language). He
illustrates (his notion of) motivation by way of the noun "hamburger" (which
originated as "hamburg" + "er" and was later reanalysed as "ham" + "burger")
and the "Bang goes" constructions (e.g. "Bang goes my weekend!").
Taylor's paper is not only written very clearly but also contributes
significantly to the development of the cognitive linguistic enterprise,
in particular of Cognitive Grammar. First, in his preliminary remarks, he
emphasises that both phonology and semantics have a certain degree of
autonomy, a position which is rarely encountered in cognitive linguistic
analyses. Second, he stresses the importance of constructions and of
distributional facts, thus bridging the (potential) gap between
Langacker's Cognitive Grammar, which aims to define grammatical notions
semantically rather than distributionally, and Croft's Radical
Construction Grammar, which, on the other hand, recognises the primacy of
constructions (on this point see Broccias and Hollmann in preparation).
Third, by highlighting the systemic nature of grammar, he implicitly sets
the agenda for future cognitive linguistic research, which should not
ignore that language is a "système où tout se tient". In fact, the volume
would have profited even more in terms of its value if ecological
motivation had been referred to throughout the volume.
Ad Foolen, "Expressive binomial NPs in Germanic and Romance languages",
investigates NPs like "a bear of a man" and "a hell of a job", i.e.
complex NPs made up of two nouns (i.e. binomials) which convey a strong
expressive force. He claims that both NPs in the binomial are heads. The
first NP is the "expressive" head and the second the "referential" head.
He also suggests that the construction is both iconically and ecologically
motivated. It is iconically motivated because the first position of the
attributive (i.e. expressive here) NP (e.g. "bear", "hell") mirrors its
salience in the overall construction (i.e. the construction has a strong
expressive form). The construction is also ecologically motivated because
it can be related to the possessive NP-of-NP construction and the
attributive A-N construction.
I found Foolen's analysis very interesting because the pattern he
discusses is undoubtedly challenging in terms of its symbolic structure.
Also commendable is his insistence on the impossibility of identifying a
unique head unambiguously, which is much in the spirit of cognitive
linguistics. In a similar vein, he stresses that more than one factor may
be involved in the motivation behind this patter, i.e. iconic motivation
and systemic motivation. I must admit however that I didn't entirely
understand his discussion of ecological motivation. That is, if we go back
to Taylor's paper, for example, one can easily see why a certain form
arose. "Hamburger" underwent morphological reanalysis because first of all
its stress pattern, primary stress on "ham" and secondary stress
on "burg", was the same as that of compounds like "cat-lover". In the case
of the "Bang goes" construction, the order of the elements, for example,
is the same as that found in presentational sentences, with which
the "Bang goes" construction shares (some of) its special properties. By
contrast, it is not clear to me why binomials, although obviously
(synchronically) related to the possessive NP-of-NP construction (because
the form is the same) and the attributive A-N construction (because they
are functional similar in specifying an attribute of an entity), are
motivated by them. That is, the author does not clarify in my opinion what
conditions led to the adoption of the NP-of-NP pattern in the first place.
One can agree that the use of this pattern may correlate with
highlighting "a conceptual distance [...] between the objective individual
and the subjective [...] value judgement" (an idea which the author
borrows from Campe 1997: 172), but the question remains as to what
evolutionary path actually led from the (possessive) NP-of-NP construction
to the expressive binomial. Why did speakers select the NP-of-NP form to
code the expressive meaning (or the genitive pattern in Latin or the
pattern with a motion preposition in Old High German for that matter) if
no "of"-relation apparently holds between the two NPs? This question
remains an interesting topic for future research.
Section II: Genetic motivation
Bernd Heine, "On genetic motivation in grammar", offers a short summary of
his typological studies in grammaticalisation. In particular he discusses
the cognitive forces underlying the emergence of the grammatical
categories of numerals, indefinite articles and possession. Numerals
evolved from our experience with body parts, indefinite articles typically
from the numeral "one" and possession can be related to various source
The importance of this paper lies in Heine's contention that a claim
like "I cannot see any motivation, hence, there is no motivation" (see
p.118) should be rejected if serious research is carried out. In fact, he
underlines that his previous work in various areas has succeeded precisely
in showing that motivation can be found. It should be noted however that
Heine's article is a summary of previous research (he also prefers to
refer the reader to his other publications for specific examples, see
p.107). This may probably be due to the editors' desire to primarily offer
a book which can be used as an introduction to the issue of motivation
within the cognitive linguistic paradigm.
Christian Koops, "Emergent aspect constructions in Present-Day English",
analyses three types of construction in Present-Day English which can be
associated with progressive meaning in other languages, i.e. locative
constructions (e.g. "I was in the middle of getting my hair cut"), posture
verb constructions (e.g. "How could you stand there and watch them beat
that guy?") and motion verb constructions (e.g. "You can't go around
testing everybody for everything"). The English constructions all evoke
imperfectivity (they are progressive, durative and repetitive
respectively). They are genetically motivated in that their meaning is
shown to follow from the lexical meanings of their source notions.
I think Koops' paper is one of the best in this collection because of his
detailed examination of various constructions and the emphasis on their
relatedness (through the notion of imperfectivity). I have only two minor
observations to make about it. Still, my first point may be of some
importance if the book is used as an introduction for non-expert readers.
Koops claims that progressive constructions "are typically restricted to
dynamic events and incompatible with states" (pp.123-4). Although Koops'
statement is hedged by "typically" (see also p.134 where he recognises
that stative "sit" and "stand" are compatible with the progressive), his
claim may be symptomatic of the fact that "[i]t is sometimes supposed that
the progressive aspect occurs only with dynamic verbs describing
activities or events. However, the progressive can also be used with verbs
that describe a static situation. In this case, the progressive expresses
the meaning of a temporary state that exists for a period of time [...]
Some of the most common verbs occurring with progressive aspect are of
this type [i.e. stative, CB]" (Biber et al. 1999: 471). That is, the
progressive in English seems to be able to evoke both "temporal expansion"
(i.e. imperfectivity) and "temporal transience" although either aspect may
be highlighted through the choice of a particular verb phrase. Indeed,
there may be no reason to view the use of progressive aspect with stative
verbs as exceptional (see Williams 2002; on the dangers of a unitary view
of progressive aspect and the usefulness of its characterisation in terms
of both expansion and transience for other grammatical phenomena see also
The second observation is: is the author sure that the constructions he
deals with are emergent constructions in Present-Day English? What about
past stages of the language? Of course, I fully understand that the author
couldn't deal with this in a (necessarily) short paper. It will be
interesting to see what diachronic data can tell us about these
Section III: Experiential motivation
Vyvyan Evans and Andrea Tyler, "Spatial experience, lexical structure and
motivation: The case of "in"") argue that the various senses of "in" can
be accounted for in a principled way by regarding them as extensions from
a "proto-scene", which describes "containment". Such extensions are
motivated by our experience with different aspects of containment. They
distinguish fifteen senses, which they arrange in a radial network.
The important point made by Evans And Tyler is that sense extension can be
shown to have an experiential basis. Although I fully recognise the
importance of this claim, I have three main reservations concerning Evans
and Tyler's paper.
The first reservation is psychological. The authors are fully aware
that "not all senses associated with a particular phonological form may be
recognised by a language user as being synchronically related" (note 4 on
p.165; an almost identical note expressing the same warning is found in
their 2001 paper (note 21, p. 744)). This immediately raises the question
of what their network in Figure 3 is intended to represent, i.e. what is
its psychological status? This question also bears on the nature of the
proto-scene. The proto-scene is defined as a "highly abstract
representation" (p.166). But then one must first show that such highly
abstract representations do have a significant impact on how we manipulate
language or, to put it differently, that they have a significant degree of
activation in the conceptualiser's mind. In fact, research such as Boas's
(2003) (although carried out in the area of resultative constructions)
seems to suggest that extensions originate from very concrete uses rather
than highly abstract representations. It may also be relevant to remember
that Langacker has repeatedly expressed reservations about the degree of
activation of high-level schemas in the conceptualiser's mind (see e.g.
Langacker 1999: 118).
The question concerning the psychological status of the proposed network
leads me to the second reservation, which is empirical. I think that the
authors' framework and analyses would profit greatly not only from
psychological experiments (the relevance and importance of which is
admittedly duly remarked upon in the note mentioned above) but also from
corpus evidence (both synchronic, see below on the "rub in" example, and
diachronic, see below on the Means Meaning). Although their line of
reasoning (in motivating sense extensions) sounds in general convincing
(but see also below), empirical evidence, if available, is a sine qua non
for safer analyses (in fact the authors themselves point this out in their
2003 volume, see e.g. p.236). Contrary to what the authors seem to claim
in note 4 in this paper and in note 21 of their 2001 paper, (at least
some) corpus evidence can already be made available. Gries (2004), for
example, has shown that cognitive linguistics can benefit from corpus
linguistic analyses of word senses in that semantic networks can be
investigated by using corpus evidence. Further, the proposed paths of
extension deserve to be checked against both diachronic evidence and cross-
linguistic evidence. Of course, I am not suggesting that the authors
should have done this in their paper, given obvious space limitations.
Rather, I am simply suggesting that some references to this, at least as a
topic for future research, could have been made.
Further, some analyses may be objected to. For example, the authors claim
that the Means Sense of "in", as in "She wrote in ink" and "He spoke in
Italian", is motivated on the basis of "the tight correlation in
experience between an activity and the means of accomplishing the
activity" (p.178). In more detail, they say that "[t]his has been possible
precisely because "in" had an antecedent Activity Sense associated with it
[i.e. the one exhibited in sentences like "He's in the governor's office",
meaning "He works for the governor", CB]" (p.178). One may want not agree
with this analysis or at least object to the examples meant to illustrate
it. The first problem has to do with the causal relation envisaged by the
authors between the Activity Sense and the Means Sense (see the use
of "because" in the sentence above but note, however, that such a causal
link is not captured in Figure 3 on page 173). Italian, for example, lacks
the Activity Sense, as this sense is illustrated through the authors'
examples, for the preposition "in" (the form of the preposition is the
same as in English) but still has at least some Means Sense uses.
English "in" in "She wrote in ink" is rendered with the Italian
preposition "con" (English "with"). "In" in "He spoke in Italian" is, on
the other hand, also rendered with the preposition "in" in Italian
(i.e. "Parlò in italiano"). Of course, one could object that the
prepositional system is not the same in the two languages and hence the
paths of extension for Italian "in" and English "in" differ. If, however,
Evans and Tyler's explanation for the use of "in" in "He spoke in Italian"
is language independent, then the Italian rendering may cast doubt on
In either case, this simple example shows that a purely speculative
analysis is not sufficient. What's more, one may also wonder whether the
sentence "He spoke in Italian" actually involves a Means Sense. Why can't
this use of "in" be based on an alternative explanation (or a combination
of more than one kind of motivation)? For instance, one might view "to
speak in language X" as "to use words that are found in language X",
i.e. "in" has the (prototypical) container function in that we view words
as objects in a language/container. From a historical point of view, I
would also like to observe that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) does
not seem to mention the Activity Sense meaning, at least as Evans and
Tyler seem to intend it on the basis of the examples they provide (see
also below). By contrast, the sentences used by the authors to illustrate
the Means Sense (i.e. (17a), "She wrote in ink", and (17b), "He spoke in
Italian") are apparently related to two types in the OED (see OED senses
13 and/or 14 for the former (and observe that sense 14 is attested for the
first time in1663) and 12c for the latter). Note also that examples like
(17b), "He spoke in Italian", date back to at least c900 according to the
OED. So it may seem strange that the Activity Sense from which Evans and
Tyler claim the Means Sense is derived is not recognised in the OED. In
fact, on the basis of the OED data (i.e. OED sense 7), it may be the case
that Evans and Tyler's examples like "She's in medicine" are later
(metonymic) developments from "membership" examples like "to be in a
company/college/association/party, to be in the army/navy", which indeed
are contemporaneous with the Means Sense (the first example involves Old
English "here", i.e. "army").
One more example whose analysis I find debatable is (25b), "Angela rubbed
in the lotion". The authors claim that in this example "the lotion is not
entering the skin, only to be free to leave again. The skin is not being
conceived as an entity with interior space. Rather, [... "in" can be used
in this example because] "in" derives a Disappearance Sense which can come
to be used in contexts unrelated to the original context which motivated
this sense in the first place" (p.184). I doubt that the skin cannot be
conceptualised as being three-dimensional (cf. "Ultracare 3 is quickly
absorbed into the skin and forms a protective grease-free barrier" from
the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, CD-version; this example
seems to show that lotions are conceptualised as both moving into a three-
dimensional location and creating a surface layer). Further, the Oxford
Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs glosses "rub in(/into)" as "force (something)
into (a material) by rubbing it over the surface of the material" and
gives as possible objects "oil", "polish", "cream", "ointment", "linament".
This clearly shows that the Oxford Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs conceptualises
"rub in" as involving motion into a three-dimensional location.
I'd like to conclude this rather lengthy discussion of Evans and Tyler's
paper with one more (ecological) observation, which is linked to my second
reservation (being empirical in nature) and which I hope the authors will
take into due consideration in their future research. It may be the case
that certain uses of "in" evolved because a "niche" (to use Taylor's word)
was available for them. This is the case with the many instances in
which "in" is used as either an intransitive preposition or in compounds
(see Evans and Tyler's examples (20)-(25) and (31)). The fact that
e.g. "Angela rubbed in the lotion" is possible in English but does not
have a word-by-word translation into Italian can be related to the fact
that "change constructions" (i.e. what are usually called resultative
sentences, see Broccias 2003) are very much restricted in Italian (as well
as in other Romance languages). Further, it should also be stressed that
any account which purports to trace the paths of extension of the
preposition "in" should take into account certain very important
historical facts of an ecological nature. In particular, it is worth
remembering that the preposition "in" was seldom used in Old English
(which preferred "on"). That is, the evolution of "in" should not perhaps
be studied independently of the preposition "on" which it came to replace
in many cases. This point, and the preceding discussion, show that cross-
linguistic data, synchronic data and diachronic data are all essential
ingredients to investigate meaning extension even within an experientially
based account and that their use should not be delayed.
John Newman, "Motivating the uses of basic verbs: Linguistic and
extralinguistic considerations", shows how basic verbs
(e.g. "eat", "give", the state verbs "stand", "sit", "lie") motivate
various grammatical facts (serialization, tense and aspect markers, noun
classifiers, case marking) in various languages.
His paper is very important because it does not only report on past
research but also advances new suggestions as to how posture verbs may
interact with agent-patient distinctions in various languages. Further, it
fits well into the volume because Newman takes a very balanced view of
motivation: he explicitly combines experiential motivation with ecological
motivation (see for example p.194 and p.201). Only if ecological
motivation enters the equation can we motivate the origin of grammatical
structures satisfactorily. I also liked very much his being explicit about
the implications concerning the interaction between experiential and
ecological motivation. His final remark on this is worth quoting almost in
toto: "taking certain structures as given [...] begs the question of how
these linguistic structures came to be there in the first place.
Ultimately, the linguistic structures assumed in the discussion here need
to be accounted for and also motivated by other linguistic [i.e.
ecological, CB] and extralinguistic considerations. In this way, one is
led to a kind of infinite regression into the very foundations of
Section IV: Cognitive motivation
Teenie Matlock, "The conceptual motivation of fictive motion", discusses
fictive motion sentences (e.g. "A trail goes through the desert"), where a
motion verb is used to describe a static scene. She illustrates the
grammatical properties of the construction and argues that they are
motivated by the fact that mentally simulated motion is part of fictive
motion sentence processing.
Matlock's contribution mainly reports on her past and on-going research.
Still, it is very welcome as an introduction to fictive motion sentences,
especially because of its focus on processing. Matlock also points out
that much research still needs to be done in the area of fictive motion
constructions. In particular, I found interesting her suggestion (based on
previous work by Langacker) that the acceptability of some sentences may
depend on Langacker's sequential scanning. She claims that the contrast
between "??The cell phone goes from the cup to the book." (where the phone
is on the desk and we imagine that the cell phone is unusually long)
and "The cell phone goes from the cup to the book" (phone in ad on
billboard) may be due to absence vs. presence of sequential scanning
involving the subject NP. She argues that a cell phone is not scanned
sequentially (even if it is unusually long) because "a coherent whole can
be obtained with just one glance" (p.228). Of course, this is just a
suggestion and it is open to future research. But I would like to point
out that the nature of scanning is a very thorny issue (see for example
Broccias and Hollmann in preparation). Further, if I understand the
intended difference between the two sentences correctly, it might be that
such a difference does not have to do with scanning per se but rather with
the relative dimensions of the objects involved (i.e. perspective). That
is, in the phone-on-desk case, the phone is still (much shorter) than the
table and the table is thought of as being of ordinary dimensions. In the
ad-on-billboard case, the phone (as well as the table) is much larger than
usual (as compared for example with our body). Note that this explanation
is not dissimilar from the one Matlock herself offers for another example,
namely her (6b), "??The small, perfectly round hot tub goes along the back
fence" (which is ok if an appropriate perspective is chosen, see p.228).
To put it differently, the problem with the sentence discussed here is
that there might be a clash between the verb, which prototypically evokes
a non-negligible extension for the entity of which it is predicated, and
the entity chosen as its subject. This is most visible in another pair of
examples which Matlock explains on the basis of sequential scanning,
namely "?The sidewalk runs from here to there." (five feet long) vs. "The
sidewalk runs from here to there" (500 feet long). If we assume that the
prototypical translational use of "run" requires a relatively long
distance to be run, than the choice of a five-foot sidewalk as a subject
clashes with this requirement (it sounds odd in normal circumstances to
say that a person, for example, ran five feet). Further, note that the
very choice of sidewalk to refer to something which is five feet long may
be questionable anyway. Be that as it may, I think that Matlock's research
is of crucial importance to the development of cognitive linguistic
analyses and one cannot praise enough her experimental approach.
Anatol Stefanowitsch and Ada Rohde, "The goal bias in the encoding of
motion events", investigate two hypotheses concerning the apparently less
restricted distribution of goal-PPs as compared to other path-PPs, namely
the (psychological) salience hypothesis and the complete-conceptualisation
hypothesis. The former motivates the goal bias in terms of our greater
interest in the goal of actions than in sources. The latter claims that
goal PPs are less restricted because they are more informative. Using
corpus evidence, the authors show that the picture is more complex than
usually assumed. Although goal PPs seem to be preferred in general, the
existence of "exceptions" is due to the nature of the verbs employed (e.g.
the manner of motion verb stroll combines primarily with trajectory PPs).
Stefanowitsch and Rohde also argue that the complete-conceptualisation
hypothesis has more explanatory power than the salience hypothesis. They
recognise however that the two may not be mutually exclusive.
This paper is also very good. It demonstrates the importance of corpus
research for studies of motivation in a very clear manner. I have only a
relatively minor observation concerning the authors' claim that "[i]t is
simply not the case that every motion event is conceptualized as having a
source, a trajectory, and a goal [...] There is nothing to stop us from
construing a motion event as having only a source, only a trajectory, or
only a goal. Verbs like "cruise", "stroll", and "escape" impose just this
type of construal" (p.264). I fear that this statement may confound two
issues. On the one hand, I agree that not every event has a source-
trajectory-goal structure. This is so because translational motion is not
the only possible type of motion, of course (consider circular motion, for
instance). For example, the author's sentence "They were cruising up and
down Main Street" can be regarded as an instance of an oscillatory type of
motion. On the other hand, I find doubtful the claim that certain
translational events have, for example, only sources (by contrast, one
could of course argue that sources are not conceptualised in circular
motion). There is no clear sense in which one can use the notion "source"
if a target is not activated at some level of saliency. The fact that the
target cannot be pinned down exactly is another matter and in any case it
remains to be shown that this means that the target is not conceptualised.
At worst, the target is taken to be the complement of the original
location. If I went out, the target is my not being in any longer. What
seems to me (at least intuitively) to be conceptualised perhaps optionally
is only the trajectory (if I say "I went out into the back garden", I
agree that it may be difficult to identity the trajectory here. As soon as
I have walked through the door, I'm in the garden. Still, it is
interesting to observe that a trajectory preposition is used with
reference to the door, i.e. "through". It is as if the conceptualisation
of the trajectory were reduced to a minimum; hence, even in this case, it
may be argued that some residual notion of trajectory is activated after
In sum, the conceptualisation of events in terms of schemas other than the
source-trajectory-goal schema is in principle independent of the authors'
observation that sources, for example, are not conceptualised in some
(translational) events. In translational motion cases, the claim that
sources can be conceptualised without reference to targets is rather a
strong one and should be investigated carefully. A source by definition
implies an inner and an outer (or goal) space. Similarly, the notion of
goal is complementary to that of source. In either case, the fact that the
complement of what is expressed in the syntax is not profiled does not
necessarily mean that the complement is not activated.
Gerhard van Huyssteen, "Motivating the composition of Afrikaans
reduplication: A cognitive grammar analysis") motivates the existence of
Afrikaans grammatical and onomatopoeic reduplications (e.g. "plek-plek",
lit. "place-place", i.e. "in some places", and "heop-hoep" to refer to the
bird scientifically known as "upupa africana") through various
metonymies including MORE OF FORM FOR MORE OF CONTENT
and PRODUCT FOR PRODUCER. He also implements his analysis using
the descriptive apparatus of Cognitive Grammar.
Huyssteen's paper is interesting even if, as a reader of a volume on
motivation, I would perhaps have liked less technical discussion on how
his analysis can be implemented within the framework of Cognitive Grammar.
Still, it must be emphasised that the author does not only refer to
metonymic motivation but also hints at ecological motivation as
contributing to the existence of reduplicated forms. On page 289, the
author cogently remarks that the use of reduplication is also found in
other areas, e.g. to code aspect. Such a balanced view of motivation
should be much appreciated, in my opinion.
Francisco José Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez and Olga Isabel Díez
Velasco, "Metonymic motivation in anaphoric reference", study how to
account in a principled way for cases where an anaphoric pronoun is used
to refer to a metonymic antecedent (e.g. "The ham sandwich is waiting for
his check and he/*it is getting restless."). After reviewing their
analysis of what a metonymy is - they recognise two types, source-in-
target metonymy (e.g. "He's a real brain") and target-in-source metonymy
(e.g. "Chrysler has laid off a hundred workers") - they propose a general
constraint on metonymic anaphora and three principles which are graded
with respect to each other and interact in a way that captures the data
Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez and Díez Velasco have written a very thought-
provoking paper, which will have to be taken into serious consideration in
subsequent analyses within cognitive linguistics. Still, I must point out
that I have various reservations about the nature and scope of their
analysis, which I hope the authors will be able to clarify in future work.
First is the issue of empirical evidence. The authors base their analysis
on very few invented examples. Although it may be very difficult to find
natural examples of anaphoric reference to metonymic antecedents, the risk
of arriving at empirically debatable conclusions is high. Even within
their paper, apparently similar examples are judged differently. For
instance, (12b) "*The ham sandwich is waiting for his check and it is
getting restless" is starred but (16b) "?The mushroom omelet left without
paying its bill. It jumped into a taxi" (from Stirling 1996) only receives
a question mark. But both are explained on the basis of the same principle
(the Domain Availability Principle or DAP, see p.307; but see also below
on this contrast). Still, the authors set up a complex system of
principles precisely to explain sentences which receive question marks vs.
stars (e.g. (17a), "?The mushroom omelet left without paying. It was
inedible" vs. (17b) "*The mushroom omelet left without paying. It was
inedible"). That is, not only are the data not authentic but the
acceptability judgements could also be objected to. It would perhaps have
been useful to include examples rated by a sufficiently large number of
The second observation is: admitting that Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez and Díez
Velasco's principles exist, what is their place in grammar (I
use "grammar" in the sense of Langacker's, i.e. as a structured inventory
of conventional linguistic units, see also the quotation from van Hoek
1997 below), i.e. how are they represented in the conceptualiser's mind?
Do they have an independent existence of the cognitive principles on which
they are hypothesised to be based? Are they relevant to both production
and understanding? Does their ordering differ from speaker to speaker? Of
course, the authors could not possibly have answered all these questions
in their paper but I believe that questions like these could have been
mentioned at least in passing since they are not trivial at all.
The status of the proposed principles seems to me to be reminiscent of
that of principles postulated in generative grammar (it is also
interesting that the authors on p.313 do actually use some sort of
generative jargon, either voluntarily or not: "Finally, the CMA is not
strictly a principle but a filter for attempts to generate metonymies that
would cancel out a metonymy which is already active in the antecedent.")
Related to this is the fact that to postulate such a complex system in
order to motivate very few examples may in itself be suspicious (see also
the fifth point below). But why postulate very specific (i.e. metonymy-
specific) principles and not rely on more general cognitive notions?
The third point concerns the grading of the principles with respect to
each other. The authors' line of reasoning risks to be circular unless
more examples are considered. For instance, on page 312 they write
that "[w]hen the metonymy is in the antecedent as in (19), we have a
situation in which the DAP needs to apply first". In other words, they
seem to apply the postulated principles to their data in an order dictated
by the relative strength of their principles but the relative strength of
their principles is derived from the very data the principles purport to
capture. Further, the question of how this grading is represented in our
mind remains (see the previous point, especially in connection to possible
variation among speakers).
The fourth observation has to do with whether these principles are
universal or specific to English. Consider for example what happens in
Italian with (16a) "The mushroom omelet left without paying its bill. He
jumped into a taxi" and (16b) "?The mushroom omelet left without paying
its bill. It jumped into a taxi". Italian usually omits subject pronouns
so we can't use them to track reference. However, Italian (at least in its
Northern varieties) does not use the past simple to refer to past events
but a form corresponding to the English present perfect (i.e.
Italian "passato prossimo"). Importantly, the auxiliary employed with
verbs of motion is "essere" (i.e. English "to be") and the participial
form behaves like an adjective in this case in the sense that it agrees in
gender with the subject (both the French loanword "omelette" and its
Italian equivalent "frittata" are feminine in Italian). Interestingly, the
only translation I find acceptable is "La frittata ai funghi se n'è andata
senza pagare e si è infilata in un taxi" (observe that I added the
conjunction "e", "and", to render the whole expression more natural. An
alternative could have been to use two separate clauses connected by the
temporal conjunction "poi", "then". Without either "e" or "poi", I
wouldn't accept the sentence). That is, the participial form "infilata"
(colloquial for "to rush/jump") is feminine, not masculine. I find the
masculine version, in which the participial agrees with the intended
referent, not acceptable. In other words, the Italian pattern is the
opposite of the English one. This (possibly) shows that if we accept Ruiz
de Mendoza Ibáñez and Díez Velasco's principles either we would have to
reorder them in other languages or have to think of them as interacting
with other "constraints" so that the picture becomes even more complex.
I'm not denying that some sort of interaction may actually take place;
rather, I'm objecting to motivating the acceptability judgements reported
in this paper in terms of very well-defined, i.e. specific, metonymic
My fifth concerns has to do with other possible ways of capturing the
examples in (16)-(21) without invoking the authors' complex machinery,
i.e. a set of specific principles. What I have in mind as a cognitive
analysis of metonymic anaphora would be an investigation along the lines
of Hoek's (1997) study of non-metonymic anaphora:
"In this view [i.e. using van Hoek's model of conceptual reference points,
CB], the anaphora constraints are not distinct principles which must be
independently listed in the grammar; rather they emerge from the nature of
linguistic semantic organization in general and nominal semantics in
particular. [...] The theoretical machinery underlying grammaticality
judgments involves the interaction of schemas, that is, constructional
templates, which are entrenched to varying degrees." (van Hoek 1997: 218)
Just for the sake of the argument, let's suppose that the judgements in
(16)-(21) are indeed those of the majority of native speakers (but
remember that there is a contrast in grammatical judgement between (16b),
which has a question mark, and (12b), which has an asterisk). I will now
sketch out an explanation for (16)-(17) which does not require the
postulation of any specifically metonymic principles but rather relies on
general cognitive principles.
The fact that the example in (16a), "The mushroom omelet left without
paying its bill. He jumped into a taxi", is better than (16b), "?The
mushroom omelet left without paying its bill. It jumped into a taxi" may
be simply due to the fact that "he" is an unmarked option for reference
with respect to "it". In other words, one naturally expects the metonymic
link to decay more quickly than its target (see also Panther and
Thornburg's 2002 view of metonymy as being contingent). So we are simply
using an unmarked anaphora in (16a), whereas (16b) requires us to keep the
metonymic link active for longer (although the similarity of the two
clauses, both referring to motion, may contribute to make the whole
expression partly acceptable. This might also motivate why (12b), "*The
ham sandwich is waiting for his check and it is getting restless", is
worse, at least if we agree on this acceptability judgement. That is, in
(12b) we don't have the same frame in both clauses: the first is about
waiting, the second is about the psychological consequences of waiting).
Admittedly, however, the Italian data would need a different explanation.
My point here is simply to try to show that without postulating any
principles like Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez and Díez Velasco's one can come up
with a different analysis accounting for the same data.
As to (17a), "?The mushroom omelet left without paying. It was inedible",
vs. (17b), "*The mushroom omelet left without paying. He was inedible", we
can motivate the deviance of the former by observing that the sentence
evokes two different frames (as the authors themselves duly remark). The
first clause obviously targets a person, not the food, so "it" in the
second clause requires us to do more work than a sentence starting
with "he", cf. (16a) (incidentally it might be interesting to study what
happens if one continued with "He found it inedible" rather than "It was
inedible"). (17b) is out simply because it is very difficult to see the
reason why one would want here to predicate a property of an object
through the person that has control over (i.e. eats) it. Whereas the first
clause conveys some sort of expressive meaning and/or allows the act of
reference to take place more quickly (cf. "the person who ate the mushroom
omelet"), there is no obvious advantage either in terms of either
expressiveness or economy or clarity in choosing "he" over "it" in the
In sum, I hope to have shown that by relying on very general principles
like, for example, "markedness", "economy" and "expressiveness" one could
provide an alternative view of (at least some of) the facts discussed by
Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez and Díez Velasco. I suspect that that these general
principles interact non-deterministically every time we are confronted
with sentences such as those discussed by the authors and do not actually
result in an ordered set of specific (i.e. metonymy-related) principles.
But before doing that, it is necessary to (at least) (a) collect natural
examples and ask a statistically significant number of native speakers to
judge the sentences on which the authors' theory rests and (b) take into
consideration what the functional (i.e. communicative) motivation is for
using a marked option.
Rita Brdar-Szabó and Mario Brdar, "Predicative adjectives and grammatical-
relational polysemy: The role of metonymic processes in motivating cross-
linguistic differences", consider various English constructions which take
predicative adjectives (e.g. "London was foggy today", "I am hot", "I was
firm of purpose", "One should be as clear as possible about historical
facts", "The editor is certain to reject it") and observe that they do in
general correspond to predicative adjective structures in Croatian, German
and Hungarian. The authors claim that English, unlike the other three
languages, relies heavily on metonymic processes in structuring its
clauses (i.e. English exhibits more "grammatical polysemy" than the other
Although the title makes reference to metonymic processes only, at the end
of their paper Brdar-Szabó and Brdar relate the greater recourse to
metonymic processes in English (as opposed to the other three languages
considered) to the lack of a flexible word order in English (see pp.350-
351). The recognition of the importance of linguistic considerations (i.e.
word order), alongside metonymic ones, is welcome because, by focussing on
both aspects, the authors strengthen their analysis.
Anotonio Barcelona, "Metonymy behind grammar: The motivation of the
seemingly "irregular" grammatical behavior of English paragon names")
concludes the volume investigating the conceptual operations underlying
the use of paragon names (e.g. "That young man is a real Shakespeare"). He
claims that two metonyms are involved, namely CHARACTERISTIC
PROPERTY OF AN INDIVIDUAL FOR THE INDIVIDUAL
and IDEAL MEMBER FOR THE CLASS.
The novelty in Barcelona's work resides in his use of two metonymies
rather than one to elucidate the use of paragons and in his viewing the
CHARACTERISTIC PROPERTY OF AN INDIVIDUAL FOR THE
INDIVIDUAL metonym as purely conceptual or prelinguistic (i.e. p.369).
That is, we access our stereotypical model of Shakespeare (the target)
through a source where a link between SHAKESPEARE and (HAVING)
IMMENSE LITERARY TALENT is created.Crucially, however, this
metonymy does not show up independently in the language.
Barcelona is aware that his proposal may appear controversial
and repeatedly insists on it (see for example page 367). Only future
research, I think, will be able to tell us if his stimulating analysis is
on the right track.
Since I have commented extensively on most of the papers in the previous
section, I will now limit myself to some general remarks. All in all, the
book under review is an important contribution to the study of motivation
from a cognitive linguistic perspective. It is commendable both as an
introduction to various types of motivation currently being investigated -
Radden and Panther's introduction is also very clear and informative in
this respect - and as a starting point for future developments.. As I have
pointed out above, there are some excellent papers (e.g. Taylor, Koops,
Newman, Matlock, Stefanowitsch and Rohde) and a great variety of
challenging ideas have been put forward. Taylor's contribution in
particular stands out because it points to a crucial requirement for
future cognitive analyses. It is not enough to say that structure X in
language Y is motivated, for example, experientially if we do not
recognise first that a "niche" for structure X is available in language Y.
This point is also mentioned explicitly by Newman, who is aware of its
epistemological implications. I think that it is one of the greatest
merits of this volume to have brought this point to the fore within
Finally, I hope that my observations, especially in the case of the papers
by Evans and Tyler and by Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez and Díez Velasco, may be
of some value to clarify a few issues that not all cognitive linguistics-
oriented scholars may agree with.
To be sure, this book paves the way to future cognitive analyses which
will take into serious consideration various strands of motivation, from
ecological motivation to cognitive motivation.
Biber, Douglas, Stig Johansson, Geoffrey Leech, Susan Conrad, and Edward
Finegan. 1999. Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Harlow:
Boas, Hans. 2003. A Constructional Approach to Resultatives. Stanford, CA:
Broccias, Cristiano. 2003. The English Change Network. Forcing Changes
into Schemas. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter (Cognitive Linguistics Research
Broccias, Cristiano. 2005. The construal of simultaneity in English with
special reference to as-clauses. Unpublished Manuscript, University of
Broccias, Cristiano and Willem Hollmann. (in preparation). Do we need
summary and sequential scanning in (Cognitive) grammar?
Bullon, Stephen et al. 2003. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
(with CD-Rom). Harlow: Longman.
Burchfield, R.W. et al. 2002. Oxford English Dictionary (CD-version).
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Campe, Petra. 1997. Genitives and "von"-datives in German: A case
of "free" variation? In Verspoor, M. et al. (eds.). Lexical and
Syntactical Constructions and the Construction of Meaning. Amsterdam:
Cowie, Anthony and Ronald Mackin. 1993. Oxford Dictionary of Phrasal
Verbs. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gries, Stefan. 2004. Corpus-based methods and cognitive semantics: The
many senses of "to run". Unpublished Manuscript, University of Southern
Langacker, Ronald. 1999. Grammar and Conceptualization. Berlin: Mouton de
Gruyter (Cognitive Linguistics Research 14).
Panther, Klaus-Uwe and Linda Thornburg. 2002. The role of metaphor and
metonymy in English "-er" nominals. In Dirven, René and Ralf Pörings
(eds.). Metaphor and Metonymy in Comparison and Contrast. Berlin: Mouton
de Gruyter (Cognitive Linguistics Research 20). 279-319.
Stirling, Lesley. 1996. Metonymy and anaphora. Belgian Journal of
Linguistics 10: 69-88.
Tyler, Andrea and Vyvyan Evans. 2001. Reconsidering prepositional polysemy
networks: The case of "over". Language 77: 724-765.
Tyler, Andrea and Vyvyan Evans. 2003. The Semantics of English
Prepositions. Spatial scenes, embodied meaning and cognition. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
van Hoek, Karen. 1997. Anaphora and Conceptual Structure. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Williams, Christopher. 2002. Non-Progressive and Progressive Aspect in
English. Fasano: Schena editore.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Cristiano Broccias is a Research Fellow in English Language and
Linguistics at the Faculty of Modern Languages of the University of Genoa
(Italy). His main interests lie in the description and cognitive
linguistic analysis of English grammar, both synchronic and diachronic.
His publications include a monograph on English change constructions: "The
English Change Network. Forcing Changes into Schemas", Mouton de Gruyter
(Cognitive Linguistics Research 22), 2003.
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