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LINGUIST List 25.2425

Wed Jun 04 2014

Review: Ling. Theories; Pragmatics; Syntax: Del Campo Martínez (2013)

Editor for this issue: Mateja Schuck <mschuckwisc.edu>

Date: 04-Mar-2014
From: Kim Jensen <kimcgs.aau.dk>
Subject: Illocutionary constructions in English: Cognitive motivation and linguistic realization
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-4809.html

AUTHOR: Nuria Del Campo Martínez
TITLE: Illocutionary constructions in English: Cognitive motivation and linguistic realization
SUBTITLE: A study of the syntactic realizations of the directive, commissive and expressive speech acts in English
SERIES TITLE: Europäische Hochschulschriften / European University Studies / Publications Universitaires Européennes - Band 497
PUBLISHER: Peter Lang AG
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Kim Ebensgaard Jensen, Aalborg University

SUMMARY
This book addresses syntactic realizations of directive, commissive and
expressive speech act functions in English. It grows from a dissertation that
adopts and seeks to further develop the Lexical Constructional Model
(henceforth LCM).

It contains fifteen chapters, including an introduction and a conclusion.
Chapter 2 accounts for the theoretical framework del Campo Martínez' treatment
of illocutionary acts. Chapters 3 to 15 provide a catalog of illocutionary
constructions, each discussing a particular illocutionary act function and
analyzing its constructional realizations. Chapter 15 concludes.

The introduction, chapter 1, addresses previous work in speech act theory and
analysis, distinguishing between grammatical speech act theories, which focus
on the codification of speech act functions (e.g. Searle 1969, Halliday 1994,
Dik 1989), and inferential speech act theories, which focus on the role of
inference in decoding of speech act functions (e.g. Bach & Harnish 1979, Leech
1983), suggesting that both are insufficient in terms of which phenomena they
can actually account for. She argues that a cognitivist approach may enable
linguists to fill the gaps that grammatical and inferential speech act
theories fail to address. According to del Campo Martínez, illocution is a
matter of applying cognitive processes and inferential schemas to situational
cognitive models. Moreover, illocutionary functions are linked to
constructional structures. To address this, del Campo Martínez adopts LCM
(e.g. Ruiz de Mendoza & Mairal 2011) and argues that speech acts draw on a
cost-benefit idealized cognitive model (Ruiz de Mendoza & Baicchi 2007). Del
Campo Martínez' study takes a semantics-oriented stance towards illocution
rather than a pragmatics-oriented one, which is made possible by cognitivist
conceptions of semantic structures and processes. Del Campo Martínez also
accounts for her method of analysis in the introduction. She draws on corpus
data retrieved from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the
British National Corpus (BNC), arguing, however, that the best empirical
approach to illocutionary data includes metalinguistic intuitive judgments.
Essentially, the method consists of elaborating a list of constructions in the
corpora that do illocutionary work; she defends this method by comparing it to
the lexicologist's challenge of deciding class membership of lexical items.
While drawing on corpus data, and acknowledging the usefulness of statistical
analysis, del Campo Martínez's position is 1) that statistical analysis is
merely a complementary tool to cognitive linguistic qualitative analysis, 2)
that it does not have explanatory value, and 3) that it is not able to reveal
all constraints that apply to language production. Del Campo Martínez thus
refrains from applying any statistical analysis beyond counting occurrences
realizations of utterance functions, dividing them into construction types and
their tokens of occurrence.

Chapter two is entitled 'A cognitive approach to illocution'. Spanning 85
pages, this massive chapter contains heaps of important information. The first
subsection provides an overview of conceptual representation in cognitive
accounts of language in general. Her overview of these concepts takes del
Campo Martínez to Ruiz de Mendoza's distinction between low and high levels of
linguistic description. Low levels cover specific levels of conceptual
representation that involve entrenched links between elements of encyclopedic
knowledge. High levels are generic levels of conceptual representation that
are derived from low levels via generalization and abstraction over
commonalities of low level structures. The second subsection provides an
overview of cognitive approaches to grammar. Del Campo Martínez concludes the
“main weakness of constructionist approaches concerns their inability to give
a solid explanation of the element that constrain the unification of syntactic
patterns and lexical entries” (p. 44). Having covered the essentials of
cognitive linguistics and constructionist approaches to grammar, and having
pointed out what she perceives to be their weaknesses, Del Campo Martínez
devotes the third subsection to describing LCM. Combining principles from
construction grammar with principles from so-called projectionist functional
grammar models such as Role and Reference Grammar (e.g. Van Valin & LaPolla
1997) and Functional Grammar (e.g. Dik 1989) should, according to del Campo
Martínez, cover the gaps left by its parent models. According to LCM’s
proponents, the model ensures consistency and simplicity in the study of
meaning construction. In simple terms, LCM integrates four constructional
layers: namely, argument structure constructions, implicational constructions,
illocutional constructions, and discourse constructions, all of which are
governed by their own internal constraints. Two cognitive processes control
the interaction between lexemes and constructions. The process of cued
inferencing covers inference of implicit information from utterances via
linguistic and contextual clues. The process of subsumption incorporates low
level structures into high level structures, resulting in semantic
representations ready for syntactic realization. LCM distinguishes between
lexical templates and constructional templates. The former draws on the
logical structures associated with lexemes in Role and Reference Grammar and
the semantic primitives suggested by Wierzbicka (1996). The latter encompasses
distinctive semantic, pragmatic, and contextual parameters within the same
lexical domain. There are four types of constructional template in LCM, which
correspond to the four levels mentioned above. The most important
constructional template type in relation to del Campo Martínez' study is the
illocutionary construction, which is a constructional templates realize
illocutionary functions, which in LCM is linked up with the cost-benefit
model. The fourth subsection addresses in detail the cost-benefit model, which
consists of a number of idealized social interaction and relation types which
are formulated as conditional structures. Two examples are “If it is manifest
to A that a particular state of affairs is not beneficial to B, and if A has
the capacity to change that state of affairs, then A should do so” (p. 78) and
“If it is manifest to A that A is responsible for a certain state of affairs
to be to A's benefit, A may feel proud about this situation and make it
manifest to B” (p. 79).

Conventionalized (and non-conventionalized) illocutionary constructions codify
scenarios in this cognitive model. For instance, a request like 'Could you
bring me a glass of water' codifies the following idealized scenario in the
cost-benefit model: “If it is manifest to A that a potential state of affairs
is beneficial to B, then A is expected to bring it about” (p. 78), such that
the bringing of water is beneficial to the speaker and the listener is then
expected to bring the speaker a glass of water. In this subsection, del Campo
Martínez also presents her specific approach to illocution which draws on and
refines the framework already provided in LCM. Thus, she introduces a system
of formulation of high-level models that generate the low-level scenarios in
the cost-benefit model, and a specification of constructional realization of
illocutionary functions.

The remaining chapters, save chapter 15, offers del Campo Martínez' analysis
of constructional realizations of speech act types, which each chapter
addressing its own speech act type. The speech act types covered are orders,
requests, advices, offers, promises, threats, congratulations, thanks,
apologies, pardons, condolences, and boasts. These chapters are similarly
organized, so that a description of the general structure will suffice here.
The first part discusses the semantics of the speech act type in question,
linking it up with the cost-benefit model such that the codified conventions
and parameters associated with the speech act type are specified. This is
followed by an overview of constructional realization procedures of the speech
act type in question. The analysis is tied in with the three basic sentences
types – namely, imperative, declarative, and interrogatives. Before going
through these a quantitative overview is given in which the distribution of
constructional types and tokens over the three sentence types is offered
(using raw frequencies). The qualitative analysis takes the form of a
construction-by-construction description of the realizations of the act
function in question, belonging to each of the three sentence types. Each
description is accompanied by a few examples from COCA and BNC. To give an
example of the nature of her analysis, del Campo Martínez finds that, within
the domain of imperative realizations of the speech act of advising, there are
two constructions the collective number of occurrences of which is sixteen:
'consider VP' an 'think about VP'. The former is described as asking the
listener to evaluate the benefits of doing something, presenting the act as a
hypothetical one rather than a real one. The latter is described as having the
same premise as the former, but 'think about' requests an evaluation by the
listener which is less careful. Thus, del Campo Martínez offers not just
descriptions of the constructional realizations in question; she also
addresses the differences and similarities between several of the
constructions within a given illocutionary domain. At the end of the day, the
analysis strikes me as catalog of illocutionary constructions, which is
definitely useful -- both because of the descriptions that are provided and
with a view to future research.

EVALUATION
Del Campo Martínez' book is definitely interesting, and provides some
interesting insights into speech acts from a constructional perspective. There
has been a general focus on semantics in construction grammar, although
pragmatics has always been considered part of what constitutes in the content
of a construction. For instance, Croft (2001) includes discourse-pragmatics on
the content plane of a construction, and Fillmore et al. (1988) operate with
the idea of pragmatic points in their treatment of idiomatic constructions.
However, systematic studies of pragmatic aspects of constructions are still
few and far between, so, in that sense, del Campo Martínez' dissertation is
definitely a contribution to both construction grammar and illocution theory
that should not be underestimated.

I have some reservations though. I am not quite sure I agree with Martinez'
use of frequency and quantification in her analysis. The quantitative aspect
of her analysis was mentioned above, but here is a closer description. For
each of the three sentence types, she identifies the number of construction
types within its domain, and then specifies the overall token frequency of the
types collectively. For instance with the speech act of boasting, there are 11
declarative construction types, 2 interrogative construction types, and 2
imperative construction types. In all there are 270 occurrences of declarative
speech acts of boasting, 14 occurrences of interrogative speech acts of
boasting, and 6 imperative speech acts of boasting. These numbers are taken to
be correlate with mechanisms of codification. Thus, in the case of boasting,
declaratives are seen as being particularly suitable vehicles of boasting, as
the high frequency of occurrence of boasting declarative constructional
realization tokens correlates, in del Campo Martínez' analysis, with the fact
that boasting essentially is a statement on the state-of-affairs. Imperatives
and interrogatives, on the other hand, are not suitable for boasting, because
of their non-declarative utterance functions, and this correlates with the low
token frequency or constructional realizations within their domains. Such
correlations may well hold. Indeed, it seems logical that there should be a
correlation between frequency of occurrence and compatibility or
incompatibility between utterance function and illocutionary function.
However, because the data have not been statistically tested, we cannot know
whether or not these correlations are actually statistically significant, and,
strictly speaking, Martinez' quantifications do not -- from a statistical
perspective – provide much evidence. Had they been tested for significance,
then we would at least know whether or not the correlations were coincidental
or not. Moreover, a more fine-grained approach to frequencies might also have
been interesting and have shed some light on the use of the speech act
constructions. For instance, it would be interesting to know if there are
differences in frequency among the constructional realizations of a given
illocutionary function within the domain of one sentence type. For instance,
is 'can I congratulate you on NP' a more or less frequent imperative
realization of the thanking speech act function than 'may I congratulate you
on NP'? And are there differences in association patterns among different
realization patterns?

However, del Campo Martínez does provide arguments for her use of
quantification, so she can obviously not be accused of not having considered
the usability of statistics. The monograph was originally a dissertation, and
dissertations are often subject to space and time limitations. With that in
mind, I find the scope of del Campo Martínez' study completely satisfactory.
Because it is essentially a dissertation, the volume is of primary interest to
researchers in pragmatics and construction grammar, and not relevant as
teaching material -- although students working on a project on illocution
would probably find it very useful.

These reservations aside, del Campo Martínez' study is an important
contribution to construction grammar and cognitive linguistics in general, and
to LCM in particular. As mentioned above, by addressing a pragmatic issue, it
has generated important knowledge that construction grammarians in general can
draw on in future research, and it reminds us that pragmatics (even if
oriented towards conceptual semantics in this case) does have a place in
constructionist-cognitivist theory. Secondly, given that LCM is a recent
theory, still being developed, del Campo Martínez' treatment of illocutionary
constructions within that framework is undeniably a contribution to LCM that
will, I really hope, leave an imprint on LCM and play a role in its future
development. Lastly, and this is to me the most important contribution, the
many illocutionary constructions identified by del Campo Martínez in this
study are now available to be further investigated, tested, and elaborated
upon by linguists in the future (including herself, I hope). And the discovery
of phenomena is, after all, one of the most important contributions one can
make to any science.

REFERENCES
Bach, Kent & Robert M. Harnish. 1979. Linguistic communication and speech
acts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Croft, William A. 2001. Radical construction grammar: Syntactic theory in
typological perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dik, Simon. 1989. The theory of functional grammar: The structure of the
clause. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Fillmore, Charles, Paul Kay and Catherine O'Connor (1988). Regularity and
idiomaticity in grammatical constructions: The case of let alone. Language 64.
501–38.

Halliday, M.A.K. 1994. An introduction to Functional Grammar. 2nd ed. London:
Edward Arnold.

Leech, Geoffrey. 1983. Principles of pragmatics. London: Longman.

Ruiz de Mendoza, Francisco R. & Annalisa Baicchi. 2007. Illocutionary
constructions: Cognitive motivation and linguistic realization. In Kecskés,
István & Laurence R. Horn (eds.), Explorations in Pragmatics: Linguistic,
Cognitive, and Intercultural Aspects. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 95-128.

Ruiz de Mendoza, Francisco R. & Ricardo Mairal. 2011. Constraints on syntactic
alternation: Lexical-constructional subsumption in the Lexical Constructional
Model. In Guerrero, Pilar (ed.), Morphosyntactic alternations in English:
Functional and cognitive perspectives. London: Equinox. 62-82.

Searle, John R. 1969. Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Van Valin, Robert, and Randy LaPolla. 1997. Syntax: Structure, Meaning and
Function. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wierzbicka, Anna. 1996. Semantics, Primes and Universals. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Kim Ebensgaard Jensen is an associate professor of English at Aalborg
University where he teaches courses in English linguistics and discourse
analysis. His research interests include cognitive linguistics, construction
grammar, and corpus linguistics.
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