LINGUIST List 5.461

Wed 20 Apr 1994

Misc: Langacker's Cognitive Grammar, Locatives from temporals

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  1. Larry Gorbet, Re: Langacker's Cognitive Grammar
  2. Beard Robert E, Re: 5.350 Locatives from temporals

Message 1: Re: Langacker's Cognitive Grammar

Date: Tue, 12 Apr 1994 23:43:02 Re: Langacker's Cognitive Grammar
From: Larry Gorbet <>
Subject: Re: Langacker's Cognitive Grammar

In his generally accurate post in LINGUIST 5.418, Paul Deane *appears* to
accept a presuposition that I am pretty sure is inaccurate.

The relevant paragraph begins:

> Langacker's Cognitive Grammar is unique in its attempt to
> REDUCE syntax to abstract semantic patterns.

At least as most readers of the list are likely to interpret "semantic",
this is almost antithetical to a central Cognitive Grammmar premise: that
grammar is essentially symbolic. Langacker characterizes a grammar as a
"structured inventory of conventional linguistic units". In his most
recent major work (_Foundations of Cognitive Grammar II_, 1991) he says (p.

"Te central claim of cognitive grammar is that language is fully
describable is terms of semantic structures, phonological structures, *and*
[my emphasis] symbolic links between the two. Only symbolic structures
need be posited for the characterization of lexicon, morphology, and
syntax, which form a gradation that can be divided only arbitrarily into
discrete components."

Note that it is *symbolic* structures (i.e. links between semantic and
phonological structures) which are central---not semantic ones alone.

Langacker's above claim is made more explicit as the "content requirement":

"The only structures ascribable to a linguistic system are (1) semantic,
phonological, and symbolic structures that occur overtly as (parts of)
expressions, (2) schematizations of permitted structures. and (3)
categorizing relations between permitted structures." (op. cit. p. 546)

What might not be apparent to all who read the above without its fuller
context is that most of what many call "syntax" is included, not under the
"semantic" part of (1), but under (2)---as schematizations of
*phonological* structures. And Langacker goes to considerable effort to
support the claim that linguistic *forms* (including the form of
grammatical constructions) are essentially phonological. What perhaps
obscures this position is that much of his work (and of many of his
students and other fellow practitioners) is devoted o describing and
justifying the *meanings* of grammatical morphemes and constructions. But
the claim that constructions (etc.) have meanings is fully consistent with
regarding their *forms* as *phonological*. I think few Langackerian
cognitive grammarians (if any) would claim that constructions consist
solely of or reduce to their meanings.

Larry Gorbet
Anthropology and Linguistics Depts.
University of New Mexico
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Message 2: Re: 5.350 Locatives from temporals

Date: Sun, 27 Mar 1994 07:50:07 Re: 5.350 Locatives from temporals
From: Beard Robert E <>
Subject: Re: 5.350 Locatives from temporals

 Of course, the movement from temporal to spatial meaning is
back-and-forth but the temporal meanings of locative cases seem to derive
from what is in some sense a "more basic" spatial meaning. Perhaps the
question should be "in what sense are the spatial meanings 'more basic'",
i.e. what makes us think that the spatial senses are more basic? In
English, of course, people constantly say things like "We haven't stopped
for gas since Pittsburgh", "That was five towns/restaurants/gas stations
ago", "Until Rotterdam he thought otherwise". The interesting aspect of
all this to me is that while speakers have no difficulty in distinguishing
time from space, case and adposition systems never do so. Thus there is
no language that I know which has lexical items ambiguous, say, between
country and year, state and month, city and day, street and hour. Yet all
languages combine time and space relations in their grammatical systems.
It is a major problem for functionalist accounts of grammar, yet the only
responses to it that I have seen all resort to Gesamtbedeugungen. --RBeard
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