Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported primarily by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2016 Fund Drive.
AUTHOR(S): Evans, Vyvyan & Melanie Green TITLE: Cognitive linguistics: An introduction PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates YEAR: 2006
Dinha T. Gorgis, Jadara University for Graduate Studies, Irbid, Jordan.
This book, which is more of a portable library than a book to be stacked on a library shelf, is a ''comprehensive'' introduction to cognitive linguistics which has grown rapidly since the publication of Lakoff & Johnson's (1980) _Metaphors We Live By_. It is recommended to be used as a text as well as a reference book. Reasonably enough, Evans & Green suggest that the book as a text be used by tutors in three different types of course (p.xxi). It comprises three main parts and a fourth (which, in my opinion, as a five-page chapter need not have been called a part -- each of the other 22 chapters is longer, ends with a summary, a section on further reading, and exercises). The book includes an appendix in which tables and figures are presented, along with hundreds of references and an index; a laborious task indeed.
Part I, Overview of the cognitive linguistics (CL) enterprise, contains four chapters which tell the reader that CL is a ''movement'' (p.3) rather than a specific theory. Therefore, this part provides an overview of what has been achieved over the years in this revolutionary and interdisciplinary programme from different but complementary perspectives while also drawing comparisons with the Chomskyan paradigm in particular, often referred to throughout the entire book as formal grammar.
Chapter 1 explicitly states that CL attempts, just like any other linguistic enquiry, to ''describe and account for linguistic systematicity, structure and function'' (p.20). But to study language within the broadly conceived CL is to study patterns of thought, i.e. conceptualizations, rather than the rules assumed generatively to underlie it. In short, CL is ''a non-reductionist model'' (p.701).
In chapter 2, one finds an overview of the assumptions and commitments of CL. In the authors' words, ''[t]hese are the 'Generalisation Commitment' and the 'Cognitive Commitment''' (p.50) to which cognitive linguists adhere, particularly those researching within cognitive semantics and grammars. The chapter also addresses the issue of ''embodied cognition'' and the nature of the relationship between language, mind and bodily experience. So unlike formal grammar, CL is meaning-based. And this explains why ''cognitive grammar assumes a cognitive semantics and is dependent on it'' (p.48).
Chapter 3 overviews universals and variation in language, thought and experience. In contradistinction to the innate Universal Grammar thesis, CL holds that certain commonalities across languages ''are explained by the existence of general cognitive principles shared by all humans, in addition to the fundamentally similar experiences of the world also shared by all humans due to embodiment'' (p.55). This licenses cross-linguistic variation which underlies different conceptual systems in different heads. As such, CL position is ''consonant with a weak version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis'' (p.101).
Chapter 4 is an overview of language in use. CL is said to reject the distinction between competence and performance because ''knowledge of language is derived from patterns of language use, and further, that knowledge of language is knowledge of how language is used'' (p.108). This should mean that both language production and comprehension, as determined by context, are central issues in CL. It follows that a child acquiring a language is a discoverer of ''recurring words, phrases and sentences in the utterances they hear, together with the range of meanings associated with those units'' (p.115). Such a task is claimed to be achieved via mainly abstraction and schematization, among other things.
Part II, which includes eight chapters, is wholly devoted to cognitive semantics (CS), an approach that is arguably set against truth-conditional semantics on one hand, and the semantic/pragmatic division of labour on the other hand. Rather than using the formal language of logic, meaning in CL is largely represented in terms of diagrams.
Chapter 5 starts with the characterization of CS and its guiding principles, viz. central assumptions (principles) that read as follows:
''1. Conceptual structure is embodied (the 'embodied cognition thesis'). 2. Semantic structure is conceptual structure. 3. Meaning representation is encyclopaedic. 4. Meaning construction is conceptualization'' (p.157).
The first two assumptions are explored in more detail in chapter 6 where we find an interesting account of image schema and its properties (cf. Johnson 1987). Image schemas are contrasted with mental images. While the former are more abstract in nature, emerging from ongoing embodied experience, the latter ''are detailed and result from an effortful and partly conscious cognitive process that involves recalling visual memory'' (p.185). The authors provide a partial list of image schemas that have been proposed in the literature but rearranged according to the nature of their experiential grounding (cf. p.190).
Chapter 7 examines the third assumption, viz. that meaning is encyclopaedic. Fillmore's semantic frames, derived from his early Case Grammar, and Langacker's basic domains are discussed and set against the dictionary view of meaning. While the two theories ''were developed for different purposes, together they provide the basis for a theory of encyclopaedic semantics'' (p.244), because Langacker's complements Fillmore's.
Chapter 8 focuses on categorization, mainly as approached by prototype theory scholars, and idealized cognitive models (ICMs) proposed by Lakoff (1987) as inspired by the empirical findings obtained by that theory. Lakoff is reported to have said that ''ICMs depend upon (at least) five sorts of structuring principles for their composition: (1) image schemas; (2)propositions; (3) metaphor; (4) metonymy; and (5) symbolism'' (p.280).
Two of these conceptual projections, viz. (3) & (4), are the concerns of chapter 9 which examines ''the central claims associated with Conceptual Metaphor Theory, including the recent challenges of primary metaphor theory. According to this theory, the cognitive function of metaphor'' is to foreground otherwise background operations'' (p.321). We also find in this chapter a brief introduction to the metaphor-metonymy interface and, in particular, the metonymic basis of metaphor.
Building on insights gained from categorization and ICMs in the previous two chapters, chapter 10 overviews what has come to be known as cognitive lexical semantics, an approach which views lexical items as ''conceptual categories, structured with respect to a prototype'' (p.356). Here Evans, along with Andrea Tyler, propose what they call ''The Principled Polysemy approach'' (pp.342 ff.). This approach, they claim, differs markedly from Lakoff's approach (see their illustration of a radical category, p. 347). In sum, ''word meaning involves a complex interaction between polysemy, context and encyclopaedic knowledge'' (p.356).
Recall now the fourth assumption which views meaning construction as ''a dynamic process whereby linguistic units serve as prompts for an array of conceptual operations and the recruitment of background knowledge'' (p.162). This process, called conceptualisation (pp.363 & 396), is considered in chapter 11, primarily in terms of Mental Spaces Theory which ''accounts for a diverse range of linguistic phenomena relating to meaning at the level of sentence and text, including referential ambiguities and the role of tense and aspect in discourse management and epistemic distance'' (pp.396-7).
Chapter 12 is an overview of Blending Theory which derives from Conceptual Metaphor Theory (outlined in chapter 9) and Mental Spaces Theory (presented in chapter 11), but ''differs from both in that it explicitly accounts for emergent structure: the idea that meaning construction often results in meaning that is 'more than the sum of its parts''' (p.439).
Chapter 13 concludes part II of the book. By comparing between CS in context and truth-conditional (or formal) semantics on one hand, and Relevance Theory on the other hand, Evans & Green state that while formal semanticists have been primarily concerned with sentence meaning in terms of metalanguage, Relevance Theory, being a theory of communication, emphasises ''the role of ostensive-inferential communication, relevance and inference'' (p.465). Although Relevance Theory comes close to CS, yet it assumes a generative stand and acknowledges the distinction between linguistic and non-linguistic knowledge.
Part III, which contains nine chapters, overviews cognitive approaches to grammar which, like CS, are said to be guided by the same theoretical assumptions despite the inevitable differences. What unites them are the symbolic thesis which ''entails that sound, meaning and grammar are inextricably linked'' (p.471) and the usage-based thesis.
Chapter 14 outlines the above two theses which characterize a cognitive approach to grammar and identifies four main types of theoretical approach, each of which being followed by a brief overview. The relationship that holds between them is best represented in a figure (given on p. 483).
Chapter 15 is a detailed account of the first type, namely 'The Conceptual Structuring System Model' developed by Leonard Talmy, and partly of the second type, viz. Roland Langacker's 'Cognitive Grammar' which, viewed as complementing the former (p.549), is further explored in three more chapters. Rather than drawing a sharp boundary between grammatical knowledge systems, CL holds that ''the grammatical sub-system can semantically be characterised along the same lines as the open-class sub-system'' (p.512) because ''language is represented in the mind of the speaker in terms of a structured inventory. This inventory is structured in terms of a network of links between symbolic units. These symbolic units may be either lexical (open-class) or grammatical (closed-class) elements. This structured inventory represents semantic structure'' (p.513).
Chapters 16-18 are more detailed accounts of Langacker's Cognitive Grammar (CG). They deal respectively with word classes, constructions, and tense, aspect, mood and voice. For him, ''a noun designates a THING and a verb designates a TEMPORAL RELATION (a PROCESS)... An adjective designates an ATEMPORAL RELATION and has a THING as its TR, while an adverb designates an ATEMPORAL RELATION and has a RELATION as its TR'' (p.570). Langacker's model of word class is represented in a diagram (p.571). Constructions in CG, including words, are accounted for not in terms of the fashionable structure building, but in terms of ''the semantic relationships between the component parts of a complex structure'' (p.581). CG ''approaches constituency and head-dependent relations from the perspective of valence and by relying upon the idea of conceptual autonomy and conceptual dependence'' (p.610). Chapter 18 focuses on the verb string (or group) within the clause. Tense and mood ''are analysed in terms of a grounding prediction'' (p.615), ''part of the verb string that is responsible for finiteness'' (p.617). The perfective and imperfective aspect ''can be characterized in terms of homogeneity versus heterogeneity and in terms of bounding'' (p.637). And voice is treated in terms of the clausal head where ''auxiliaries are not viewed as 'purely grammatical' elements but represent an extension from the other uses of that verb'' (p.620).
Chapter 19 explores the empirical motivation for a constructional model of grammar by examining idiomatic expressions (constructions) as approached by Fillmore, Kay and O'Connor (1988) and elaborated in Kay and Fillmore (1999). Their one-level based grammatical representations ''contain not only syntactic information but also semantic information relating to argument structure as well as pragmatic information'' (p.653). But it remains to say that this model is broadly generative despite sharing ''a number of important assumptions'' (p.660) with CG.
Three more construction grammars are overviewed and compared in chapter 20. More detailed is Goldberg's model, which is said to depart from Kay & Fillmore's grammar, though being influenced by their work and by the early work of George Lakoff (cf. p. 667), because ''it is fully usage-based'' (p.666). Goldberg's approach to verb argument structure is claimed to have four advantages: (1) it ''avoids the necessity of positing several distinct senses for one verb'' (p.669); (2) it ''avoids circularity'' (p.670); (3) it ''enables semantic parsimony'' (p.670); and (4) it ''preserve[s] compositionality'' (p.671). While focusing on sentence-level constructions, ''verbs are associated with rich Frame Semantics which gives rise to participant roles that are mapped onto the argument roles provided by the construction'' (p.701). Croft's (2001) Radical Construction Grammar (pp.692-697) focuses on cross-linguistic typological variation and hence linguistic generalizations (or universals). In this model, grammatical relations, such as subject/object, are not recognized. Rather meaning is linked by symbolic relations as gestalts (cf. p. 695). Embodied Construction Grammar, developed recently by Bergen and Chang (2005), is a model on on-line language processing. It ''assumes that all linguistic units are constructions, including morphemes, words, phrases and sentences'' (p.697). However, future research is still required for the model to provide explanations for the inferences that ''arise in utterance comprehension'' (p.699).
In chapter 21, Evans & Green provide ''a descriptive overview of the grammaticalisation process'' (p.708) which is said to involve form-meaning change in the history of a language. Three cognitively oriented theories of grammaticalisation, which view change as a usage-based phenomenon, are presented and compared. These theories, supported by case studies carried out on different languages, include: (1) metaphorical extension approaches (pp.714-721); (2) Invited Inferencing Theory (pp.720-727); and (3) the subjectification approach (pp.728-732).
Chapter 22 places cognitive approaches to grammar in a wider context. These are compared and contrasted with generative and functional-typological approaches as represented by a number of selective grammatical theories (see Figure 22.1, p.743). The comparison is done in terms of their foundational assumptions, objectives and methodology. The characteristics of a cognitive approach to grammar are best seen in the form of a table (p.744). Despite the inevitable differences, the authors maintain that the linguistic theories they so far discussed in their book are ''united in the objective of modeling the representation of knowledge of language in the mind of the speaker'' (p.771).
Part IV, which is made of one short chapter, takes the reader to the close of a long intellectual journey. While the achievements of CL are highly appreciated, challenges are said to remain. As such, the authors not only call for the continuation of developing ''a stronger empirical basis'' (p.782), but also for the integration of approaches.
Although the book is primarily addressed to students, some readers, like me, may find and the many reminders and reiterations rather boring. One is made aware though that this technique in writing a textbook on a relatively new discipline is useful as a 'reinforcing strategy'. This minor remark should in no way reduce the strength of the book; it is after all an indispensable reading.
My two major remarks, which I suggest to be considered in a future edition, relate to ''Lack of empirical rigour'' (p.780). The first concerns corpus-based approaches, e.g. Stefanowitsch & Gies (2006) whose earlier work is only acknowledged. I reckon that a small section at least would have thrown some light on ongoing quantitative and empirical research efforts. Unfortunately, too, the reader finds nowhere in the book any mention of work done on 'mental models' (see, for example, the excellent collection of papers in Rickheit & Habel 1999). Although mental models have largely been researched by cognitive psychologists who hold similar assumptions to those of cognitive linguists, yet they ought to have been considered along with image schemas, mental image, semantic frames, domains, and context.
Out of the ten trivial typos, starting from page 189 and ending with page 769, one seems to be a slip of the pen. This is the word ''excluding'' (p.495, line 4 before last) which must be read as 'including'. Despite all this, I whole-heartedly congratulate Evans & Green for their laborious work and, accordingly, recommend it to be used as a textbook.
Bergen, Benjamin K. and Nancy Chang (2005). Embodied construction grammar in simulation-based language understanding. In J. O. Östman and M. Fried (eds). Construction Grammars: Cognitive Grounding and Theoretical Extensions. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp.147-190.
Croft, Wiliam (2001). Radical Construction Grammar: Syntactic Theory in Typological Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fillmore, Charles, Paul Kay and Mary Katherine O'Connor (1988). Regularity and idiomaticity: the case of let alone. Language, 64, 3, 501-38.
Kay, Paul and Charles Fillmore (1999). Grammatical constructions and linguistic generalizations: the What's X doing Y construction. Language, 75, 1-34.
Lakoff, George (1987). Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson (1980). Metaphors WE Live By. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Rickheit, Gert and Christopher Habel (1999). Mental Models in Discourse Processing and Reasoning. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Stefanowitsch, Anatol and Stefan Th. Gries, eds (2006). Corpus-Based Approaches to Metaphor and Metonymy. Berlin & NY: Mouton de Gruyter.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Dinha T. Gorgis is currently professor of linguistics at Jadara University for Graduate Studies, Jordan. He has been teaching English phonology (with occasional reference to Arabic) at a number of Arab universities since 1975. During 1984-1999, he was mainly involved in teaching graduate courses, e.g. syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, and translation, and in supervising M.A. and Ph.D. research work pertinent to these fields. He is co-editor of the international journal Linguistik online, and is member of IPrA. His most recent publication (2005) is "Binomials in Iraqi and Jordanian Arabic", which can be accessed freely in: Journal of Language and Linguistics, Vol. 4, No. 2, 135-151. He also reviewed Yavas, Mehmet (2006): Applied English Phonology, which appeared on LINGUIST List: Vol-16-3630, and has recently written two book notices for eLanguage.