Cognitive linguistics in action (PDF and word Drive )

Cognitive linguistics in action (PDF and word Drive )


Introduction: Theory informing applications, applications informing theory

Elzbieta Tabakowska, Michal Choinski and

Lukasz Wiraszka

The present volume brings together a selection of papers delivered during the 10th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference, which was held in Krakow (Poland), from July 15 to July 20, 2007. This was, indeed, a jubilee year for Cognitive Linguistics: thirty years after various strands of linguistics focusing upon the relation between language and mind began to develop their theoretical frameworks in a cognitive direction, build­ing up – during the 1980s – uniform cognitive foundations for linguistic description, and twenty years after the appearance of the first two milestones: Lakoff’s Women, Fire and Dangerous Things and Langacker’s Foundations of Cognitive Grammar.

Eighteen years after the first conference, organized by Rene Dirven in Duisburg in 1989, the event in Poland was attended by over five hundred scholars from 42 countries. The conference was organized by the Polish Cognitive Linguistics Association in cooperation with the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. Its leading theme, Cognitive Linguistics in Action: From Theory to Application and Back, gave the title to the present volume.

During the five days of the Conference the participants presented results of their research devoted to a wide array of linguistic phenomena of interest to Cognitive Linguistics. Despite the great variety of scholarly interests and the problems addressed, all the researchers – whether the six plenary speakers (Laura Janda, Leonard Talmy, Ronald W. Langacker, Francisco J. Ruiz de Mendoza Ibanez, Chris Sinha and Dirk Geeraerts), the hundreds of speakers in general and theme sessions, or the forty authors of poster presentations – shared at least one common objective: to illustrate, as Laura Janda puts it in her chapter below, ‘‘how theory informs application and how application informs theory.’’

Traditionally, jubilee was a year of celebration and forgiveness. The present volume was conceived as part of the celebration, bearing testi­mony to the event and its key theme. But at the same time the editors feel obliged to ask their readers’ forgiveness: because of space limitation, the book could not encompass all the quality papers, lectures and presen­


tations offered as contributions to the 10th ICLC. A choice had to be made so as to present the readers with a more or less coherent volume, which would at the same time provide a varied and stimulating reading. As a result, it was decided to shift the focus towards such aspects of the relation between theory and application in Cognitive Linguistics that have not been comprehensively dealt with in other recent publications. Therefore the articles offered here do not specifically address such topics as second/foreign language learning and pedagogy (Putz, Niemeier, and Dirven 2001; Boers and Linstromberg 2008), language acquisition (Toma- sello 2003; Dabrowska 2004), sign language (Emmorey 2002; Janzen 2005), nonverbal communication (McNeill 1992, 2000, 2005) or com­putational and corpus-based linguistics (Gries and Stefanowitsch 2006; Stefanowitsch and Gries 2006).

Naturally, individual papers in the book address a wide array of topics, dealing with various fields of application, as defined in the introduction to the first volume in the ACL series (Kristiansen, Achard, Dirven and Ruiz de Mendoza Ibanez 2006). Some – more general in scope – indicate new directions and open new perspectives, others – originally presented at the Conference as section papers dealing with finer-grained issues – demon­strate ways in which application of the theory to new data and using new methodologies lead to refinement, further development or modification of the theoretical framework. All provide illustration for the recent ‘‘empirical turn” in Cognitive Linguistics, which is marked by the consideration and description of large amounts of authentic data, facilitated due to increased use of electronic corpora, as well as by the increasingly interdisciplinary approach. The ill-famed ‘‘linguistic artifacts”, which linguists of various persuasions often used to create to illustrate and support their hypotheses about what language is and how it works, are being replaced by large lin­guistic corpora, setting new standards for empirical research. The impact that the theoretical framework of Cognitive Linguistics has been making on the neighbouring fields of study is evident; it is often reflected by the very titles of books written within new ‘‘interdisciplinary disciplines”, where the adjective cognitive comes to implicate significant modifications that a given field has been undergoing, following the adaptation of CL theoretical models, methodologies and principles of practical application. Thus we have witnessed the emergence of Cognitive Sociolinguistics (Kris­tiansen and Dirven 2008), Cognitive Poetics (Stockwell 2002; Gavins and Steen 2003; Brone and Vandaele 2009), Cognitive Stylistics (Semino and Culpeper 2002) and Cognitive Translation Theory (Tabakowska 1993; Gutt 2000). Cognitive principles of categorization as reflected in linguistic


Introduction: Theory informing applications, applications informing theory 3 labels put on entities and categories, as well as the cognitive model of grammar of the natural language, are now used, and developed, in fields seemingly very remote from that of linguistics proper, such as archaeology, cultural anthropology or theology. Many further vistas lie open.

By bringing up a collection of papers which point out these new direc­tions the editors hope to provide scholars working in the field of linguis­tics, as well as in other fields within the humanities, with a survey of recent trends which constitute the ‘‘empirical turn” in the Cognitive Linguistics of today.

The contributions in the first section of the volume, written by eminent scholars, whose position within the field of Cognitive Linguistics has been firmly established, touch upon issues of continuing relevance to the discipline and introduce thematic areas covered in the next four sections. There, the contributions come mainly from young scholars, whose research illustrates various ways leading to the implementation of the cycle through different forms of contextualization, either presenting descriptive analyses that lead to theoretical adjustments and amendments, or widening the field of possi­ble applications, e.g. to include theological or metaphysical discourse.

Part I of the volume (‘‘From loop to cycle”) begins with a comprehen­sive survey by Rene Dirven and Francisco Jose Ruiz de Mendoza Ibanez, who review relevant developments that took place over the thirty years of the history of Cognitive Linguistics, putting special emphasis on the rela­tion of grammar to cognition and presenting the distinctive features of CL, in particular the non-modular conception of language and conceptual prominence in grammar. The authors discuss the notion of embodiment, showing the philosophical grounding of embodied realism in phenomenol­ogy, and demonstrate the role of categorization in the emergence of the lexicon-grammar continuum, focusing upon the crucial notions of con­strual, perspective, and compositionality. In the contrastive sections of the chapter, Dirven and Mendoza Ibanez elaborate on the areas of overlap and contrast between Cognitive Grammar and the various ver­sions of construction grammars. In the second part of their survey, they critically review the issue of polysemy, arguing for a solution based on complementing qualitative and quantitative analytical techniques. Finally, they discuss blending as a pervasive cognitive phenomenon and a psycho­logically plausible explanation for non-compositional aspects of grammar, pragmatics and discourse.

In Dirk Geeraerts’ chapter, historical trends in the history of Cognitive Linguistics are also a central issue. Arguing for ‘‘recontextualization” in


CL methodology, the author looks for patterns underlying the develop­ments in CL descriptions over the last thirty years, claiming that their dis­covery and re-thinking will have significant implications for the directions and ways which CL should follow in the future. Posing the question about the common trend underlying the development of various strands within CL, the author argues that what keeps together the vast breadth of cognitive approaches in linguistic description is their tendency to recon­textualize the study of grammar.

Laura Janda’s contribution demonstrates the working of the full cycle: from theory through application to further refinement of theory. The author presents an example of this cycle of mutual interaction by showing how the findings of CL studies of case in Slavic languages may be applied to language pedagogy and how this application in turn influences the theory. Motivated by the need for teaching materials, Janda’s paper gives an illustration of a scholarly agenda in which practical needs lead to a comprehensive investigation of a linguistic phenomenon and, ultimately, to “uncovering new territory for theoretical exploration.’’

Part II (‘‘The context for prototypes’’) focuses on the fundamental notion of prototypicality. It presents two ‘‘contextualizing’’ applications of prototypes in linguistic analysis. Tore Nesset demonstrates how the notions of prototypical and peripheral members of radial categories may be applied to explain certain changes in Russian verb morphology. He investigates the process which results in Russian verbs with the suffix /a/ shifting to the group with the suffix /aj/ due to the interaction of the pro­totypes of source and target verb categories.

Esa Penttila demonstrates how a prototype-based approach can be used to investigate characteristics of idiomatic expressions and to create a taxonomy which takes into account the entire complexity of the problem. In his analysis, the author highlights various relationships between differ­ent subclasses of idioms, arguing for viewing the phenomenon of idioma­ticity in terms of a continuum rather than in terms of categorial notions.

Part III (‘‘Contexts for Cognitive Grammar’’) opens with a contribu­tion by Ronald W. Langacker, who explores the problem of the mind/ body duality and its linguistic manifestations in the domain of English complementation, arguing that a more unified account of complemen­tation in language can be achieved by further refining the concept. Langacker claims that the body/mind duality is a ‘‘natural product of embodied cognition’’ and thus has ‘‘a firm experiential basis.’’ As he demonstrates, it is this duality, which is systematically manifested in lin­guistic expressions, that underlies the distinction between what he defines


Introduction: Theory informing applications, applications informing theory 5 as effective and epistemic relationships on the conceptual plane, with the former involving the occurrence of events, and the latter pertaining to the validity of knowledge. The progression from effective to epistemic rela­tionships is shown to be correlated with different degrees of structural complexity of linguistic expressions, from lexical predicates, to direct complementation, to infinitival and clausal complementation. Moreover, the author suggests that the opposition between effective and epistemic relationships can also be manifested within each of these levels, in different ways, depending on the inherent properties of the particular level. In con­clusion, Langacker contends that the recognition of the systematicity of the opposition between the two types of relationships allows for significant unification of the account of different types of complementation.

Peter Willemse takes up the problem of the description of nominal reference-point constructions, paying specific attention to the way in which such constructions are embedded referentially in the discourse context, and the way in which the reference-point relation may interact with infor­mation in the surrounding discourse. Following a corpus study of English possessive noun phrases, which as the author claims should be studied in extensive discourse contexts, Willemse argues for distinguishing a con­tinuum of discourse statuses of these phrases rather than adopting binary distinctions. The paper concludes with implications for both the descrip­tion itself and the theory of English nominal reference-point constructions.

The author of the next contribution, Jari Sivonen, focuses on an analy­sis of path as part of the semantics of Finnish motion verbs. An essay in Cognitive Semantics, Sivonen’s paper presents the results of his investiga­tion of fifteen lexemes: the most frequently used motion verbs which pro­file indirect path. He distinguishes between five groups of verbs with respect to their implied path shapes (Paths of Irregular Shape, Paths of Regular Shape, Paths of a Single Turn, the Back and Forth Paths and the Crossing Shape Paths). Once again, Sivonen’s paper demonstrates that recognizing the systematicity of seemingly disparate linguistic phe­nomena enhances uniformity of linguistic descriptions, and at the same time provides refinement of existing theories (in the case of motion verbs, Talmy’s theory of verb-framed and satellite-framed languages).

Jakko Leino demonstrates that Construction Grammar is a useful tool for a researcher aiming at bringing together issues of spoken language and syntactic theory. To this end, the article presents an analysis of two paren­thetical expression types characteristic of spoken Finnish and elaborates on the role of expression types in shaping the notion of construction, the organization of speech, and the relation between the two. In conclusion,


the author claims that models of grammatical constructions are just as useful for analyzing the syntax of spoken language (which is less fre­quently addressed in the linguistic enterprise than the more “orderly” written language) as they are for the written variety. Moreover, the notion of construction may actually prove to be more useful than the traditional notions of clause or sentence.

Part IV (‘‘The pragmatic context”) offers two illustrations of the signi­ficance of pragmatic context in linguistic research. Kirsten Vis, Wilbert Spooren and Jose Sanders investigate the issue of conversationalization of public discourse. Analyzing three Dutch newspaper corpora: two corpora including texts from national newspapers from 1950 and 2002 and a cor­pus consisting of spontaneous conversations recorded c. 2002, the authors use tools provided by Rhetorical Structure Theory to compare various levels of discourse coherence; the content as well as epistemic and speech act relations between clauses are investigated to establish the degree of subjectivity in the investigated texts. Recognizing the level of discourse as a ‘‘major challenge to Cognitive Linguistics”, they demonstrate how RST allows to provide explicit links between the level of linguistic information and the level of conceptual representation. Vis, Spooren and Sanders’s chapter demonstrates the effectiveness of the method itself rather than final results of the study.

Luna Filipovic analyses the content of witnesses’ testimonies: tran­scripts of police interviews with native speakers of Spanish and their attested translations into English. Focusing upon descriptions of motion events, she investigates the differences between lexicalizations of the expe­riential domains in the two languages. In her work, these differences (e.g. reference to the manner of the motion verb), which result from Talmy’s (1985) linguistic typology, are used to help to explain the modifications of the content of the testimonies, which take place when they are translated from Spanish into English. The study demonstrates how systematic research of lexicalization patterns within particular cognitive domains might reveal significant typological contrasts between languages and thus contribute to our general knowledge of language typology. On the pragmatic plane, the implications of Filipovic’s study are equally significant: the description – and the following awareness – of typological differences can allow for a better understanding of language-specific bias in legal contexts and pro­vide significant clues for training language professionals – e.g. interpreters or translators.

Filipovic’s chapter provides a mental link with the final part of the volume (‘‘The social and cultural contexts for CMT and CI’’), devoted to demonstrating social and cultural contexts for Cognitive Metaphor and Conceptual Integration Theories. Diane Ponterotto demonstrates how Cognitive Metaphor Theory can be applied to cross-linguistic analyses, ultimately contributing to the understanding of translation problems regarding idiomaticity. By offering a contrastive analysis of a selection of English and Italian idiomatic expressions, her study explores similarities and differences in cross-language renderings of such expressions, focusing on the issue of conceptual metaphor identification. Ponterotto ends her study with some practical implications for translation studies and transla­tor training by pointing out the importance of the awareness of constraints imposed on translation practice by cross-cultural variation of metaphorical conceptualizations. Emphasis on cross-cultural differences, as manifested in particular instantiations of universal conceptual metaphors, suggests a possibility of completing the theory-application-theory cycle: investigation of attested translations produced by practising translators might obviously contribute to our understanding of universal vs. language- and culture­specific metaphorization.

The final two chapters offer CL analyses of two key notions in Chris­tian religious discourse. In her chapter on metaphorical conceptualizations Malgorzata Pasicka offers an analysis of expressions used by followers of Faith Movement, a branch of charismatic Christianity, which she defines as “prosperity theology.” She discusses conceptual blends and metaphori­cal conceptualizations of faith, which, as she claims, ‘‘lie at the very heart” of the Faith Movement. She demonstrates how the blending theory, seen as an enrichment of the conceptual metaphor theory, offers a better possi­bility of interpreting complex and novel metaphors, which are characteris­tic of the ‘‘positive confession” parlance of the Faith Movement. More­over, she indicates and explores certain innovative syntactic structures which appear in the Faith Movement discourse, and concludes by showing how such syntactic innovations co-operate with metaphors and conceptual blends to create an overall picture of faith as ‘‘something almost tangible, something mundane rather than metaphysical.” The direction for further investigation is clear-cut: although the hypothesis of linguistic relativism is not explicitly mentioned, with the pragmatic goals of FM in view, psychological and sociocultural implications of Pasicka’s analysis seem evident.

Last but not least, Aleksander Gomola investigates the concept of God that underlies the metaphor ‘‘God is Friend’’, often used by process theology and feminist theology. An analysis of the metaphor, carried out in the framework of Conceptual Blending Theory, leads to the second part of the chapter, which brings out the semantic contrast between the ‘‘God is Friend” metaphor and some other, well established metaphors that occur in Christian discourse, e.g. ‘‘God is Father”. Gomola elaborates on the origin of the new concept as well as on social and religious consequences of its wider application. It is generally assumed that man cannot talk about God in plain, i.e. non-metaphorical language; Gomola’s analysis shows that a linguist can profitably use plain language to talk about the metaphors that men use to talk about God.

Theory informs application, application informs theory. They feed each other, and at the same time provide food for thought for anyone keen on trying to understand the nature of complex bonds that tie human language and human mind together.


Boers, Frank and Seth Lindstromberg

  • Cognitive Linguistic Approaches to Teaching Vocabulary and Phraseology. (Applications of Cognitive Linguistics 6.) Berlin/ New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Brone, Geert and Jeroen Vandaele

  • Cognitive Poetics: Goals, Gains and Gaps. (Applications of Cogni­tive Linguistics 10.) Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Dạbrowska, Ewa

  • Language, Mind and Brain: Some Psychological and Neurologi­cal Constraints on Theories of Grammar. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Emmorey, Karen

  • Language, Cognition, and the Brain: Insights from Sign Language Research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates.

Gavins, Joanna and Gerard Steen (eds.)

  • Cognitive Poetics in Practice. London: Routledge.

Gries, Stefan Thomas and Anatol Stefanowitsch (eds.)

2006                  Corpora in Cognitive Linguistics: Corpus-based Approaches to

Syntax and Lexis. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Gutt, Ernst-August

1991/2000 Translation and Relevance, Cognition and Context. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing.

Janzen, Terry

  • Topics in Signed Language Interpreting. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Kristiansen, Gitte, Michel Achard, Rene Dirven and Francisco J. Ruiz de Mendoza Ibanez

  • Cognitive Linguistics: Current Applications and Future Perspec­tives. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.




2008 Cognitive Sociolinguistics. Language Variation, Cultural Models, Social Systems. (Cognitive Linguistics Research 39.) Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
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1993 Reference point constructions. Cognitive Linguistics 4: 1-38.
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1995 Possession and possessive constructions. In: John R. Taylor and Robert E. MacLaury (eds.), Language Language and the Cogni­tive Construal of the World, 51-79. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
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McNeill, David (ed.)

2000                  Language and Gesture. (Language Culture and Cognition.)

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McNeill, David

2005                 Gesture and Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Piltz, Martin, Susanne Niemeier and Rene Dirven (eds.)

2001 Applied Cognitive Linguistics I: Theory and Language Acquisition. (Cognitive Linguistics Research 19.) Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Semino, Elena and Jonathan Culpeper (eds.)
2002 Cognitive Stylistics: Language and Cognition in Text Analysis. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
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2006 Corpus-based Approches to Metaphor and Metonymy. Berlin/ New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
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Talmy, Leonard


Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction. London: Routledge.

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1993                  Cognitive Linguistics and Poetics of Translation. Tubingen: Gunter

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2003 Constructing a Language: A Usage-Based Theory of Language Acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.






























Part I.
From loop to cycle



Looking back at 30 years of Cognitive Linguistics1

Rene Dirven and Francisco Jose Ruiz de

Mendoza Ibanez

  1. Introduction: Looking back in pride

After 30 years of inner development and steady growth, Cognitive Lin­guistics stands firm, both qualitatively and quantitatively. As a symbol of this self-assured presence in the linguistic landscape rises Geeraerts and Cuyckens’s (2007) monumental Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics,[1] [2] which even boasts on its blurb: ‘‘In the past decade, Cognitive Linguistics has developed into one of the most dynamic and attractive frameworks within theoretical and descriptive linguistics.’’ What has made Cognitive Linguistics so dynamic and attractive?

The dynamicity of Cognitive Linguistics (CL) is largely due to the fact that it is not a single person’s enterprise. Rather it arises from the combi­


nation of various pioneering ideas that, acting as separable strands of one whole, have drawn together to give rise to a unified paradigm. Central to the whole paradigm is the cognitive commitment, i.e. the conviction that there is fundamental unity and interaction among all cognitive faculties including perception, attention, categorization, conceptualization, affect, memory, reasoning, and language (see Lakoff 1990; Talmy 1997).

The attractiveness of CL may be due to the fact that it has largely given up the traditional axioms that reduce language to a self-sufficient system, especially dichotomies such as syntax vs. semantics, lexis vs. grammar, semantics vs. pragmatics, langue vs. parole, competence vs. performance, and synchrony vs. diachrony. The belief in the arbitrariness of the linguis­tic sign has given way to a search for the motivation of linguistic organi­zation on the basis of cognitive principles. This change of direction stands in sharp contrast to the central claim of generative linguistics that lan­guage is an autonomous system, detached from any other type of knowl­edge, including encyclopedic or world knowledge. In contrast, CL holds that there is no clear-cut distinction between linguistic and encyclopedic knowledge (Haiman 1980; Langacker 1987). Additionally, in CL, the view of the interwovenness of language and other cognitive faculties has generally been synonymous with an extreme anti-modularity view, which is in line with a general anti-generative mind-set. However, a milder approach in all these matters is now growing. Whereas language itself is still seen as an internally non-modular system (e.g. by Glynn 2007), from an anatomic perspective, there are some who would not deny that the various cognitive faculties may be organized on the basis of functional modularity, i.e. the encapsulation of information in distributed areas of the brain, for which there is a growing body of evidence in neuroscience (e.g. Calabretta, Di Fernando, Wagner and Parisi 2003).[3]

In spite of this non-modular conception of language and the belief in the continuity of grammar and lexicon, all the main strands in CL have emphasized either the grammatical units of language or else its lexical- semantic units. In line with this fact, the present retrospective overview will first concentrate on the more grammatical strands, and next on the lexical-semantic strands, not losing sight of further discourse orientations. We will also outline some developments within these strands, highlight internal problems, if any, and obstacles on the path to their integration. The following strands, or topics related to them, will be discussed: (i) the relation of grammar to cognition (Section 2); (ii) Cognitive Grammar (CG) (Section 3); (iii) differences of opinion between CG and the various versions of construction grammar (Section 4); (iv) Construction Grammar (CxG) (Section 5); (v) Radical Construction Grammar (RCG) (Section 6); (vi) the philosophical basis of CL (Section 7); (vii) Conceptual Metaphor and Metonymy Theory (Section 8); (viii) Lexical Semantics (Section 9); (ix) Discourse: Mental Space and Blending Theory (Section 10).

  1. The relation of grammar to cognition

The most important inroads into the relation between grammar and cognition have been made by, amongst others, the following scholars: Haiman (1985a, 1985b) on iconicity; Fillmore (1977) on frames and scenes; Talmy (1975, 1978, 1988a, 1988b, 2000a, 2000b) on figure/ground alignment, and on attention and ( per)ception phenomena; Langacker (1987, 1990, 1991, 1999) on construal, perspective, subjectivity and mental scanning; Fillmore (1990), Fillmore, Kay, and O’Connor (1988), Fillmore et al. (2004), Goldberg (1995, 2002, 2005), Croft (2001), and Bergen and Chang (2005) on constructional patterns; Lakoff and Johnson (1980, 1999), Lakoff (1993) and Lakoff and Turner (1989) on metaphor; Johnson (1987) on image schemas; Lakoff (1987) on categorization, and Fauconnier and Turner (1996, 2002) on blending.[4]

From a historical point of view, CL belongs to the functionalist tradi­tion in linguistics. Although Saussure ([1916] 1974) saw linguistics as part of semiology or semiotics, he mainly emphasized one of the three main modes of semiotic reference, i.e. symbolicity, as the organizing principle of linguistic structure. In the more balanced semiotic view of language taken by Haiman (1985b), the other two main semiotic principles, i.e. iconicity and indexicality, are shown to be highly relevant, too. They are, moreover, more perceptually and experientially based, and as such fully in line with the cognitive view of language. As a direct manifestation of the interaction between perception and language, the principle of iconicity becomes visible in three sub-principles of linguistic organization, i.e. sequential order, proximity/distance, and quantity. The sequential order in the perceived or conceived world is reflected in syntactic word order as in the advertising slogan Eye it, try it, buy it. Syntactic proximity and dis­tance reflect conceptual closeness or difference, e.g. in the position within adjective sequences as in a large purple satin coverlet: here the conceptual closeness between the linen (coverlet) and the material that it is made of (satin) determines the primacy of the material adjective; color is next in the intrinsic nature of artifacts, and size is the least intrinsic feature and stands at the greatest distance from the noun. The principle of quantity relates to the pairing of form and meaning: a more complex form usually carries a greater amount of meaning, and form is motivated by functional factors such as politeness, demands of informativeness, and rhetoric, among others (e.g. compare the wording of No smoking in a public place with that of Customers are kindly requested to refrain from smoking, if they can in the dining room of a chic restaurant). Thus iconicity clearly reveals that extra-linguistic cognitive factors can have a direct bearing on linguis­tic form, or that linguistic form is not so arbitrary as many have claimed since Saussure.[5]

One of the greatest merits of Talmy is to have incorporated Gestalt Psychology into the cognitive exploration of language. Another major asset of Talmy’s work is its concern with both grammar and lexicon, and with their subtly different relation to cognition. As a highly abstract sym­bolic system of generalized or schematic conceptualizations, the grammar of a language is even more intimately linked with, and subject to, general cognitive principles and processes than the lexical system, which is an inventory of more specific and singular forms of conceptualization.

Whereas iconicity is a receptive cognitive principle in that it reflects metonymic links between parts (single event or property) and wholes (total of events or objects), the imposition of gestalts on the experiential world is a far more creative achievement. That the structure of grammar is directly related to principles of gestalt perception was first shown by Talmy (1975; see also 1978, 2000a, ch. 5). One of these is the principle of figure/ground alignment, according to which the perception of an overall shape comes about by dividing the perceptual field into a more prominent part, the figure, and a less salient part called the ground. It is against this ground that the figure moves, is moved or stands out. Talmy furthermore applies this perceptual principle to complex sentences thus showing that the main clause has the function of the figure and the subordinate clause that of the ground.

Probing more generally into the relation of grammar to cognition, Talmy (1988a, 2000a, ch. 1) deals with the relations between lexicon, grammar and cognition in terms of a building metaphor. Whereas the lexicon can be compared to the single bricks of a building, the grammar is ‘‘the conceptual framework or, imagistically, a skeletal structure or scaffolding for the conceptual material that is lexically specified” (Talmy 1988a: 165). The lexicon contains content words and reflects the tens of thousands of individual phenomena as single, conceptual categories, whereas the grammar develops more abstract, schematic categories, apply­ing over wide ranges of phenomena. Such a schematic category of mean­ing, e.g. that of the plural morpheme, is one that applies to all possible relevant contexts. Thus the schematic meaning of the plural is the notion of ‘‘more than one”, technically called multiplexity, which is found not only with count nouns (cups), but also with abstract nouns (fears, mis­givings), uncountable nouns (ashes, waters), or event nouns (the silences between the two lovers). Furthermore, the concept ‘‘multiplex” is not limited to nouns and plurals, but is also found with iterative verb forms as in He was hitting her. Thus, whereas the lexicon diversifies the concep­tual world more and more, the grammar synthesizes, under one common denominator, quite different manifestations of multiplexity, be it concrete or abstract, countable or uncountable, things or events. It is also in this sense that grammar creates gestalts: ‘‘[grammatical] structuring is neces­sary for a disparate quantity of contentful material to be able to cohere in any sensible way and hence to be amenable to simultaneous cognizing as a Gestalt” (Talmy 1988a: 196). Still, lexical and grammatical specifica­tions are to be seen along a continuum ranging from content categories to schematic categories.

An example of closed-class notional category that impinges on gram­mar is force dynamics (Talmy 1988b, 2000a). Linguistic expressions can have a force-dynamic grounding where either of two forces, an agonist and an antagonist, one stronger than the other, can be in focus. We can have basic steady-state force-dynamic patterns with a tendency to motion (e.g. The ball kept rolling) or to rest (e.g. The fence kept standing in spite of the strong wind) or change-of-state patterns which also exhibit a tendency to motion (e.g. The water made the fire die down) or to rest (e.g. The ball made the lamp fall). There can be internal psychodynamics as in He forced himself to keep working (motion) and He refrained from smoking in the lab (rest). As Deane (1996) has noted the elements of force dynamics are basic to human cognition since they are grounded in natural motor activities.

A related area of Talmy’s research where the cognitive role of percep­tion is crucial for grammar is the study of motion. Talmy (2000a) distin­guishes three types of motion: factive, fictive, and metaphorical. Factive motion, concerns real motion as in The boy ran from the tree to the fence. Fictive motion consists in depicting a situation where there is no actual motion, but it is conceived as if it involved real motion, as in The road ran from the river to the valley; this is possible since our perceptual mechanisms give us the false impression that there is motion (we move our eyes from one point to another and interpret the static scene as if it were dynamic). Finally, with metaphorical motion we see a non-physical entity as if it were a moving object, as exemplified by The smell came into the room.

In general, Talmy’s own grammatical description of a number of single constructions such as those for motion events in various languages around the world tends to be typological in orientation (Talmy 2000b). Thus, he notes that there are satellite-oriented languages like English that represent the path of the motion in a prepositional phrase or satellite (e.g. The child crawled into the room) and verb-oriented languages like Spanish and Japanese that represent the path in the verb root (e.g. El nino entro en la habitation gateando lit. ‘The child came into the room crawling’). In the latter, the co-event (i.e. gateando) is secondary to the motion event itself (entro); it describes the manner of motion and is typically expressed by a gerund. Thus there is a double opposition: Spanish expresses path as a first event and manner as a secondary event; English expresses path as a satellite and manner as the sole event. Thus, the English path expression by means of a satellite is a major carrier of the notion of motion in the sentence.

In contrast to other founding fathers of CL, Talmy has never developed a specific grammar model. But, stimulated by Talmy and also by Fillmore, CL has seen the development of various models of cognitive grammar (the use of lower case throughout this paper suggests a generic use of a term and the upper case a specific model). In the following sections we discuss what we feel are the most relevant contributions of the various approaches, which include Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar, several versions of con­struction grammar, and Fauconnier and Turner’s Blending Theory.

  1. Cognitive Grammar: Construal, perspective, and compositionality

Historically speaking, Langacker’s accomplishment is to have realized the enormous potential of Talmy’s gestalt-based approach to language and to have developed it into a fully-fledged theory, which at first he labeled Space Grammar and later Cognitive Grammar. Langacker’s main inroads into cognition in grammar are the application of the notion of construal to explain various linguistic phenomena, his elaboration of Talmy’s notion of perspective, and the generalization of the gestalt principle of figure/ground alignment to all levels of linguistic structure.

The notion of construal is needed to mark the cognitive operation transforming a conceptual scene into a linguistic description of it. Whereas a conceptual scene is in principle not limited in the number of participants and relations, its linguistic expression always imposes a ‘‘construal’’ on the scene in terms of scope and perspective. Scope, which relates to how much of the scene is to be included in the description and which elements are to be excluded, is roughly equivalent to Fillmore’s (1977) notion of frame. Thus the well-known scene of a commercial transaction comprises parti­cipants and relations.[6] Among the participants we have a buyer, a seller, goods, a price, and the quality of the goods or the extent of the sales. Then, there are two main relations: the transfer of goods and of money. Of all this rich conceptual content, the construal operation never allows all elements within its scope. The absolute maximum is to express all of the participants, but only one direction in the transfer: I paid her 200 dollars for the ring or else She sold me the ring for 200 dollars. It is of course possible to express the double transfer by means of the verb exchange (We exchanged the ring for 200 dollars), but here the buyer/seller relation is kept out of sight so that the commercial character of the tran­saction itself is out of the scope. One can exchange anything for anything else, e.g. stamps for horse pictures. Other forms of construal of the com­mercial transaction focus on the goods and the price (The ring cost 200 dollars), on the seller and the price (She charged 200 dollars for the ring), on the buyer and the price (I bought the ring for 200 dollars, I paid 200 dollars for the ring). All in all, there is a limited number of ways of con­struing the same content.

Construal is determined by the perspective that speakers impose on the scene to be described. In the commercial transaction only one of the four participants can serve as the point of departure: the buyer can only buy, pay a price and receive the goods; the seller can only sell, charge a price and transfer the goods; the goods cost a certain amount; and money can buy them. Langacker’s main contribution in this respect is that he has not just left the notion of perspective at a fairly vague level, as exemplified by the various ways of construing the commercial transaction scene, but that he has further elaborated it into more discrete components. Thus, the perspective adopted on a given scene or situation can involve three further components: a vantage point, an objective vs. subjective view, and a given direction in the mental scanning of the scene. First, construal can involve the choice of a vantage point from which one looks at the situa­tion. This can be the sentential subject as the figure selected for the scene, as illustrated above for each of the four different participants in the com­mercial transaction, whereby the other participants then form the ground (see further down below). But the vantage point can also be either of the participants in the speech situation, i.e. the speaker’s or the hearer’s position as in the use of come: here the speaker can take either his own perspective or that of the hearer as in the contrast between Shall I come to your place? or Will you come to my place? In the former the coming is seen from the hearer’s perspective, in the latter from the speaker’s. Second, perspective can involve the choice between an objective and a subjective construal. These two terms are used in a very specific sense, based on their everyday meanings. An objective construal presents an explicit temporal or spatial setting of the scene relative to speech time or to the speaker’s position. Thus, by using the adverb before now the speaker defines the time reference point objectively as the time of the speech act (now); and by saying She was sitting across the table from me the speaker puts himself or herself objectively on the stage as the spatial reference point. Subjec­tivity in such cases means that the speaker leaves out the speech time (She was sitting here) or the speaker’s position (She was sitting across the table) such that these vantage points are merely implied, explicitly or ‘‘objec­tively’’ put on the stage. That is, a subjective construal as She was sitting across the table is precisely subjective because it implies an off-stage, speaker-dependent reference point. As a third component, perspective can involve the choice of a direction of the motion in real motion events or in fictive motion events. Fictive motion is found in scenes such as The roof slopes, where the mind simulates motion in processing the sentence (Matlock 2004a, 2004b). Also in such mental scanning the speaker has to decide on the direction of the motion by choosing between The roof slopes steeply upward and The roof slopes steeply downward, where the former suggests motion away from, and the latter motion towards, the speaker. After selecting a perspective, the speaker assembles the various elements chosen from the scene into larger composite wholes, linguistically ex­pressed as phrases, clauses, sentences, or text.

Next to these refinements in viewing processes, Langacker has also con­siderably extended the notion of figure/ground alignment to all linguistic levels.[7] The structuring of a scene into a figure and a ground does not only apply to the relation of main clause and subclause, as shown by Talmy (1975, 1978), but also to other levels such as a lexical unit, a compound, a phrase (verb phrase, prepositional phrase, adjective-noun phrase), a clause, and a speech act. Before going into some of these levels, it is necessary to point out that, according to Langacker (1987, 1995), all linguistic units and their meanings can be reduced to two kinds of con­ceptual entities: things and relations. Things are independent conceptual entities such as book or linguistics, whereas relations are conceptual entities constituting conceptual links between things such as the temporal relation know or the atemporal relation about. Conceptual entities are joined to one another by assembling them into increasingly larger and more com­plex units. Thus book is assembled with about linguistics into the relation­ship book about linguistics; this initial assembly is in its turn combined with good into good book about linguistics; these are all atemporal rela­tions, which are further assembled with the temporal relation I know into I know a good book about linguistics. This principle of composing and integrating smaller units into larger higher-order ones is known as com­positionality, to which we will come back in Section 4. But let us first see how the figure/ground relationship applies to various conceptual units and their expression.

Each conceptual entity, e.g. book or strawberry, consists of a profile and a base: the figure is what is profiled and the base is what the figure is pro­filed against. For strawberry the base is the domain of plants, in this case a strawberry plant with roots, leaves and fruit, and the noun strawberry profiles the fruit. A relationship like the strawberry on the plate consists of the relational link (or relation) on and two things as participants, i.e. strawberry and plate. The relation on profiles contact or support with a surface in the domain of space. The figure/ground relationship holds between the first participant strawberry as the figure and the second par­ticipant, plate, as the ground. In order to have a more specific term for figure/ground relationships, Langacker (1987: 217-220) has introduced the spatial terms trajector – which does not necessarily identify a moving entity – and landmark. Langacker sees the trajector/landmark configura­tion, which further specifies the notion of figure/ground alignment, as applicable to those conceptual relationships that are linguistically expressed as phrases, clauses, and complex sentences. In the structure of a simple sentence or clause, the trajector is the subject, and the landmark is the (direct) object or the oblique complement. Furthermore, each trajector/ landmark relation in a finite clause – or rather the situation or scene described in it – is simultaneously ‘‘grounded” in time and reality by means of the tense system or in irreality (i.e. potential reality or non­reality) by the modality system. A clause uttered in discourse functions in the interaction between speaker and hearer as a speech act (see Searle 1979). Figure/ground relationships also hold in this case, which is – in our view – Langacker’s most innovative extension of the notion in ques­tion. That is, the speech act itself functions as the figure and the whole speech situation is the ground. The speech situation comprises the speech act participants (speaker and hearer), the speech act time and location, and the different elements of background knowledge. The speech situation is thus the whole context or the ground against which the linguistic expres­sion communicated makes sense as the figure.

Langacker has also developed outspoken views on three issues that have caused differences of opinion within CL: the notion of composi­tionality, the number of conceptual-linguistic units, and the universal status of grammatical categories such as noun, verb, subject, and direct object. Though not apparent at first sight, these issues may well be linked to one another, which we will do in the context of construction grammar models. Thus, as will be evident in the ensuing discussion, Langacker’s schemas – which may range from specific to abstract – are but “conven­tionalized patterns” that give rise to more creative constructions.

  1. Differences between Cognitive Grammar and construction grammars

Although Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar and the various construction grammar models share the basic tenets of cognitive linguistics, they also differ fundamentally on the principle of compositionality, the inventory of linguistic units, and the status of grammatical categories. Construction grammar claims that compositionality cannot account for all linguistic phenomena and that acceptance of a third conceptual-linguistic unit is unavoidable: in addition to things and relations, they also argue for the existence of constructions, i.e. fixed patterns in the combination of relations and things, not built up compositionally, but available as whole constructional units with their own constructional meanings (see e.g. Michaelis 2003). Thus, the linguistic expression I painted myself in a corner can have two different interpretations and hence also two constructional paths. The compositional build-up accounts for the literal meaning that the speaker made a picture of himself/herself and did so in a corner. In this interpretation the object (myself) is assembled to the verb (paint) into a verb phrase that is then assembled into a relationship with the sub­ject (I), thus yielding a new composite structure that is further assembled to the adverbial phrase (in a corner). The non-compositional, idiomatic and constructional meaning is quite different, i.e. ‘I expressed an opinion, which committed me to things which I subsequently regretted.’ This figura­tive meaning is based on the figurative interpretation of the global con­struction whereby the speaker does something that brings him/her into an unpleasant state. In order to distinguish this case from the caused-motion construction, as in The player kicked it into the goal, we will call it a caused-change construction. In such a construction there is no assembly of the verb ( paint) and a direct object (myself), but only between the verb ( paint) and the subject (I), on the one hand, and between the prono­minal noun phrase (myself) and the adverbial phrase (in a corner), on the other. But the link between those two relationships is not borne out by a linguistic form, which is the very reason why construction grammar claims that it is the construction as a whole that expresses the notion of caused change. This in turn entails that there are not just concep­tual entities like things and relations, but also more abstract patterns or strings – the ambiguous and hence infelicitous term chosen for them is “constructions” – which just like things and relations also function as conceptual units.[8] In such constructional units – or non-compositional constructions – the interpretation process is claimed to follow a top­down direction, whereas in compositional constructions the interpretation results from a bottom-up assembly of the various lexical units (I, paint, myself, in, corner) into increasingly larger phrases and a clause. In the figurative interpretation of I painted myself in a corner it is especially the relationship myself in a corner that seems to lack any conceptual and syntactic status in the clause as a whole. It is important to realize that it is not the figurative use of the caused-change construction that makes the construction special. This non-compositional caused-change construction can also occur with many other verbs, also when used literally. Consider the verb drink. Here the caused-change construction can be used to express a resultant state, with adjectives (He drank himself poor/silly/senseless), with the goal prepositions to or into (He drank himself to death/into a coma), and with the source preposition out of (He drank himself out of his practice/out of his career). In Section 5 we will discuss the solution Construction Grammar offers for this, then evaluate Langacker’s view of it, and suggest other solutions. But first we must refer to the other major point of disagreement between Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar and construction grammar models, especially Radical Construction Grammar, which is the status of grammatical categories like noun, verb, subject, and direct object. For Langacker, there are only two basic conceptual entities, i.e. ‘‘things’’ as somehow independent entities, and ‘‘relations’’ as estab­lishing links between ‘‘things.’’ Linguistic expressions that profile things are, prototypically, nouns, pronouns, determiners, and higher-order expres­sions such as full noun phrases. Linguistic expressions that profile relations are verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and adjectives, among others. There are two types of relations: finite verbs profile temporal relations (i.e. pro­cesses); non-finite verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and adjectives profile atemporal relations. For Langacker, the two main categories discussed here, nouns and verbs are not just meta-theoretical constructs, useful to talk about language, but they are an intrinsic part of grammar and thus have a universal status. The same claim is made for the functional categories of subject and object (Langacker 2005: 128-129). Radical Construction Grammar rejects this view on the grounds that most gram­matical categories differ across languages and can only be defined from a language-specific perspective (see Section 6).

  1. Constructions and Construction Grammar (CxG)

Construction grammars differ from Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar in that they reject compositionality as the main principle governing the grammar of a language, and claim that languages have numerous fixed or idiomatic expressions or ‘‘constructions’’, i.e. grammatical units in themselves. There are four main constructionist approaches. The first of all has been Fillmore’s construction grammar, also called Berkeley Construc­tion Grammar (BCG), which was developed partly within a generative frame of thought by Fillmore, Kay and O’Connor (1988), Fillmore (1990), Fillmore and Atkins (2000), Kay and Fillmore (1999) and Fillmore, Kay, Michaelis and Sag (2004). Still, Fillmore incorporates quite a number of assumptions from CL in his approaches to the lexicon and grammar, known as Frame Semantics and Construction Grammar respectively. But typical for the more generative outlook, in this respect, is the separation between lexicon and grammar. According to Lakoff (cf. Pires de Olivera 2001: 26), Fillmore does not consider himself a part of the Cognitive Linguistics paradigm, mainly because of his non-commitment to the interconnection between linguistic capacity and other cognitive faculties. Besides Fillmore’s approach, there are three fully cognitive versions of construction grammar: Goldberg’s (1995) Construction Grammar (CxG), Croft’s (2001) Radical Construction Grammar (RCG), and Bergen and Chang’s (2005) Embodied Construction Grammar (ECG).[9]

According to Langacker (1991: 8), the difference between CG and CxG can be characterized as follows: whereas CG considers constructions to be reducible ‘‘to symbolic relationships’’, CxG assumes that ‘‘grammatical classes and other constructs are still thought of as a separate level of organization.’’ But more is at stake than a ‘‘separate level of organi-

zation”; it is equally a question of “constructional meaning,” as has been pointed out by diverse “constructivists” such as Lakoff (1987: 467, 538), Fillmore (1990), Goldberg (1995, 2006), Kay and Fillmore (1999), Michaelis (2003) and many others. That is, construction grammar starts from the existence of gestalt-like patterns or ‘‘established configurations” that are both simpler to produce and have meaning relations between the composing parts above their ad hoc compositional meanings. According to Goldberg (1995: 4) such patterns or constructions ‘‘carry meanings independently of the words in the sentence,” as in the parade example of an extended caused-motion construction Fred sneezed the napkin right off the table (onto the floor). The verb sneeze, which has no causative mean­ing, is intransitive and cannot have a direct object. Since the ‘‘causative” meaning of the sentence as a whole is, according to Goldberg (1995: 4), ‘‘not strictly predictable from the construction’s component parts or from other previously established constructions,’’ she proposes to derive it from a constructional pattern such as CAUSE-MOVE <cause theme source/ goal>. Of these thematic or semantic roles, Fred is the cause, the napkin the theme, off the table the source, and onto the floor the goal. Thanks to this higher semantic schema the verb form sneeze inherits a causative meaning from the abstract predicate CAUSE-MOVE and functions as an ordinary caused-motion verb such as to put in He put the napkin on the table. However, there is a major difference between the verbs to put and to sneeze: whereas to put does command a direct object and an obligatory resulting location or state, to sneeze does not command either of these. This appears from the passive test, which works with verbs such as to put (The napkin was put on the table), but not with to sneeze (*The napkin was sneezed off the table). The solution that Construction Grammar has chosen is, in fact, to accept an abstract verb CAUSE-MOVE, which in our opinion is not necessarily the only possible, and perhaps not even the best solution. The first problem is the choice of an abstract predicate, which is a solution comparable to accepting a zero-morpheme in order to account for a causative meaning for expressions without a causative marker. Now already 20 years ago and in a different context, Langacker (1987: 452) discussed causative expressions that have no overt causative marker and said that he is not in favor of ‘‘positing causative zero­morphemes.’’ Langacker (2005: 153) tends to a solution whereby verbs such as to sneeze in the parade example might gradually, through its frequent use, assume a causative meaning in the long run. However, this solution does not solve all problems. Although the various caused-change expressions with drink such as drink oneself to death are relatively fre­quent, it is unclear whether it is possible to think of this use of the verb to drink as involving causation. On top of all this uncertainty about the causative status of to sneeze or to drink, there is the non-object status of the napkin and oneself in such intransitive causative sentences. The incompatibility of the verb and the noun phrase is even clearer in drink oneself to death. Here to drink is a verb that has already incorporated its direct object (excessive amounts of alcohol) and, moreover, if there was a direct object, it could not be human, but only non-human. This fact makes the explanation in terms of three arguments proposed by Goldberg’s Con­struction Grammar for the extended caused-motion and caused-change constructions highly suspect. The same holds for Langacker’s acceptance of a potential gradual meaning shift in to sneeze or, for that matter, in to drink. The essential problem is that at the conceptual level there cannot be a predicate-argument relation between drink and himself in He drank himself to death, but there can only be one within each of the two substructures He drank and himself to death. The second problem with Goldberg’s abstract predicate CAUSE-MOVE is that this does not account for the absolute necessity of a source/goal in the extended caused-motion construction with intransitive verbs such as sneeze, drink or others (e.g. laugh in The audience laughed the actor off the stage). In these extended uses of the caused-motion construction the notion of motion is by and large expressed or carried by the dynamic prepositional phrase with off, out of, to, into, etc. This fact cannot but be related to Talmy’s insight (discussed in Section 2) that English is a satellite-oriented type of lan­guage, using the motion verb for secondary aspects such as the manner of motion, but expressing the very motion path by satellites as in The thief must have escaped by the backdoor through the garden and over the garden wall. In the extended caused-motion construction, the path component (off the table, off the stage, out of his job) is the sole component to con­ceptualize and express the motion, which also explains why it is a concep­tually necessary component. The intransitive verb itself (sneeze, laugh, drink) reflects the action that serves as the direct or indirect cause trigger­ing off the motion, but this does not have to imply that the verb itself assumes a causative potential. It thus turns out that the extended caused- motion construction is far more complex in conceptual content than a single predicate-argument schema like <CAUSE-MOVE cause theme source/ goal> can suggest.

The further question is then: is there any other way to account for the causative relation between the two substructures in [(X sneeze) (the napkin off the table)]? For a possible answer to this question, we turn to Langacker’s (1987) discussion of compositionality again. Langacker does not invoke compositionality for all usage events in language. Rather, he makes a distinction between fully compositional, partially composi­tional, and non-compositional constructions. As an example of the latter, Langacker (1987: 454-457) discusses the adjective-noun combination a patriotic pole-climber. Here he analyzes a putative event of boosting the feelings of patriotism amongst the crowds of spectators before American football matches by having a cowgirl climbing a flagpole in the stadium and kissing the American flag. The expression for such a putative event might be patriotic (flag)pole-climber, which, if repeated regularly, might become an entrenched expression. Still, it would not have the com­positional meaning of ‘a patriotic person who climbs the flagpole,’ but the non-compositional meaning associating it with the football context above. Langacker (1987: 453) sees such composite structures as ‘‘evoking a knowledge system to which neither of its components [i.e. patriotic and pole-climber] provides direct access, [but] the component structures moti­vate and highlight selected facets of the composite meaning.’’ In terms of figure/ground alignment, we can see the selected expressions and their meanings as the figures which here evoke two (back)ground domains, i.e. patriotism as associated with the American flag, and sports as associated with pole-climbing, combining both in an act of patriotic love amidst crowds of sports spectators. This means that metonymically referring expressions can evoke much wider scenes, and even implicitly highlight the conceptual relations potentially holding between elements in those scenes. That is, the relation between patriotic and pole-climber is largely contextually determined. Once the expression is repeated often enough, it acquires an increasingly de-contextualized meaning, which in turn becomes entrenched.

As an alternative to Goldberg’s schema CAUSE-MOVE <cause theme source/goal>, it is possible to propose an approach like that of Langacker’s above for the caused-motion or caused-change construction as found in paint oneself in a corner and drink oneself to death. A good reason to do so is that CG does not regard lexicon and grammar as different systems. According to Langacker (1987: 456), both lexicon and grammar may, though in different proportions, show all the various degrees of compositionality, i.e. full compositionality, partial compositionality, and non-compositionality. Therefore we will apply this approach to non-

Figure 1. Perception of Causality


compositional constructions such as the extended caused-motion construc­tion with to sneeze and the caused-change construction with to drink. It is part of the speakers’ knowledge system that the force-dynamic event (see Talmy 1988b) involved in sneezing may cause lighter objects to fly away and that excessive alcohol drinking may lead to a person’s corporeal or professional ruin. In each case two conceptual relationships are juxta­posed as follows: [(Fred sneeze) ! (the napkin is off the table)] and [(Fred drink) ! (Fred comes to death)]. The causal link between the two relationships in each construction is based on our general perception and knowledge system. As has been empirically shown in experimental psy­chology (see Selg 1966, quoted by Radden 1985: 186), naive observers spontaneously establish causal links between two successive events, scenes or situations, even when no such links hold. Radden (1985) describes an experiment where subjects were shown a film of drawn triangles. One of the triangles approached the other and reached it; then, this second triangle started to move away in the same direction while the first one remained in the same place.

The naive observer sees triangle A moving towards triangle B (phase I), and then hitting triangle B (phase II) thus causing B to move away (phase III). However, in the film the picture sequence was not one of causality.

Given this strong propensity for imposing a chain of causal links onto observed or conceived successive events, it is quite legitimate to accept that speakers-conceptualizers do the same in language use. The causal link in to sneeze a napkin off the table and to drink oneself to death would then not have to follow from an abstract predicate CAUSE-MOVE or CAUSE-CHANGE, but could simply follow from a perceptual-conceptual pro­pensity of naive human observers to construe causal links between two successive events or states. Just as Langacker invokes contextual factors to motivate the symbolic links between the components in patriotic pole­climber, we could propose an empirically-based and contextually-imposed causal link for the two constructions under discussion. For a more linguis­tic representation of this construction, see the end of Section 10.[10]

Solutions like this one are not needed for very frequent constructions such as the transitive, intransitive, passive, and ditransitive constructions (Goldberg 1992). Therefore we can limit the discussion to another test case and pick out one construction from the various less frequent cases discussed in the literature such as the incredulity response construc­tion (What? Him write a novel?!), the let-alone construction (Fillmore, Kay and O’Connor 1988), or the middle construction (Yoshimura 1998; Heyvaert 2003; Ruiz de Mendoza 2008). We will concentrate on this last one.

The middle construction as in The door opened is a special case of the intransitive construction as in The book fell down. The middle construction with sell (e.g. This book sells well) is even more special because it has a transitive counterpart, which, as shown in Section 3, operates in a fully compositional construction. Used in a non-compositional middle con­struction, sell can no longer focus on all the four participants of the commercial transaction scene (that is, neither on the seller, the buyer, nor the money), but the scope is mainly constrained to the goods. Still, the use of sell in a middle construction allows the speaker to construe a configuration that goes far beyond a classical predicate-argument structure. Although there is no agent-seller, there is an agent-like property of the goods that has an “enabling” force11 allowing the goods to make good sales. The utterance This book sells well is not just a neutral statement, but highlights a less prominent component of the commercial transaction scene, i.e. the quality of the goods and its relation to the manner or extent of the process of selling. Whereas in compositional constructions with sell this manner or extent component is optional, in the non-compositional middle construction it is obligatory, or at least implicitly present.[11] [12] Another important component in the sell middle

[1]   This paper is a heavily revised and expanded version of previous work by Dirven (2002a, 2005). We want to thank Gunter Radden, Ad Foolen and Verena Haser for their valuable comments on this earlier work. Financial support for part of this research has been provided by the Spanish Minis­try of Education and Science, grants HUM2004-05947-C02-01/FIL0 and HUM2007-65755/FILO, which are co-financed through FEDER funds.

[2]   Cognitive Linguistics now has a whole range of introductions, surveys and readers. There is the shorter type of introduction such as Taylor (1995a), Ungerer and Schmid (22006), Dirven and Verspoor (22004), or Lee (2001), and the longer type of an advanced introduction such as Evans and Green (2006). Then there is the more specialized type of introduction such as Taylor (2002) and Langacker (2008) for Cognitive Grammar, and Croft and Cruse (2004) for Radical Construction Grammar. In contrast, Geeraerts and Cuyckens (2007) is a highly specialized handbook, covering all strands, linguistic fields and even a number of neighbouring disciplines. Readers are: Evans, Bergen and Zinken (2006) and Geeraerts (2006b), and Kristiansen, Achard, Dirven and Ruiz de Mendoza (2006). An introduction to a two-model conception of CL, with a strict separation between the semantic and the conceptual world, is Schwarz (1996). Finally, for a comprehensive overview of the contrasts between the various versions of Construction Grammar and some functional models of language, see Gonzalvez and Butler (2006).

[3]   Functional modularity rejects the naive notion of modularity as information encapsulation in specific parts of the brain. Similarly, in the case of language, the evidence strongly suggests that there is no domain specificity. For exam­ple, there are brain areas involved in language that are also related to motor control (Heiser et al. 2003). There is additional evidence that understanding the meaning of some linguistic expressions often requires that listeners become involved in an embodied “simulation” of the described situation (Gallese and Lakoff 2005; Gallese 2005). Embodied simulations of actual object manipula­tion are thus used in reasoning processes such as understanding the metaphor­ical meaning of grasp an idea (Bergen 2005; Feldman and Narayanan 2004).

[4]   Since Fillmore’s work, although generally compatible with the main assump­tions of CL, does not subscribe to the cognitive commitment, we will only make occasional reference to it where it is relevant for our discussion.

[5]   This claim arises from an extreme interpretation of Saussure’s real views. As Radden and Panther (2004) have noted, Saussure was well aware of the dangers of applying the principle of arbitrariness without restriction and was consequently in favor of relative motivation, a view that is not incompatible with most CL claims on the relationship between form and meaning (cf. Langacker’s 1987 treatment of the relationship as ‘‘symbolic assemblies”).

[6]   The example of the commercial transaction scene stems from Fillmore (1982). His notions of scene and frame (Fillmore 1977) are comparable to Langacker’s notions of conceived situation and scope. Semantic frames are schematic repre­sentations of situation types described in terms of participants and their roles, which matches the elements of a scene taken into the speaker’s scope. Asso­ciated with the frame there are a number of lexical units and inheritance relations with other frames.

[7]   For a survey of the uses of figure/ground, see Grundy and Jiang (2001: 115).

[8]   Langacker uses the term construction in a much looser sense than construc­tionists in CL do. For Langacker the notion of construction is even com­patible with that of compositionality, as will be shown below.

[9]   ECG is mainly concerned with the embodied aspects of online language pro­cessing, which involves accessing and simulating conceptual representations or embodied schemas. ECG stands out for its emphasis on the simulation stage of processing, the inferences this process brings about, and its overall goal to achieve computational adequacy. However, ECG has not explicitly addressed issues of compositionality, the inventory of linguistic units, and the status of grammatical categories, which are the focus of this section.

[10]   Ruiz de Mendoza and Mairal (2007, 2008) have explored the metaphorical grounding of some uses of the caused-motion construction, as in The audience laughed the actor off the stage. Typically, the predicate laugh is either intransi­tive (They laughed and laughed) or it may take a prepositional object (They laughed at the poor actor). However, in ‘‘laugh someone off somewhere’’, laugh seems to take a direct object, very much like any prototypical transitive predicate (cf. They kicked the actor off the stage). Both types of sentence can be passivized: He was laughed at and He was laughed off the stage. We suggest that this kind of motion is comparable to Talmy’s notion of fictive motion. That is, we do not actually use direct force as in the case of kick, but we see the laughing as a psychological force fictively causing motion. In a case like He drank himself out of his job we then have to deal with metaphorical motion, which in fact does not involve motion, but only a change of state. This use is the result of high-level metaphor whereby the action of excessive drinking is seen as an indirect force moving the man out of his job. High-level metaphor acts as a ‘‘licensing factor’’ for the participation of the predicate drink in the caused-motion construction. This account is compatible with one where the hearer is expected to impose a contextually-grounded causal link between the event of people laughing at someone and the emotional reaction of leaving the place, which would act as a further pragmatic constraint on the possibility of a caused-motion use of laugh.

[11]   Radden and Dirven (2007) have observed that the subject of middle construc­tions in English has an enabling function such that the subject takes on a causal, agent-like value, as in Our new stadium seats 80,000. The presence of causality has also been noted by Heyvaert (2003: 132), who argues that the middle construction ‘‘foregrounds the fact that the Subject-entity has proper­ties which influence the occurrence of a particular process.’’

[12]   This formulation differs from that by Yoshimura (1998: 279), who says that ‘‘the subject book goes beyond the semantic value of a non-agentive intransi­tive in that it has some special properties that ‘‘enable’’ what is denoted by the predicate, sell well.’’ What is still lacking here is the link between the goods’ properties and the manner or extent component in the selling process. This lack in the overall configuration of the sell middle construction is somehow felt in speaking of a predicate sell well, where in fact only sell is the predicate.

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