Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR])

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In this Introduction, we will first introduce Cognitive Sociolinguistics as a convergence of the concerns of sociolinguistics and Cognitive Linguis- tics. In particular, we will try to indicate how both traditions may profit from a confrontation.

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Given the series in which this book appears, the perspective that we will take in this Introduction is specifically targeting scholars with a background in Cognitive Linguistics. We envisage a mutually beneficial interaction of both approaches, but in describing that bidirectionality, we will start from the Cognitive Linguistics end. The nature and scope of Cognitive Sociolinguistics Cognitive Sociolinguistics may be broadly defined as the attempt to achieve a convergence of Cognitive Linguistics and the tradition of soci- olinguistics.

Two questions then arise: why would Cognitive Linguistics turn to variationist research, and why would sociolinguistics bother about Cognitive Linguistics?

Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR]

Let us try to answer both questions in brief. The social perspective in Cognitive Linguistics Reasoning from the perspective of Cognitive Linguistics, there are two defining aspects of the approach that lead towards the incorporation of so- cial variation: the predominantly semantic perspective of Cognitive Lin- guistics, and the usage-based nature of Cognitive Linguistics. Both aspects which are themselves interrelated in various ways are defining features to the extent that they lie at the heart of the cognitive linguistic enterprise, and to a large extent determine the internal development of the approach.

Pre- senting each of the two features in detail is beyond the scope of the present introduction, but a few references may help to bring the points to mind. For each of the features, we will specify how they are inevitably linked up with a social perspective. It hardly needs to be spelled out that the study of linguistic meaning con- stitutes the foundational characteristic par excellence of Cognitive Linguis- tics. The central concepts of Cognitive Linguistics are mutually related because they derive from a common set of underlying fundamentals: the principle that language is all about meaning, in the broadest possible sense, in com- bination with four specific assumptions about the nature of linguistic mean- ing — that meaning is flexible and dynamic, that it is encyclopedic and non- autonomous, that it is based on usage and experience, and that it is perspec- tival in nature.

But meaning does not exist in isolation: it is created in and transmitted through the interaction of people, and that is why the definition and the basic architecture of language are recognized by Cognitive Linguistics as involving not just cognition, but socially and culturally situated cognition. A specific line of studies produced in the context of Cognitive Linguistics analyzes the way in which the emergence of language as such and the pres- ence of specific features in a language can only be adequately conceived of if one takes into account the socially interactive nature of linguistic com- munication.

Examples of this strand of research include Sinha on language as an epigenetic system, Zlatev on situated embodiment, Itkonen on the social nature of the linguistic system, Verhagen on the central role of intersubjectivity in language, and Harder on the socio-functional background of language. The references mentioned here mostly take a foundational rather than a descriptive point of view: establishing the social nature of meaning as such predominates over the empirical study of variation as illustrated in the present volume. It needs to be pointed out, though, that such foundational studies are important, because the social nature of meaning has been less spontaneously obvious to Cognitive Linguistics than we suggested above.

In fact, although the notion of cultural model played a significant role in the emergence of Cognitive Linguistics as a linguistic new framework Holland and Quinn , a certain tension exists within Cognitive Lin- guistics between a more universalist approach and a more culturally oriented approach. There is a growing consensus within Cognitive Linguistics to conceive of itself as a usage-based approach to language.

According to a number of programmatic accounts of usage-based linguistics Langacker ; Kem- mer and Barlow ; Bybee and Hopper ; Tomasello ; Verhagen and Van de Weijer , the essential idea of a usage-based linguistics is the dialectic nature of the relation between language use and the language system. The grammar does not only constitute a knowledge repository to be employed in language use, but it is also itself the product of language use. The former perspective considers usage events as specific, actual instantia- tions of the language system.

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According to this view, one can gain insight into the language system by analyzing the usage events that instantiate it. This is a strong motivation for empirical research: the usage data constitute the empirical foundation from which general patterns can be abstracted.


The latter perspective considers usage events as the empirical source of the system. From this point of view, usage events define and continuously re- define the language system in a dynamic way. The consequences of such a position are both thematic and methodolog- ical. Methodologically speaking, you cannot have a usage-based linguistics unless you study actual usage, as it appears in an online and elicited form in experimental settings or as it appears in its most natural form in corpora in the shape of spontaneous, non-elicited language data.

While it would be an exaggeration to say that the level of empirical grounding illustrated in the present volume is the norm in Cognitive Linguistics, we can definitely see that the interest in corpus-based and experimental studies is growing cp.

Tummers, Heylen, and Geeraerts Thematically speaking, a usage-based approach fosters interest in spe- cific topics and fields of investigation. For instance, it follows from the dialectic relationship between structure and use that the analysis of linguis- tic change Bybee is a natural domain of application for any usage- based approach. Similarly, interesting perspectives for cognitive stylistics and poetics, and for language acquisition research open up.

The usage- based approach holds the promise of answering the acquisition problem that looms large in the Chomskyan delimitation of linguistics. In the work done by Tomasello and his group , an alternative is presented for the Chomskyan genetic argument. Now, one major consequence of a usage-base conception of language is that it needs to incorporate socio-variationist studies.

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To see why this is the case, we need to have a closer look at the dialectic relationship between system and use that is the hallmark of the usage-based view. How, in such a dialectic view of the relationship between structure and use, does the sys- tem exist — if at all? Analytically, we may argue as follows. First, language as structure is a social fact, as an observable regularity in the language use realized by a specific community. Second, it is at the same time a cognitive fact, because the members of the community have an internal representation of the existing regularities the system that allows them to realize the same system in their own use of the language.

Third, the same mechanism that allows the existing collective regularities to enter the individual minds is also the one that allows regular- ities to emerge to begin with, viz. People influence each other's behavior, basically by co-operative imitation and adaptation, and in some cases by opposition and a desire for distinc- tiveness. Paying attention to what others do, however subconsciously, thus creates a mental representation of the collective tendencies in the behavior of the community; adapting one's own behavior to those tendencies, reaf- firms and recreates the tendencies.

And fourth, in the same way that the existing regularities emerged from actual interaction, changes may emerge; as such, a degree of variation is an inevitable aspect of any synchronic state of the language. Crucially, however, these interactions that reproduce, perpetuate, and change the linguistic system do not occur between all the members of a linguistic community at the same time: individual language users do not interact with all the other members of a linguistic community, but only with a subset.

A course in Cognitive Linguistics: Frame Semantics

In that respect, the communicative interactions are not only social events, they also reflect social structure — a structure formed by the social groups and networks that a communicating individual belongs to and that shape his or her communicative interactions. In actual fact, although there is a growing interest within Cognitive Lin- guistics for language-internal variation Kristiansen ; Geeraerts ; Kristiansen and Dirven ; Croft , it remains an understudied area. Too often linguistic analyses or cross-linguistic comparisons are carried out at the level of 'a language' as such, disregarding rich and complex patterns of intralingual variation.

Such a level of granularity ultimately amounts to that of a homogeneous and thus idealized speech community. Cognitive Linguistics, to the extent that it takes the claim that it is a usage-based ap- proach to language and cognition seriously, cannot afford to work with language situated taxonomically at an almost Chomskyan level of abstrac- tion. The cognitive perspective in sociolinguistics Given that there appear to be compelling reasons for Cognitive Linguistics to take language-internal variation seriously and to adopt a socio- variationist perspective, could an analogous argumentation be formulated from the point of view of sociolinguistics?

If we start from the rich tradition of social studies in linguistics, what would be the most obvious contribu- tion of Cognitive Linguistics to sociolinguistics? Precisely because socio- variationist studies within Cognitive Linguistics are as yet merely an emerging field, we are entering largely programmatic domain with this question. Still, the analysis that we presented in the previous section indi- cates in what direction the answer may be sought: if the study of meaning is the core business of Cognitive Linguistics, then that is exactly the domain where we need to look for innovation and inspiration flowing from Cogni- tive Linguistics to sociolinguistics.

Elaborating on a phrase that we used in the opening passage of this Introduction, there are two aspects to that ap- proach: on the one hand, we may study variation of meaning, and on the other, the meaning of variation. Let us try to specify both aspects.

Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR]

A most natural question to ask for Cognitive Sociolinguistics is: how does language-internal variation affect the occurrence of linguistic pheno- mena that have the specific attention of Cognitive Linguistics, i. The importance of meaning for sociolin- guistics is even more fundamental, however, because questions of meaning implicitly lie at the heart of the sociolinguistic enterprise as a whole.

As such, a sociolinguistic variable is a linguistic element that is sensitive to a number of extralinguistic independent variables like social class, age, sex, geographical group location, ethnic group, or contextual style and register.

Given, then, that the very notion of a sociolinguistic variable refers to meaning, it is important for sociolinguistic studies to devote specific atten- tion to semantics — all the more so since specific difficulties arise when dealing with meaning: the interaction of meaning with other sources of variation, and the problem of semantic equivalence.

We may illustrate both problems by having a closer look at lexical meaning, but the problems that we mention for lexical meaning clearly also apply to grammatical and other types of meaning. First, observe that lexical choices in discourse may be determined by different factors: next to obviously the topic of the text, there is variation of a sociolinguistic or stylistic nature: at least for a number of concepts, a speaker of British English, for instance, will make different lexical choices than a speaker of American English.

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Choices of this kind often involve differences between language varieties. Lexical choices of this type are not choices for specific concepts like the topic-related choices would be , but they are choices for one word rather than the other expressing the same concept: we can recognize American English when we come across the word subway in contrast with British English underground, but the type of public transport referred to is the same.

We may call this type of variation i. It covers all relevant features of the speech situation: not just the lectal variation that comes with more or less permanent speaker characteristics like being American or British , but also the more transient, interactional characteristics of the communicative context, like whether the speech event is a dialogue or a monologue.

The interaction between these various dimensions has not yet been sys- tematically investigated. Such interactions may surely be expected, and they are likely to work in different directions. But at the same time, the choice for an informal ex- pression might correlate with thematic factors: there might well be more dirty words for dirty topics than colloquial words for scientific topics.

Conceptual choices, in fact, are not just determined by the topic of a text: for a number of specific concepts, they rather derive from the situational, interactional characteristics of the com- municative context. Second person pronouns constitute an obvious exam- ple: they are likely to occur typically in dialogues rather than monologues. Similarly, persuasive texts contain different modal verbs than informative texts. Given such interactions, the basic research question for sociolexicology and more generally, for any semantically enriched type of variationist re- search can be defined as follows: what is the overall structure of lexical variation in terms of the relationship between FOV, COV, and SSV?

The specific situation of sociolexicological research in the context of sociolin- guistics follows in a straightforward way from this question: while the pa- ragon cases of sociolinguistic research involve formal variables and a bi- nary relationship between formal variation and lectal context, sociolexicological research has to come to terms with a ternary relationship between form, meaning, and context. The second problem we have to deal with when we introduce meaning into sociovariationist research is how to establish equivalence of meaning.

Again, we may use the lexicon as an example. The prob- lem is methodological in a high-level sense: in what ways can we push semantic description beyond intuitive interpretation?

Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR]) Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR])
Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR]) Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR])
Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR]) Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR])
Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR]) Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR])
Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR]) Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR])
Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR]) Cognitive Paths into the Slavic Domain (Cognitive Linguistics Research [CLR])

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