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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 2:33 pm 
Sanci
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All right. Since there have been suggestions lately that this board expand the linguistics discussion beyond phonology, and since I apparently put my foot in it on another thread by bringing up Cognitive Linguistics and its relation (or lack thereof) with Chomskian linguistics, and since some folks indicate they are intimidated by the whole thing...

...I've decided to put my money where my mouth is and create a basic primer on just what is "Cognitive Linguistics."

I am posting this while at work, so I don't have all my books and notes with me, plus it will take me some time to organize how to present this in a user-friendly, fairly non-technical way. So I'm going to take some time away from the writing of the last chapter of my novel, and spend a few days composing some material to post here that will introduce basic concepts of Cognitive Linguistics, so at least those ZBB'ers who are interested can gain a basic understanding of what it's all about and clear up any misconceptions they may have. Until I am ready to post the first "lesson" (I promise something by this coming Sunday evening), I will leave you with one little tidbit to chew on...

Examine the following two sentences, then answer to yourself the two questions which follow them:

1) If I were you, I'd hate me.
2) If I were you, I'd hate myself.

Question 1: In Example 1, which party is "me" referring to, the speaker or the listener?
Question 2: In Example 2, which party is "myself" referring to, the speaker or the listener?

This example is from Lakoff and elegantly shows the pitfalls and limitations of Chomskian theory, which has no explanation for this phenomenon (that "me" can refer to the speaker in Sentence 1, but "myself" refers to the listener in Sentence 2). In fact, according to Chomskian theory, this phenomenon CAN'T happen. Whereas Cognitive linguistics can explain this phenomenon quite elegantly. Interesting, eh?

More to come...


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 2:48 pm 
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Are you sure you aren't saying 'Chomskian theory' where you really mean 'Chomsky's theory'? Can a Chomskian really not say 'hey, we missed a bit - we need a new rule!' and then add a new rule, without compromise the essential framework of Chomsky?

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 3:24 pm 
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JohnQPublik wrote:
1) If I were you,I'd hate me.
2) If I were you, I'd hate myself.


It is a nice example. What's the elegant explanation?

Now I'd just say that the terms I've colored are not coreferential, which is why they don't trigger reflexivization. How we know that they're not would be trickier and certainly goes past a theory of syntax alone. :) But then theories of syntax alone have been discredited at least thirty years!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 4:58 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
Are you sure you aren't saying 'Chomskian theory' where you really mean 'Chomsky's theory'? Can a Chomskian really not say 'hey, we missed a bit - we need a new rule!' and then add a new rule, without compromise the essential framework of Chomsky?

Zompist essentially answered this question in his post above, where he indicated that this problem of pronominal reference cannot be handled by a theory of syntax alone. Cognitive linguists recognize there is no hard and fast dividing line between syntax, semantics, and the processes of human cognition. And given that my understanding of Chomskian theory (or at least Chomsky's theories, as you indicate) requires that syntax be separated completely from the unruly mess of cognition and semantics, to that extent this problem cannot be solved by Chomsky.

As for Zompist wanting to know the elegant explanation, it will first require an understanding of the basics of Fauconnier's Mental Spaces theory and Lakoff's study of counterfactual statements, both of which I intend to present as future "lessons" in this thread (if I don't run out of steam).


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 5:06 pm 
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Thank you, John, for donating your time to help us of less knowledge. It mustn't be easy dropping the novel-writing in favour of this like that! I'll certainly enjoy this thread; I know nothing on the topic of Cognitive linguists (and I'm quite afraid of those heftly library books). ::waits for more:: :mrgreen:


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 6:12 pm 
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zompist wrote:
JohnQPublik wrote:
1) If I were you,I'd hate me.
2) If I were you, I'd hate myself.


It is a nice example. What's the elegant explanation?

Now I'd just say that the terms I've colored are not coreferential, which is why they don't trigger reflexivization. How we know that they're not would be trickier and certainly goes past a theory of syntax alone. :) But then theories of syntax alone have been discredited at least thirty years!


Actually, Lexical-Functional Grammar offers a pretty elegant solution to that problem (LFG's handling of reflexives being something that I find pretty interesting):

"me" is antisubjective, so it can't refer to the same thing as the subject of the nucleus (predicate plus core arguments) it comprises. Thus, it tags the semantically nearest thing as a coreferent, in this case the speaker.

"myself" is subjective (IIRC), so it refers to the nearest object in the nucleus it occupies, in this case "I". Thus, "I" and "myself" refer to the same thing, in this case the speaker hypothetically as the listener.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 6:56 pm 
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It's funny this is coming up now because I just took a class on child language acquision which almost entirely dealt with the fierce debate between cognitivists and Chomskyans (of course in this class in the context of how people acquire language but also in the general sense of how language is processed by the brain). Someone on another thread mentioned unfamiliarity with this debate between cognitive linguists and Chomsky(ans), so I'll attempt to explain some of the basics behind a couple of the many points of conflict in this area.

One of the problems cognitive linguists have with Chomsky's theories is that of his insistence on domain-specific properties of the brain regarding different aspects of language (so, one specific node in the brain deals with lexicon, another deals with semantics, and so on). In this post I'll draw heavily on the article "Early Language Development and its Neural Correlates" (Elizabeth Bates et. al, 1999) by Elizabeth Bates (leading cognitive scientist who basically came up with the field, and who sadly passed away a couple of years ago). In the article Bates mentions this problem of the:

Quote:
one-to-one mapping between components of language and components of the brain.


And somewhat understates the fierceness of the debate between cognitive linguists and Chomskyans in this section:

Quote:
Lexical semantics has been studied by linguists from many different schools, ranging from the heavily descriptive work of lexicographers (i.e., "dictionary writers") to theoretical research on lexical meaning and lexical form in widely different schools of formal linguistics and generative grammar (Fauconnier, 1985; Goldberg, 1995; Jackendoff, 1983; Lakoff, 1987; Langacker, 1987, Newmeyer, 1998; Tomasello, 1998;). Some of these theorists emphasize the intimate relationship between semantics and grammar, using a combination of lexical and propostional semantics to explain grammar; others argue for the for the structural independence of these linguistic domains


Bates points especially to the failure of Chomskyan methods of explaining aphasias (for both children and adults) as evidence for the lack of outright domain-specific areas of the brain pertaining to certain categories of language. Bates mentions that:

Quote:
Deficits in word finding (called "anomia") are observed in all forms of aphasia, including Broca's Aphasia (Goodglass, 1993). This means that there can never be a full-fledged double disscoation between grammar and the lexicon, weakening claims that the two domains are mediated by separate brain systems.


This is obviously taking a jab at Chomskyan approaches. She goes on to say:

Quote:
In fact, it now looks as though lexical deficits accompany any and all linguistic symptoms, in both children and adults (Bates & Goodman, 1997).


Another issue is that cognitivists aruge that Chomsky, while supposedly attempting to explain things universally, relies on too few languages (often heavily on English) in explaining certain phenomena which do not match up with how they operate in other languages. Back to the aphasias thing, Bates mentions:

Quote:
Deficits in expressive grammar are not unique to agrammatic Broca's aphasia, or to any other clinical group. English-speaking Wernicke's aphasics produce relatively few grammatical errors, compared with English-speaking Broca's aphasics. However, this fact turns out to be an artifact of English! Nonfluent Broca's aphasics tend to err by omission (i.e., leaving out grammatical function words and dropping inflections), while Wernicke's err by substitution (producing the wrong inflection). Because English has so little grammatical morphology, it provides few opportunities for errors of substitution, but it does provide opportunities for function word omission. As a result, Broca's seem to have more severe problems in grammar. However, the grammatical problems of fluent aphasia are easy to detect, and very striking, in richly inflected languages like Italian, German, or Hungarian.


My professor for the course knows Hungarian (tho not natively, I believe) and he confirmed that the lack of inflections was striking in Hungarian while they're not as striking in English, with comparatively few morphological areas to omit or "mess up."

There are various other problems cognitive linguists find with Chomskyan assumptions (such as the "poverty of the the stimulus" argument) but that's probably enough for now. I'll let JohnQPublik go into some more of this stuff since he knows more--I only know some of this stuff from the one class I took on it.

But essentially, it appears that one of the things cognitive linguists have been most successful at has been disproving the "domain-specific" assumption of language in the brain. Cognitive linguistics suffered a big loss with the death of Elizabeth Bates a couple of years ago (who as it turns out, started the first Cog Sci department ever at my university, UC San Diego. I never met her myself but I have some cog-sci-major friends who said she was a powerful speaker) but it seems there are a enough people around now who can carry on the work as there's much left to be done.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 7:43 pm 
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By the way, if I get a general book on cognitive grammar, should I get teh Oxford one, the Cambridge one, or another?

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:13 pm 
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Kirk: but the first 'disagreement' there isn't linguistic, but a matter of biological trivia. Well, I'm sure it's significant to biologists and neurologists and brain surgeons and what have you, but I don't see what it has to do with linguistics. My lexicon could be processed by the same part of my brain as my inflections, or a different part of my brain, or somewhere in my left foot, or in a computer bank on Mars, but that doesn't tell me anything about the language itself. "What part of the body goes *bzzzz* when I use language?" doesn't seem a useful question to ask about language. Unless I'm a brain surgeon.

The second 'disagreement' certainly seems a good reason to doubt Chomsky's results, but bad evidence-gathering doesn't disprove the framework. After all, the theory-frame isn't built from the evidence, but rationally arrived at, as a framework for evidence-gathering. That the evidence has been gathered sloppily doesn't impune upon the framework.

JQP: I know I'm not linguist, but how does the idea of Chomsky demanding that syntax be kept seperate from cognition meld with the central point of Chomsky's that syntax IS cognized? I mean, the very concept of a universal grammar presupposes the centrality of semantics, surely? It requires a prior categorisation of terms, which is what semantics is.






[Incidentally, what's the novel on?]

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 10:24 pm 
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Space Dracula wrote:
By the way, if I get a general book on cognitive grammar, should I get teh Oxford one, the Cambridge one, or another?

Of the several textbooks I own devoted to introducing cognitive linguistics, the best one is the Cambridge series one by Croft and Cruse. However, I do not own the Oxford one by John R. Taylor. I DO own another cognitive linguistics book by Taylor entitled "Linguistic Categorization" that I like very much, particulary his writing style. If this latter book is indicative of Taylor's clarity and ability to explain cog-ling concepts, than I'm certain the book you indicated by him is probably excellent as well. Meaning, you probably can't go wrong with either one of your two choices.

ALSO: I've seen on various university websites which list the syllabus for their cognitive linguistics classes that an introductory textbook by Laura Janda appears to be very popular as well.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2006 10:54 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
JQP: I know I'm not linguist, but how does the idea of Chomsky demanding that syntax be kept seperate from cognition meld with the central point of Chomsky's that syntax IS cognized? I mean, the very concept of a universal grammar presupposes the centrality of semantics, surely? It requires a prior categorisation of terms, which is what semantics is.

As I understand Chomsky (mostly from secondhand sources since having rejected his then-theories 25 years ago while I was still a linguistics student in college), what he is saying is cognized is his "universal grammar" (UG) which is essentially an inherent knowledge of raw syntactical archetypes, i.e., an innately human set of pattern-matching and pattern-recognition algorithms existing apart from any instantiated semantic meanings. These syntactic rules are set to work on any input corpus (the native language-to-be of the indivicual human infant) at which point the brain "maps" these syntactic rules to the morpho-lexical and morpho-semantic input heard by the infant. In turn, that input of a specific language "sets" the previously open parameters of this UG to specific values associated with that language. So, for example, if the language is one in which verbs overtly manifest evidential morphology, the portions of the innate UG which deal with the range of humanly possible parameters for evidential categories will have specific parameters switched on or off by the language input, and once set, are permanent for that child (at least as far as "native language" settings are concerned).

Being no Chomskian, however, it is possible my description of the above is too simplistic or otherwise erroneous. At any rate, there is no universal or innate semantic component inherent in the human infant according to my understanding of Chomsky, only the contextless, "meaning"-less UG, a grand arbitrary system for potential symbol manipulation, analogous to the predicate calculus in formal logic, where the syntax and rules already exist prior to any content/input.


Salmoneus wrote:
[Incidentally, what's the novel on?]

My brother and I are writing it together. We've been planning it since 2001 and started writing it about 18 months ago. It's come along much more quickly than I anticipated. Anyway, we have come up with a way of reconciling the findings of quantum physics and cognitive science with a realist-based philosophy (the two fields are generally considered to support non-realist philosophies). Since we have no scientific or academic credentials by which to submit a paper to a major journal or write a non-fiction treatise about this, the only avenue open to us to present our ideas is fiction. So we have come up with a story of a phycisist who make a major technological breakthrough involving quantum physics that changes everything. The novel essentially explores the implications of that breakthrough, both philosophical and tangible. I know it sounds fairly dry, but actually it's got LOTS of political intrigue, criminal conspiracies, action scenes, a do-or-die thriller-type ending, and even some romance and sex thrown in. I've got one more chapter to write and my brother has one more to write, then we're done with the first complete draft.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 3:36 am 
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Salmoneus wrote:
Kirk: but the first 'disagreement' there isn't linguistic, but a matter of biological trivia. Well, I'm sure it's significant to biologists and neurologists and brain surgeons and what have you, but I don't see what it has to do with linguistics. My lexicon could be processed by the same part of my brain as my inflections, or a different part of my brain, or somewhere in my left foot, or in a computer bank on Mars, but that doesn't tell me anything about the language itself. "What part of the body goes *bzzzz* when I use language?" doesn't seem a useful question to ask about language. Unless I'm a brain surgeon.


Hehe, well then we certainly wasted a lot of time in my child language acquisition class (which was under the linguistics department and taught by a linguist)! ;) Yes, I see your point at the basic level but where the "language function" is or isn't in the brain and how different parts of language functions interact with each other do have important ramifications relevant to (cognitive) linguistics and probably linguistics as a whole. You're right that such things do not tell us specifics about a language (no one needs to study the brain to know a language's phonology) but it gives us insight as to how language works as a whole. The nature of language in general (in addition to all the subfacets of it) is shaped by the interplay between the subparts of the brain that make it happen.

Salmoneus wrote:
The second 'disagreement' certainly seems a good reason to doubt Chomsky's results, but bad evidence-gathering doesn't disprove the framework. After all, the theory-frame isn't built from the evidence, but rationally arrived at, as a framework for evidence-gathering. That the evidence has been gathered sloppily doesn't impune upon the framework.


Well in this case it's not so much that Chomsky's theory has been disproven simply by the fact that his evidence has been gathered sloppily as much as the evidence that others have found would seem to actively disprove it.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 7:32 am 
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Kirk wrote:
Well in this case it's not so much that Chomsky's theory has been disproven simply by the fact that his evidence has been gathered sloppily as much as the evidence that others have found would seem to actively disprove it.


And this is where my great problem with Chomsky lies. His indefensible assumptions like the "poverty of stimulus" non-argument on which he bases his claims that his UG exists are: a) rampantly disproven by the data, and b) never even have attempted proofs or justifications (apart from waffle which in the end boils down to "it's obvious") by their supporters. And then when someone comes along and shows that their assumptions are wrong they respond not by modifying their theories to match the evidence, but by attacking both the very strong evidence against their assumptions, and by personally attacking the people who are arguing against them. Chomsky and his supporters are intellectual bullies who try to cow people by shouting at them enough into accepting their theory, instead of doing real science, which requires you to reject hypotheses that are rampantly falsified by the data.
Chomsky isn't just wrong, he's a bad academic in denial who's managed to bully his way into control of a large part of the linguistic establishment. I'd say he should stick to politics, but unfortunately his forceful personality and inability to admit he's wrong carries over into that sphere too.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:08 pm 
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chris_notts wrote:
Kirk wrote:
Well in this case it's not so much that Chomsky's theory has been disproven simply by the fact that his evidence has been gathered sloppily as much as the evidence that others have found would seem to actively disprove it.


And this is where my great problem with Chomsky lies. His indefensible assumptions like the "poverty of stimulus" non-argument on which he bases his claims that his UG exists are: a) rampantly disproven by the data, and b) never even have attempted proofs or justifications (apart from waffle which in the end boils down to "it's obvious") by their supporters. And then when someone comes along and shows that their assumptions are wrong they respond not by modifying their theories to match the evidence, but by attacking both the very strong evidence against their assumptions, and by personally attacking the people who are arguing against them. Chomsky and his supporters are intellectual bullies who try to cow people by shouting at them enough into accepting their theory, instead of doing real science, which requires you to reject hypotheses that are rampantly falsified by the data.


Yes, especially things like the "poverty of the stimulus" have been actively shown to be faulty. In reading all this stuff for my class and hearing about in in lecture I didn't immediately side with anyone (the class presented all sides of the debate tho I could tell my prof was a cognitivist) but it did strike me as odd that some Chomskyan theories had clearly been disproven by others yet they're still clung to by Chomsky and his faithful.

chris_notts wrote:
Chomsky isn't just wrong, he's a bad academic in denial who's managed to bully his way into control of a large part of the linguistic establishment. I'd say he should stick to politics, but unfortunately his forceful personality and inability to admit he's wrong carries over into that sphere too.


Yes, sometimes I think Chomsky is kind of like linguistics' Freud--he stirred up debate in several areas, challenged prevailing thought at the time (and was sometimes later proven right at least in his rejection of the status quo--for instance his scathing paper against behaviorist approaches to understanding language learning, which were faulty), and spurned research in some areas, but then again there's also a lot of what he's said that will, like with Freud and psychology, not pass the test of time, or already hasn't.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 11:13 pm 
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PREVIEW AND PRELIMINARY NOTE ABOUT COGNITIVE LINGUISTICS

Before presenting the actual material on cognitive linguistics, I thought I?d present an analogy that illustrates how the whole general approach of cognitive linguistics compares to the time-honored structuralist approach to linguistics. The reason I want to do this is because, most persons who?ve studied enough linguistics to understand what phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics are, and can define and illustrate a phoneme, a morpheme, a syntactical rule, a dictionary definition, would probably ask themselves ?so just how different can cognitive linguistics be from this stuff? I mean isn?t a phoneme a phoneme, no matter what school of linguistics you study under?? This is an excellent question to ask, so I thought I?d start by showing how cognitive linguistics is different because it pretty much serves a different purpose than to describe and define phonemes, morphemes, etc.

The time-honored or, to use a convenient generic term, "standard" approach to linguistics is the approach that divides up human language into component areas and studies all the "parts" of each component, then later relates these components to each other in an increasingly complex manner that begins to give an overall picture of how language works. This is the phonology/morphology/syntax/semantics, etc. approach many of you are familiar with.

Here's the analogy: Suppose you know nothing about cars and have never seen one, but now must learn how they work. The old approach would be to start with the frame, the axles, the wheels, the transmission, the drive train, the parts of the engine, how the engine connects to the drive train, the body, the steering column, the interior, the controls, etc. and "build" the car part by part to see how the whole functions. A "cognitive" approach would be to first study what humans need cars for and what needs should be addressed in determining how a car should be built and function. We'd start by looking at what roads are for, why transportation is necessary, why internal combustion is the approach that has developed (as opposed to steam, electric, or atomic power), what the technological limitations are on practically addressing those needs, why human beings value cars, their attitudes toward transportation, etc., THEN start with a whole car (not its individual parts) and analyze the whole car as to how it addresses and manifests the various needs, values, and attitudes we identified. Later, we can start taking the car apart (rather than putting it together) to determine how the "whole" car developed not just from the amalgamation of its parts, but also the synergy of its parts (i.e., where new structure "emerges" from the parts beyond the sum of those parts).

As you can see, the cognitive approach aligns much more closely with the "holistic" approach to science that is becoming increasingly mainstream these days, as opposed to the old approach which is definitely reductionist in nature (i.e., the assumption that a whole can be understood simply by understanding its parts). We will see how the cognitive approach goes about doing this when I begin posting the ?lessons.?

Cognitive linguists believe Language is a reflection of what is going on inside the human mind, and therefore can tell us about the workings of the human mind. Because the seat of ?mind? exists in the brain, any conclusions drawn by cognitive linguists from linguistic data should be empirically consistent with the findings of neuroscience and psychology, and, in fact, linguistics and these other fields must all be considered not just related, but inter-related sub-fields of the larger field of cognitive science, the study of the workings of the human brain and its primary ?product?, human consciousness and the phenomenon of ?mind.?

As a ?preview? of what we'll be looking at, I briefly list below some of the major findings/conclusions of cognitive linguistics that have no parallel in the ?standard? approach to linguistics:

1) The human mind is ?embodied?, i.e., the way the mind works is fundamentally tied to the nature of the human body as a whole. Any ontological separation between mind and body, whether physically objective or spiritually subjective can be empirically shown to be nonsense. Cartesian dualism is bunk. Descartes was just plain wrong.

2) Human abstract thought is founded upon, and carried out by means of metaphor, operating on both sub-conscious and semi-conscious levels. Metaphor, far from its long-assumed "para-linguistic" role as simply a rhetorical device, is in fact fundamental to human abstract conceptualization. Essentially, if a concept or thought is based on something more complex than direct input from the five senses or basic bodily proprioception (pain, heat, cold, illness, physical well-being), it is conceived, thought about, and understood in metaphorical terms.

3) Aristotelian categorization (i.e., classical ?set theory?) is bunk. Human beings create all subconscious categories (including the natural categories existing within the grammar and lexicon of natural languages) based on ?fuzzy? logic, ?prototypes? and family resemblances. This logic is very different from classical Aristotelian logic and set theory.

4) The lexico-semantics of human language exists within a subconscious semantical framework, specific to each language, which consists of rigid (i.e., rule-based), overlapping categories)which have a DIRECT impact on the morpho-syntactical and morpho-lexical structure of the language. The Chomskian notion that syntax exists separate and apart from semantics is na?ve and plain wrong. Semantics to an extremely large extent, dictates syntax.

5) The nature of Truth is fundamentally contextual and fundamentally relative, i.e., there is virtually no such thing as contextless, absolute truth.

There are other findings we will explore, but the above will be the topics of the first several ?lessons.? I hope to have the first of these posted sometime late Sunday.

WHY SHOULD I, A MERE CONLANGER/CONWORLDER HOBBYIST, BE INTERESTED IN THIS HIGH-FALUTIN' STUFF?

Simple. You want your conlangs and concultures to be realistic, right? For most of you that means, you want them to follow human universals (or deliberately violate them if your conworld/culture is non-human); at the same time, you want the specific overt and covert structures of your conlangs to be unique, right? I mean, after all, where's the fun and sense of authenticity if your conculture uses the same idiomatic structures as English such as "you're pulling my leg." You want the equivalent in your conlang to be something like "your fondling my bum" or "breaking my elbow", right? And yet, by not understanding how human languages, particularly your native language, have the same sort of language-specific structures at the subconscious level, you are at a great risk of simply building your supposedly "unique" conlang on a covert foundation that is simply a direct parallel of English, for example the idea that "going up" to Canada, means "travelling northward" or that all languages MUST have separate verbs for "to buy" and "to sell", right, when in fact, cognitive linguistics shows that buy and sell exist within a subconscious semantic "frame" whose specific attributes and "edges" are peculiar to each language. And you also want to be able to decide whether your conlang needs to accomplish the same pronominal reference switching that I illustrated in the "If I were you, I'd hate me/myself" example, right?

So, by understanding a little bit about this stuff, you can begin to analyze how your conlang works at a deeper level than you ever thought possible.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 12:49 pm 
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I should probably let you know that Aristotlean logic has been bunk for a long time now. :D Maybe you're targeting propositional logic in particular?

Also, as far as the trend of modelling language with logic goes, I think there's some promise for computability logic and linear logic.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 12:52 pm 
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I just wanted to say that I find all of this very interesting, and eagerly await your next installment!


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 1:14 pm 
Niš
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Quote:
Human beings create all subconscious categories (including the natural categories existing within the grammar and lexicon of natural languages) based on ?fuzzy? logic, ?prototypes? and family resemblances.


When it comes to grammatical categories, I think this overstates the case. But then, I'm not sure that "natural categories existing with the grammar" really means what I call a grammatical category.

Grammatical categories are not fuzzy. Every word in every part of speech where such a category pertains must be assigned one and only one of the category's values. Yes, "sheep" could be either singular or plural. But every time you use it in a sentence it is either singular or plural, not somewhere in the middle. Quite distinctly Aristotelean.


Last edited by Gazariah on Sun Jan 08, 2006 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 1:24 pm 
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Gazariah wrote:
Grammatical categories are not fuzzy. Every word in every part of speech where such a category pertains must belong to one and only one of the categories.


How do you know that?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 1:49 pm 
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Zomp, sorry. I was editing when you posted the reply, so the quote doesn't match my words any more. But the point is unchanged.

I take the view that grammatical categores are Aristotelean because I have never seen one that isn't. I do believe that lexical categories are based on prototypes, family resenblances, etc. The examples Lakoff and others give are fully convincing.

But I think there is a side of the human mind that operates on non-fuzzy logic. And grammatical categories belong to that side.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 2:14 pm 
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Gazariah wrote:
I take the view that grammatical categores are Aristotelean because I have never seen one that isn't. I do believe that lexical categories are based on prototypes, family resenblances, etc. The examples Lakoff and others give are fully convincing.

But I think there is a side of the human mind that operates on non-fuzzy logic. And grammatical categories belong to that side.


OK, but you haven't provided much evidence for such a sweeping statement. :) 'Sheep' is a prototypical noun, so it doesn't tell us much. How about the French infinitive, instead? Je veux savoir / Le savoir est important-- looks like it shares characteristics with both nouns and verbs.

There's a whole book on fuzzy syntactic categories-- Linguistic Categorization by John Taylor-- well worth looking at.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 2:43 pm 
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Paralleling the savoir example with one in English:

I like to crab.

Crab is tasty.

Once a verb, once a noun. But it's not "something inbetween" in either sentence.

I need to clarify what I mean by grammatical category. The traditional parts of speech are not grammatical categories. It's quite possible to disagree on whether a word belongs to one or another part of speech, or on how many parts of speech should be distinguished for a particular language. The whole theory of parts of speech is kind of a mess.

What I call grammatical categories are things like number in English, case in German, aspect in Russian. There is no way of using a noun in English without it's being singular or plural. No German noun belongs to an "intermediate" case. No Russian verb can be neither imperfective nor perfective, or both imperfective and perfective. Occasional syncretisms (accusative plural has the same form as nominative plural) do not undermine these claims, I think.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 5:38 pm 
Sanci
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zompist wrote:
There's a whole book on fuzzy syntactic categories-- Linguistic Categorization by John Taylor-- well worth looking at.

I heartily second zomp's endorsement of the Taylor book! It presents a wonderfully concise, coherent, and comprehensive treatment of the same ideas presented in Lakoff's famous but more sprawling tome Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 8:36 pm 
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LESSON 1: Introduction

1.0 Preface
I will try to present this material as simply as possible, as I am only trying to provide an understanding of basic concepts rather than extreme detail. Those who find their appetites whetted can then proceed to explore more detailed material on their own. Several introductory textbooks have been mentioned above. The one I will be mostly relying upon for my material is David Lee?s Cognitive Linguistics: An Introduction, which is less technical and, IMO, more coherently presented but also more elementary than the more comprehensive Cambridge Series book by Croft and Cruse mentioned in an earlier post. Anyway, shall we get down to it??

1.1 Definition of ?Cognitive?
Let?s start with a simple working definition of the word ?cognitive? which will be sufficient for our purposes: "having to do with how the mind works".

1.2 History
Cognitive linguistics arose during the 1970s essentially as a reaction to three things: (1) dissatisfaction with the existing linguistics paradigm of the time, Noam Chomsky?s ?generative grammar? due to the inability of generative grammar to provide explanations for an increasing number of problem examples and observations about language, especially when it was applied to non-Indo-European languages; (2) the failed attempts by Chomskian-trained linguists to create a ?generative semantics?, i.e., the attempt to extend Chomsky?s theory of generative grammar into the realm of semantics; and (3) the pioneering work on human categorization done by a psychologist named Eleanor Rosch, whose evidence strongly suggested that the subconscious human mind creates categories in ways previously unsuspected (although work by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had foreshadowed Rosch?s findings, e.g., Wittgenstein?s classic analysis of the German word ?spiel? [English ?game?]).

The first linguists to formally pursue a new non-Chomskian approach to linguistics were Charles Fillmore at UC Berkeley and Ronald Langacker at UC San Diego. Langacker, a former Chomskian, finally became so fed up with all the ?exceptions? that had to be made in generative grammar the more he explored the subtleties of language, that he finally concluded Chomsky?s theories must simply be wrong. Rather than try to ?fix? generative grammar, he instead decided to sit down and re-think linguistics from scratch, irrespective of any theory, with the following guiding principles: that language is a direct reflection of the workings of the human mind, and that any theory of grammar and semantics must be consistent with the way the human mind functions and the human brain physically manifests the processes of thinking and conceptualization. He began publishing a series of papers on his new ideas in the 1970s, closely followed by George Lakoff, Leonard Talmy, Gilles Fauconnier, Fillmore and others. Langacker eventual encapsulated all his ideas in the monumental two-volume work Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, published in 1987 and 1991. It is generally perceived that the publication of this work, along with Lakoff and Johnson?s Metaphors We Live By in 1980 and Lakoff?s Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things in 1987, established cognitive linguistics on a solid academic footing which has now led to the generally worldwide acceptance of the new paradigm as nearly co-equal with (and in many universities now surpassing) Chomsky?s generative grammar.

While cognitive linguistics was originally defined in terms of a rebellion against Chomsky?s theories, in the last decade, cognitive linguistics has matured to be considered a fully autonomous linguistic paradigm in its own right. Nevertheless, for beginners, it is still convenient to introduce cognitive linguistics in comparative terms to Chomsky?s theory of generative grammar.

1.3 Comparison with Chomsky?s Generative Grammar
Chomsky, whose theories evolved during the late 1950s through 1970s to replace the previous structuralist and behaviorist models of language, believes the structure of language is determined by an innate, autonomous formal system of rules (analogous to the predicate calculus for those of you who?ve been trained in formal logic, but much more intricate and sophisticated). This formal system of rules, called ?universal grammar? (UG), is inherent within the human brain at birth and is largely devoid of any association with ?meaning.? This UG is also independent of other human cognitive faculties, i.e., it operates on its own within the brain, independent of any other non-linguistic cognitive processes.

Cognitive linguists, on the other hand, believe the structure of language is a direct reflection of human cognitive processes, and that there is no independent language faculty like UG in the brain. If there is, cognitive linguists generally believe it will eventually be found to be ultimately rooted in the general processes of human cognition itself (i.e., not peculiar to the phenomenon of language alone). The cognitivists believe that the grammatical structures of language are directly associated with the way people conceptualize (i.e., think about and understand) any given situation in the world. Syntax, morphology, even phonology are conceptual in nature, i.e., they are merely input and output of those cognitive processes within the human mind that govern speaking and understanding. This idea is generally encapsulated in a phrase coined by Ronald Langacker and often repeated by cognitive linguists: grammar is conceptualization.

The other big difference between Chomsky and the cognitivists is where knowledge of language in general comes from. Chomsky argues that infants know how to put language components together innately (because of their reliance on the UG), i.e., they do not (solely) rely on having to hear how to put words together correctly (i.e., syntax) from listening to their family and other sources such as television. Chomsky believes evidence exists to support this notion in his famous ?poverty of the stimulus? argument (the one that Kirk has railed about in some of his posts in this and other threads), saying that children in general are ?too good? at learning language so quickly, i.e., they don?t get exposed to a sufficiently large corpus of language stimuli/data to work with to figure out so quickly how their native language works, therefore they must have an innate faculty (the UG) to subconsciously tell them about things like syntactic relations (e.g., case morphology), tenses, aspect, clause structure, grammatical transformations such as active-into-passive voice, etc.

The cognitivists, on the other hand, reject this argument entirely and do not believe in the ?poverty of stimulus? argument. Cognitivists firmly believe that knowledge of language comes strictly from language use. Infants learn language by listening, observing, pattern recognition and pattern-matching, imitation and trial-and-error attempts to learn the grammatical rules of their native language. The reason Junior first says ?Mommy drink? before he says ?Mommy, I want a drink? is simply because the former is easier and therefore gets tried out and used first, while the more sophisticated (and "correct") structure of the latter gets learned and used later on. In other words, language gets learned just like anything else gets learned. The use of language has nothing special about it that differentiates it from other cognitive processes. Rather, the human infant uses the same store of cognitive tools and processes to learn and use language as he learns to do anything else. Cognition is cognition. Learning is learning. Pattern-recognition and matching is pattern-recognition and matching; imitation and practice is imitation and practice, whether learning your native language or learning to ride a bicycle or select and put on clothes to wear.

1.4 Focus on the Relationship Between Semantics and Syntax
Because cognitive linguists believe that grammar is conceptualization (see 1.3 above), the core area of study to date within the field of cognitive linguistics is semantics and morpho-semantics and the way these two components of language determine syntax (the way words are put together to create grammatically acceptable phrases and sentences). While cognitive linguists fully believe that the cognitive paradigm extends to more nuts-and-bolts units of language such as phonology and morphology, little work has yet been done in these areas during the brief quarter-century that the paradigm has existed. (Remember the analogy from my previous post about looking at the whole car first and driving it, THEN start taking it apart rather than starting with the pieces and parts and putting it together?) In regard to going the other direction beyond syntax into the linguistic areas of ?pragmatics? and ?discourse analysis,? many cognitive linguists believe that these two areas of linguistics actually don?t exist. Rather, as cognitive analysis of language begins to delve more deeply as time goes on, the ?usage? of language in everyday contexts which is the realm of pragmatics and discourse analysis will simply be found to be based purely on the same semantically driven rules of language structure that ?contextless? or ?normal? language structures are based upon. In other words, while linguists ?normally? study the structure of sentences like ?I have to urinate? rather than the semantically equivalent colloquial version ?I gotta go?, the production of the two sentences by living, breathing English speakers is nevertheless analyzable by the same kinds of semantically driven, context-filled rules, INCLUDING rules to govern the speaker?s very choice of using one sentence as opposed to the other. This area of language wouldn?t be touched by a Chomskian with a ten-foot pole, whereas to a cognitivist, if people say it, it?s fair game for linguistic analysis. Indeed, linguistics can?t be considered ?complete? until linguists understand why a person chooses to say it one way as opposed to the other. Needless to say, under this view of the scope of linguistics, the science of linguistics can be considered to be almost still in its infancy.

Anyway, enough by way of introduction.

1.5 Forthcoming Lessons
Beginning with Lesson No. 2, I will begin presenting the actual tools of cognitive linguistics. We will start with something called Perspective.

Other forthcoming topics (not necessarily in this order): Construal, Frames, Metaphor, Space and Embodiment, Mental Spaces, Prototypes, Radial Categories, Polysemy and a brief intro to Construction Grammars. I may throw in some lessons about Force Dynamics, Conflation, and one or two other topics if I don?t burn out.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 12:41 am 
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JohnQPublik wrote:
zompist wrote:
There's a whole book on fuzzy syntactic categories-- Linguistic Categorization by John Taylor-- well worth looking at.

I heartily second zomp's endorsement of the Taylor book! It presents a wonderfully concise, coherent, and comprehensive treatment of the same ideas presented in Lakoff's famous but more sprawling tome Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.


Unfortunately, WFDT is significantly cheaper.

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