New Directions in Cognitive Grammar and Style
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New Directions in Cognitive Grammar and Style

Marcello Giovanelli, Chloe Harrison, Louise Nuttall, Marcello Giovanelli, Chloe Harrison, Louise Nuttall

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eBook - ePub

New Directions in Cognitive Grammar and Style

Marcello Giovanelli, Chloe Harrison, Louise Nuttall, Marcello Giovanelli, Chloe Harrison, Louise Nuttall

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In recent years, the Cognitive Grammar account of language and mind has become an influential framework for the study of textual meaning and interpretation. This book is the first to bring together applications of Cognitive Grammar for a range of stylistic purposes, including the analysis of both literary and non-literary discourse. Demonstrating the diverse range of uses for Cognitive Grammar, chapters apply this framework to diverse text-types including poetry, narrative fiction, comics, press reports, political discourse and music, as well as exploring its potential for the teaching of language and literature in a range of contexts. Combining cutting-edge research in cognitive, critical and pedagogical stylistics, New Directions in Cognitive Grammar and Style showcases the latest developments in this field and offers new insights into our experiences of literary and non-literary texts by drawing on current understandings of language and cognition.

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Marcello Giovanelli, Chloe Harrison and Louise Nuttall
1. Cognitive Grammar and cognitive linguistics
Ronald Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar, the subject of the chapters in this book, is one of a number of language frameworks that form part of the broader field of cognitive linguistics, a field that starts from the central premise that ‘language is assumed to reflect certain fundamental properties and design features of the human mind’ (Evans and Green 2006: 5). The increasing interest in discourse and text analysis informed both by cognitive linguistic methods and by the relationship between literary study and cognition more generally has led to what is now a fully formed and established cognitive stylistics (e.g. Gavins and Steen 2003; Stockwell 2009, 2020; Gibbons and Whiteley 2018; Giovanelli and Harrison 2018) that draws on the best knowledge about language and the mind in the service of exploring how texts are created, received and evaluated. Cognitive Grammar is now an established analytical method within the field. This book showcases the latest work using Cognitive Grammar in stylistics.
Cognitive linguistics covers a range of approaches and frameworks that nonetheless share key or ‘primary commitments’ (Lakoff 1990: 40) and are distinguishable from more formal and decontextualized approaches to language study typified, for example, in generative linguistics. First, there is a ‘generalization commitment’, which dictates that there is a systematic set of principles that govern all aspects of language and, therefore, key organizational principles can account for language at its different levels (lexis, syntax, phonology and so on). Second, a ‘cognitive commitment’ operationalizes language within the frame of general cognition, itself viewed as embodied and shaped by our interaction with the physical world via unique ‘species-specific anatomical and neurological structures’ (Tyler 2012: 28). Embodiment thus provides both affordances and limitations in terms of how we perceive and represent the world. Indeed Mandler (2004) argues that our early sensorimotor experiences and interactions with the environment as young infants give rise to basic image schematic patterns (see also Johnson 1987) from and within which basic meanings such as movement, containment and force are understood. Embodiment is therefore also indicative of ‘experiential realism’ (Lakoff 1987: iv), a counter to an objectivist approach to reality in the sense that language may be understood not as providing a direct representation of the world but rather one that is subjectively and intersubjectively constructed.
Cognitive linguistics has two main areas of study, ‘cognitive semantics and cognitive (approaches) to grammar’ (Evans and Green 2006: 48), the latter area consisting both of Langacker’s grammar and a group of construction grammars (e.g. Goldberg 1995; Croft 2001). Within cognitive semantics, topics and concepts such as categorization (e.g. Lakoff 1987), encyclopaedic knowledge and schemas (e.g. Schank and Abelson 1977; Fillmore 1982; Schank 1982), image schemas (Johnson 1987; Mandler 2004), force dynamics (e.g. Talmy 1988) and metaphor (e.g. Lakoff and Johnson 1980; Lakoff and Turner 1989) provide an extensive theoretical basis for approaches to grammar that emphasize how linguistic forms are inherently meaningful in their own right. These two areas are therefore both closely interrelated and interdependent.
2. The parameters of Cognitive Grammar
Langacker’s theory of Cognitive Grammar adheres to the primary commitments of cognitive linguistics, outlined in the previous section, and also proposes some central ideas that characterize its distinctive theoretical approach to language. This section will provide a brief overview of these key ideas, but for a more detailed account of the theory see Langacker (1987, 1991, 2008); and for the application of the theory framed through a stylistics perspective, specifically, see Cognitive Grammar in Stylistics: A Practical Guide (Giovanelli and Harrison 2018).
First, Cognitive Grammar is a usage-based model, which explains the use of language events in terms of constructions (Langacker 2008: 161). A construction is a pairing between form and meaning which creates a unit of language. Consider, for example, the following sentence: Millie’s stocking is above the fireplace. This construction is made up of discrete symbolic units: there is a named actor, signalled through the proper noun ‘Millie’; the stative verb ‘is’ suggests an ongoing situation; and particular entities that populate the location can also be identified (‘stocking’ and ‘the fireplace’). More generally, these individual units can also work to evoke particular mental templates regarding how constructions should be understood. For example, in this sentence the preposition ‘above’ encodes a spatial relationship, suggesting the physical location of the stocking in relation to the fireplace. Of course, the lexical choices further evoke mental templates: the combination of ‘stocking’ and ‘fireplace’ in this construction may call up schematic knowledge, such as that relating to Christmas. In these ways, any linguistic construction can be regarded as inherently meaningful, encoding a particular understanding or interpretation of experience in the world, as signalled through both single instances of language and the combination of units in larger constructions.
Any account of Cognitive Grammar similarly begins with construal, which is one of the most important concepts in the theory and which underpins many of the other ideas. Any linguistic construction imposes a particular construal of the proposed content. Simply put, construal is ‘our manifest ability to conceive and portray the same situation in alternate ways’ (Langacker 2008: 43). As producers of language, as both writers and speakers, we have a set of choices available to us regarding how we represent, or construe, our experiences of the world. For example, we can choose the level of detail with which we describe something (specificity), we can choose which part of a scene to pay the most attention to (focus), and we can also choose whether to foreground our narrative voice (perspective) (Langacker 2008: 33–78). Cognitive Grammar provides a framework through which we can analyse different construals, and the effects such choices have for the directing of attention and for literary or textual interpretation more generally. While the original application of the theory explores, in particular, the construal presented by linguistic producers (writers, speakers), construal also occurs in linguistic reception, as a process similarly experienced by readers and listeners (see Hart 2011; Harrison 2017a, b). Idiosyncratic schematic knowledge held by a reader or listener may impact on how a linguistic construction is interpreted and the significance a reader or listener attributes to particular linguistic choices. This dual nature of construal makes it an attractive concept for stylisticians: it provides the theoretical apparatus through which to analyse linguistic choice, on the one hand, and reader-centred meaning, on the other. Consequently, it is intuitive and psychologically grounded, while also offering the linguistic rigour which is at the heart of all stylistic analysis.
Scaling up from smaller linguistic constructions, Cognitive Grammar can also account for clausal structures. In Cognitive Grammar clauses can be considered in terms of action chains, which describe how energy and motion are transferred between entities within a linguistic construction (Langacker 2008: 355). In a prototypical clause, there is an agent (energy source) who (wilfully) initiates an action, and a patient (energy sink) that experiences a change of some kind as a result of the action. Of course, in texts clausal structures are often more complex, and Cognitive Grammar provides a tool-kit through which participant roles can be further differentiated, depending on how the entity or participant functions in a particular clause. This tool-kit allows researchers to further designate the role for each clausal participant; whether it is one which involves physical movement (mover) or a cognitive process (experiencer); or whether the clausal participant inhabits a static location (zero) or performs a role of transferring energy between two other entities (instrument). Cognitive Grammar’s action chain model has obvious similarities with Systemic-Functional Grammar’s transitivity framework (Halliday 1971), and these points of contact between the two theories are drawn out in detail in Nuttall (2018: 52–4).
These descriptions of constructions, construal and clausal archetypes emphasize the importance of schematic templates in our understanding and use of language. Text producers and receivers draw on these prototypical structures to construe and interpret instances of language in the world. Despite its usage-based classification, however, the early work of Langacker explored contrived instances of language to help illustrate the theory with an emphasis on manufactured examples from spoken discourse and the relationship between interlocutors in a spoken event, over written discourse and writer-reader relationships. Equally, original applications of Cognitive Grammar explored constructions of language that are below and up to the level of the clause. More recently, however, linguists across disciplines, from Critical Discourse Analysis (e.g. Hart 2014; Browse 2018a) to second language acquisition (e.g. Matsumoto 2008; Arnett and Jernigan 2014), have started to apply Cognitive Grammar for the analysis of clausal and larger discourse-level structures and to a range of instances of language in broader contexts. It is this versatility and scalability of Cognitive Grammar that also make it an appealing choice for literary linguistic research. The next section identifies some of the leading applications of the theory in contemporary stylistic research.
3. Cognitive Grammar and stylistics
Six years ago, two of us co-edited and each of us contributed chapters to the first book-length treatment and application of Cognitive Grammar in stylistics. Cognitive Grammar in Literature (Harrison et al. 2014) contained stylistic analyses of a range of narrative fiction and poetic texts. Although the book captured the innovative work that was being carried out in the field at the time, its analytical scope was restricted to the analysis of literary texts. In the following years, the majority of researchers drawing on Cognitive Grammar have maintained this focus and used literature and literary contexts as starting points both to consolidate existing analyses and applications of Cognitive Grammar and to develop new innovations and directions for the framework.
One such development has been the integration of Cognitive Grammar into more traditional areas of stylistic scholarship. For example, Nuttall (2018) reconceptualizes ‘mind style’ (Fowler 1977; Semino 2002), drawing extensively on the notion of construal to analyse the ways that characters’ world-views are linguistically realized and the processes by which readers form and articulate their impressions of particular fictional minds (see also Nuttall 2015, 2019 for further discussion). Indeed the study of mind style has provided ample opportunities for researchers to integrate concepts from Cognitive Grammar more generally and other studies have examined the ways in which, for example, narratorial reliability is both linguistically realized and interpreted by readers. This particular focus appears in studies of characterization in contemporary fiction by, for example, Harrison (2017b) on dementia, Giovanelli (2018) on alcohol-induced amnesia and Harrison (2019) on disorientation and claustrophobia. More broadly, Cognitive Grammar has informed a number of other areas of literary study (see Stockwell 2009, 2020). For example, Harrison (2017a) offers a book-length study of four contemporary novels that incorporates close textual analysis with reader-response analyses. Reader-oriented work is also at the centre of research by Nuttall and Harrison (2019, 2020) who examine the ways in which readers reconceptualize perspective across re-readings of literary fiction. Taking a comparative narratological approach, Giovanelli (2019, 2020) analyses the processes of literary revision and memory across different genres in the war writing of Siegfried Sassoon, and Esmaeili and Amjad (2016) examine the ways in which readers’ attention is directed across traumatic episodes in Gustav Hasford’s novel The Short-Timers.
These new directions in the stylistic application of Cognitive Grammar in literary contexts have coincided with an increasing exploration of non-literary discourse. Indeed some of the most innovative work inspired by Cognitive Grammar has been, in keeping with the eclectic range of interests in stylistics more broadly, in non-literary spheres. Browse (2018a), for example, explores political discourse by taking a methodological approach combining more traditional discourse analytical work with more recent advances in critical cognitive linguistics. Using a reader-oriented empirical approach, he demonstrates the importance of considering the participatory role of the audience in the reception of political discourse and provides a series of frameworks for analysis that explicitly import and reconceptualize approaches that have usually been reserved for the analysis of literary texts (see also his chapter in this volume). A critical cognitive linguistics is also well served by the work of Christopher Hart, another contributor to this book. In his analysis of media discourse, Hart (2010, 2013, 2014) highlights how Cognitive Grammar and concepts arising from cognition more generally may be used to draw attention to the kinds of representations of both immigration and violence that appear across different forms of newspaper reporting.
A further recent innovative use of Cognitive Grammar outside of literary criticism has been within pedagogical contexts. Although there is a strong tradition of second language (L2) researchers using Cognitive Grammar in theoretical and experimental ways, and recontextualizing these into pedagogical practices (e.g. De Knop and De Rycker 2008; Holme 2009; and, for an overview, Giovanelli and Harrison, this volume), there have historically been fewer instances of this kind of work in first language (L1) research. More recently, however, the potential Cognitive Grammar offers L1 language and literary pedagogy has become apparent. For example, in a book-length study of the affordances of cognitive linguistics in L1 English teaching more generally, Giovanelli (2014) demonstrates how clause-level analysis informed by Cognitive Grammar can provide ways for students to critically consider the kinds of representations of individuals, groups and ideologies that appear in news media. Giovanelli also demonstrates how students can draw on a range of ‘embodied learning activities’ (2014: 43), including gesture and the simulation of energy transfer through role-play to examine the effects of particular grammatical constructions in texts. In addition, Cushing (2019) argues that the inherent meaningfulness of linguistic forms that is at the heart of Cognitive Grammar means that it should be an attractive model for the classroom and demonstrates how Cognitive Grammar can be integrated into the study of poetry (see also his chapter in this volume). In these ways, a pedagogical stylistics or ‘grammatics’ (Halliday 2002: 416) emerges which, drawing on Cognitive Grammar concepts, enables teachers to utilize theoretical ideas in innovative ways.
Taken together, these recent dir...

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