1 as a result it criticizes many of the philosophical

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Unformatted text preview: d within the so-called cognitive approach to language, which was a reaction to the Chomskyan paradigm.1 As a result, it criticizes many of the philosophical assumptions underlying the early versions of the latter.2 For instance, Langacker (2000: 1) writes: Subsequently, in the paper titled “A Usage-Based Model” (Langacker 1988), I described the “maximalist”, “non-reductive”, “bottom-up” nature of Cognitive Grammar. In these respects it stood in contrast to the “minimalist”, “reductive”, “top-down” spirit of generative theory, at least in its original (archetypal) formulation. Although cognitivists do not claim that people are born with a complete tabula rasa, they reject the hypothesis about the existence of Universal Grammar as an inborn language learning device. The human brain is born with a certain structure of nervous cells and connections between them. Connectionism discards logical symbols and the rules operating on them, as well as stable symbol addresses, in favour of the distributed model of 1 Many non-linguists consider Chomsky’s theory as cognitive linguistics, because of its mentalist and computational characteristics. Langacker and Lakoff refer to Chomskyanism as generative theory and appropriate the name cognitive for their own approach. On the meaning of the adjective cognitive in linguistics see Krzeszowski (1997b). 2 Generative linguistics has become the dominant linguistic paradigm in the US in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. In the late 1970s and the 1980s Langacker, Lakoff and others who all started within the generative paradigm (see e.g. Langacker 1968, Lakoff 1970) broke away from transformational rules and gave rise to a new trend in linguistics. At present the two approaches seem to converge on many issues (see, e.g. Jackendoff 2002 to be presented in more detail in Section 3.). Chapter I 16 cognitive processing. It is considered to be the closest representation of the neurophysiological basis of language. As Kemmer – Barlow (2000: xiii) describe it: … linguistic units are seen as cognitive routines. During linguistic processing, linguistic units are part and parcel of the system’s processing activity: they exist as activation patterns. When no processing is occurring, the information represented by such units simply resides in patterns of connectivity (including differential connection strengths) resulting from previous activations. Taking into account the immense complexity of the human brain, cognitivists maintain that parsimony of a theoretical description of language is not a condition sine qua non of a well-formulated grammar. They believe that the neuronal networks responsible for certain functions can be accessed, and thus activated by many different nodes. Lists of forms as well as rules do not exclude each other – they can exist side by side. Complex concepts are created through partial compositionality, i.e. the resultant complex is not simply a sum of the values of its parts, but rather it in...
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