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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
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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