Grounding the Linking Competence in Culture and Nature. How Action and Perception Shape the Syntax-Semantics Relationship
Part I of the book presents my basic assumptions about the syntax-semantics relationship as a competence of language users and compares them with those of the two paradigms that presently account for most theoretical linguistic projects, studies, and publications. I refer to them as Chomskyan Lingui...
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|Summary:||Part I of the book presents my basic assumptions about the syntax-semantics relationship as a competence of language users and compares them with those of the two paradigms that presently account for most theoretical linguistic projects, studies, and publications. I refer to them as Chomskyan Linguistics and Cognitive-Functional Linguistics. I will show that these approaches do not provide the means to accommodate the sociocultural origins of the “linking” competence, creating the need for an alternative approach. While considering these two approaches (sections 2.1 and 2.3), an alternative proposal will be sketched in section 2.2, using the notion of “research programme”. Thus, part I deals mainly with questions of the philosophy of science. Nevertheless, the model underlying the research programme gives structure to the procedure followed throughout the rest of the book, since it identifies the undertaking as multidisciplinary, following from the central roles of perception and action/attribution. This means that approaching the competence of relating form to content as characterized above requires looking into these sub-competences first, since the former draws upon the latter. Part I concludes with the formulation of an action-theoretic vocabulary and taxonomy (section 2.4). This vocabulary serves as the guideline for how to talk about the subject-matter of each of these disciplines. Part II and chapter 3 then deal with the sub-competences that have been identified as underlying linguistic competence. They concern the use of perception, identification/categorization, conceptualization, action, attribution, and the use of linguistic symbols. Section 3.1 in part II deals with perception. In particular, two crucial properties of perception will be discussed: that it consists of a bottom-up part and a top-down part, and that the output of perception is underspecified in the sense that what we perceive is not informative with respect to actional, i.e., socially relevant matters. The sections on perception to some degree anticipate the characterization of conceptualization in section 3.2 because the latter will be reconstructed as simulated perception. The property of underspecification is thus sustained in conceptualization, too. If utterances encode concepts and concepts are underspecified with respect to those matters that are most important for everyday interaction, one wonders how verbal interaction can (actually) be successful. Here is where action competence and attribution come into play (the non-conceptual contents referred to above). I will show that native speakers act and cognize according to particular socio-cognitive parameters, on the basis of which they make socially relevant attributions. These in turn specify what was underspecified about concepts beforehand. In other words, actional knowledge including attribution must complement concepts in order to count as the semantics underlying linguistic utterances. Sections 3.3 and 3.4 develop a descriptive means for semantic contents. I present the inherent structural organization of concepts and demonstrate how the spatial and temporal aspects of conceptualization can be systematically related to the syntactic structures underlying utterances. In particular, I will argue that conceptualization is organized by means of trajector-landmark configurations which can quite regularly be related to parts of speech in syntactic constructions using the notion of diagrammatic iconicity. Given a diagrammatic mapping and conceptualization as simulated perception the utterance thus becomes something like an instruction to simulate a perception. In part III, section 4.1 deals with the question of what the formal constituents of utterances/constructions contribute to the building of a concept from an utterance. In this context a theory of the German dative is presented, based on the theoretical notions developed throughout this work. Section 4.2 sketches the non-formal properties that reduce the remaining underspecification. In this context one of the most fundamental cognitive properties of language users is uncovered, namely their need to find the cause of any event they are cognizing about. I will then outline the consequences of this property for language production and comprehension. Section 4.3 lists the most important linking schemas for German on the basis of the most important constructions, i.e., motivated conceptualization-syntactic construction mappings, and then describes in a step-by-step manner how – from the utterance-as-instruction-for-conceptualization perspective – such an instruction is obeyed, and how such an instruction is built up from the perception of an event, respectively. The last section, 4.4, is dedicated to a discussion of some of the most famous and most puzzling linguistic phenomena which theoretical linguists traditionally deal with. In discussing the formal aspects of the linguistic competence, examples from German are used.|