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Language in Use

Language in Use: Cognitive and Discourse Perspectives on Language and Language Learning

Andrea Tyler
Mari Takada
Yiyoung Kim
Diana Marinova
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  • Book Info
    Language in Use
    Book Description:

    Language in Use creatively brings together, for the first time, perspectives from cognitive linguistics, language acquisition, discourse analysis, and linguistic anthropology. The physical distance between nations and continents, and the boundaries between different theories and subfields within linguistics have made it difficult to recognize the possibilities of how research from each of these fields can challenge, inform, and enrich the others. This book aims to make those boundaries more transparent and encourages more collaborative research. The unifying theme is studying how language is used in context and explores how language is shaped by the nature of human cognition and social-cultural activity. Language in Use examines language processing and first language learning and illuminates the insights that discourse and usage-based models provide in issues of second language learning. Using a diverse array of methodologies, it examines how speakers employ various discourse-level resources to structure interaction and create meaning. Finally, it addresses issues of language use and creation of social identity. Unique in approach and wide-ranging in application, the contributions in this volume place emphasis on the analysis of actual discourse and the insights that analyses of such data bring to language learning as well as how language shapes and reflects social identity-making it an invaluable addition to the library of anyone interested in cutting-edge linguistics.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-356-8
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    IN RECENT YEARS there has been growing awareness of the importance of studying language and language learning in its context of use. Researchers who identify themselves as taking a cognitive approach (broadly defined) and those who take various discourse perspectives have sounded the theme, often independently of each other, that an accurate understanding of the properties of language requires an understanding of how language is used to create meaning. Moreover, an increasing number of researchers in language learning have argued that in acquiring a language the learner experiences the language in context. This perspective emphasizes the importance of studying language...


    • 1 Support from Language Processing for a Constructional Approach to Grammar
      (pp. 3-18)

      A KEY TENET of Construction Grammar (CxG) (e.g., Goldberg 1995; Kay and Fillmore 1999; Michaelis and Lambrecht 1996) is that the basic units of language are learned pairings of form and function: constructions. CxG strives to characterize the knowledge that underlies a native speaker’s capacity to understand and produce an indefinite number of sentences and discriminate between the acceptable and unacceptable sentences in his or her native language. It departs from classical generative approaches in the Chomskian tradition in several crucial ways, however.¹

      Perhaps the most far-reaching difference stems from CxG’s additional commitment to account for the entirety of a...

    • 2 Homonyms and Functional Mappings in Language Acquisition
      (pp. 19-35)

      Because language is used for communication, we might expect it to exist in and evolve toward a state in which communication is optimally facilitated. Yet there are some aspects of language whose existence contradicts the communicative purpose of language. The case under consideration in this chapter involves mappings between form and meaning. One might expect that sounds and meanings should be mapped to each other with a one-to-one correspondence as in bi-uniqueness—each sound (or string of sounds) having a single meaning associated with it and vice versa. This sort of language would both minimize ambiguity and maximize the language’s...

    • 3 Little Persuaders: Japanese Children’s Use of Datte (but-because) and Their Developing Theories of Mind
      (pp. 36-49)

      THE CONTRIBUTION OF LANGUAGE to the development of preschoolers’ theory of mind has begun to attract a great deal of attention in developmental psychology and language acquisition circles. Roughly speaking, the research can be divided into two threads: one that investigates the contribution of language (typically syntax) toward developing representational capacity (Astington and Jenkins 1999; de Villiers and de Villiers 2000; Farrar and Maag 2002; Tager-Flusberg 2000) and one that focuses on the role of language in communication that continuously cultivates children’s socio-communicative competency as they move through infancy to early and middle childhood (Astington 1998; Bartsch and Wellman 1995;...

    • 4 “Because” as a Marker of Collaborative Stance in Preschool Children’s Peer Interactions
      (pp. 50-62)

      IN HER DEFINITIVE BOOK on discourse markers, Deborah Schiffrin (1987) documented that particles such as “so,” “because,” “now,” and so forth function at many levels of discourse beyond the level of the sentence and have more than a semantic meaning. With regard to the specific discourse marker “because,” Schiffrin argues that the marker can function at the action level of the talk, at the level of participation frameworks, and at the ideational level. In terms of the action level, “because” is used to mark causal relationships between speech acts such as directives, questions, and claims and the reasons these speech...


    • 5 Contextualizing Interlanguage Pragmatics
      (pp. 65-84)

      IN THIS CHAPTER I consider what we can learn about interlanguage pragmatics by placing it in the broader context of communicative competence. What concerns me is not the theoretical positioning of interlanguage pragmatics vis-à-vis communicative competence—that topic has already been explored by others (e.g., Bachman 1990; Canale 1983; Kasper 1997)—but a practical positioning that influences research design, data collection, and analysis. I begin with the claim that, in general, in interlanguage pragmatics the theoretical understanding of the complex interaction of components of linguistic, social, interactional, and strategic knowledge (as demonstrated in introductions and reviews of the literature as...

    • 6 Learning the Discourse of Friendship
      (pp. 85-99)

      THIS STUDY TAKES a discourse perspective on language learning to offer a window into a natural process of language socialization that classroom teachers typically never see, with an unexpected focus—by the participants themselves—on cognitive dimensions of a speech activity. This contextualized discourse analysis is part of a case study on the development of a cross-cultural friendship on a university campus in the United States. The participants—Steve from the American South and Roshan from India—are native speakers of two different varieties of English. This friendship, with accompanying openness and trust, allowed conditions to develop in which a...

    • 7 Applied Cognitive Linguistics and Newer Trends in Foreign Language Teaching Methodology
      (pp. 100-111)

      Research on foreign language teaching methodology is still a relatively recent topic, although we may trace it back to the 1940s. During its brief history, it has been influenced by various linguistic theories and later on by applied linguistics. We have seen, for example, the impact of behaviorism, structural approaches, generative grammar, speech act theory, and others; these models have left their traces in textbooks and teaching materials, to a greater or lesser extent.

      My contribution first briefly summarizes the recent history of the relation between linguistics/applied linguistics and foreign language teaching methodology and then mainly focuses on the cognitive...

    • 8 Language Play and Language Learning: Creating Zones of Proximal Development in a Third-Grade Multilingual Classroom
      (pp. 112-122)

      MANY STUDIES ATTEST to the importance of language play in first-language development; few investigations, however, have explored the relationship between language play and second-language (L2) learning, particularly with respect to children. In the study described in this chapter we investigated how language play created zones of proximal development (ZPD) for L2 learning in circumstances in which a Brazilian student with no language background in either English or Spanish entered a third-grade class in which all of the other students spoke Spanish as their first language. We were interested in gaining insights into the role of language play in developing metalinguistic...

    • 9 Cognates, Cognition, and Writing: An Investigation of the Use of Cognates by University Second-Language Learners
      (pp. 123-136)

      The role of cognates in second-language (L2) teaching has baffled researchers for many years. Many linguists have claimed that cognates are useful to L2 learners, both in comprehension and in production, arguing that cognate knowledge can be mastered easily and can be readily applied by L2 learners. For instance, some researchers have suggested that Spanish learners of English should be able to understand cognates such as medicine (medicina), electricity (electricidad), and kilometer (kilómetro) when they encounter them in speech and print. Linguists have also debated, however, the extent to which L2 learners actually are able to use and exploit their...


    • 10 Intonation, Mental Representation, and Mutual Knowledge
      (pp. 139-149)

      AN IMPORTANT PART of the research program in cognitive linguistics involves using linguistic structure as an entry point to better understand cognitive processes. In this chapter, I argue that just as certain lexicogrammatical structures have been claimed to interact with cognitive processes and constructions, certain intonation patterns also interact with cognitive processes and constructions. Therefore, in our search for a better understanding of these relationships we would be well served to include intonation analysis among our methodologies.¹

      Rather than argue for a particular cognitive model, I draw from three popular existing models (which are not necessarily incompatible): Clark’s (1992) model,...

    • 11 Linguistic Variation in the Lexical Episodes of University Classroom Talk
      (pp. 150-162)

      The linguistic characteristics of texts have been researched from two major perspectives over the past three decades: one describing the internal discourse organization of texts and the other focusing on the typical linguistic characteristics of texts and text types. Studies of the first type usually have been qualitative, providing detailed analyses of the discourse patterns in individual texts (e.g., Fox 1987; Mann, Matthieson, and Thompson 1992). In contrast, studies of the second type provide quantitative results, using lexical and grammatical features for their analyses while generally ignoring higher-level discourse structures (e.g., Biber 1988, 1995; Reppen, Fitzmaurice, and Biber 2002).


    • 12 The Unofficial Businesses of Repair Initiation: Vehicles for Affiliation and Disaffiliation
      (pp. 163-175)

      IN CONVERSATION ANALYSIS (CA), repair refers to practices for addressing problems in speaking, hearing, and understanding (Schegloff, Jefferson, and Sacks 1977). The main CA interest in repair has been in its structural properties. For example, repair is composed of trouble source (TS), repair initiation (RI), and repair completion. In the following segment from Schegloff, Jefferson, and Sacks (1977, 364), “Yeah” is the trouble source, “He is?” is the repair initiation, and “Well he was” is the repair completion.

      Ken: Is Al here today?

      Dan: Yeah.


      Roger: → He is? hh eh heh

      Dan: Well he was.

      Repair can be...

    • 13 Pragmatic Inferencing in Grammaticalization: A Case Study of Directional Verbs in Thai
      (pp. 176-188)

      DIRECTIONAL VERBS refer to verbs that denote movements described in terms of their directionality with respect to a landmark.¹ The Thai directional verbs examined in this chapter are khuîn, “ascend”; loŋ, “descend”; khâw, “enter”; ?ᴐ̀ᴐk, “exit”; pay, “go”; and maa, “come.” These six verbs can occur as single verbs in simple sentences and as initial as well as noninitial verbs in serial verb constructions. It is generally known that directional verbs across languages are likely to grammaticalize into different types of grammatical markers that indicate meanings in spatial, temporal, and attitudinal domains. In this essay we introduce another type of...


    • 14 “Trying on” the Identity of “Big Sister”: Hypothetical Narratives in Parent-Child Discourse
      (pp. 191-201)

      RESEARCHERS IN A VARIETY of disciplines have suggested that individuals construct identities in interaction by telling narratives of personal experience. Linguists such as Schiffrin (1996, 2000) and psychologists such as Bamberg (1997) have considered identity from this narrative-constructivist perspective, drawing on Davies and Harré’s (1990) discussion of positioning and/or Goffman’s (1981) related concept of footing to do so. Positioning refers to “the discursive process whereby selves are located in conversations as observably and subjectively coherent participants in jointly produced story lines” (Davies and Harré 1990, 48). Footing relates to “the alignments we take up to ourselves and the others present...

    • 15 The Discourse of Local Identity in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina
      (pp. 202-213)

      Recent investigations in national and ethnic identity have challenged earlier assumptions that such identities are relatively stable constructs, developed out of particular historical and sociopolitical circumstances. In their study of national identity in Austria, Wodak et al. (1999) propose that national identity is a discursive construct, continuously reevaluated through written and spoken narratives of a nation and its culture. In this framework, discourse is one of the most essential social practices that allows for the construction and manifestation of nations as symbolic and imagined communities (cf. Anderson 1991).

      Barker and Galasinski (2001) suggest that ethnic identity also is best understood...

    • 16 Immigration Geographies, Multilingual Immigrants, and the Transmission of Minority Languages: Evidence from the Igbo Brain Drain
      (pp. 214-223)

      THIS CHAPTER OUTLINES the linguistic repertoire of one migration network to the United States and the six sites in which the repertoire is partially reproduced. An outline of the repertoire and the contexts or sites under which that repertoire is reproduced represent a first step toward trying to take account of the new and changing sociogeographical settlement patterns of multilingual immigrants, such as many African immigrants, to analyze the process of transmission of minority languages to future generations.

      The group of Nigerian Igbo-speaking immigrants described here and with whom I conducted ethnography of communication fieldwork for six years in the...