Operationalising Cognitive Grammar: Experimental and theoretical approaches

Kalyan, Siva (2016) Operationalising Cognitive Grammar: Experimental and theoretical approaches. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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One of the main advantages of cognitive linguistics (and in particular Cognitive Grammar) over other approaches to the study of language structure is the fact that every descriptive construct is defined in psychological terms. This means, ideally, that any cognitive linguistic description of a word or grammatical construction constitutes a hypothesis about the mental representation of that structure. It should thus be possible to verify such descriptions, or to decide between competing analyses of a phenomenon, by experimentally testing the hypotheses that they entail. Such tests have been rare, however, due to the difficulty of operationalising many of the semantic notions used in Cognitive Grammar.

The present thesis reports on attempts to operationalise and test (using questionnaires, production tasks, and reaction time measurements) four descriptive claims formulated in the framework of Cognitive Grammar: that finite complementation constructions are headed by the complement-taking predicate; that the first object in a three-argument clause is more “figure-like” than the second object; that impersonal there in an existential clause refers to the locative scene as a whole; and that non-finite clauses encourage the hearer to imagine the described event as a single gestalt, whereas finite clauses encourage them to imagine it unfolding over time. These grammatical analyses crucially involve the notions of “profiling”, “focal prominence”, and “mode of scanning”, which are central to Cognitive Grammar.

None of the experiments conducted produced conclusive results, leaving open the question of whether the descriptive constructs used in the analyses are really necessary. Accordingly, the second part of the thesis presents an attempt to reconceptualise Cognitive Grammar using only descriptive constructs that are known to be easily operationalisable; in particular, giving prominence to notions from discourse pragmatics and prosodic phonology.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Q300 English studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2018 11:54
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:37
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/36128

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