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Cognitive GrammarA Basic Introduction$
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Ronald Langacker

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331967

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331967.001.0001

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(p.457) 13 Discourse
Cognitive Grammar

Ronald W. Langacker

Oxford University Press

A discourse consists of usage events, and in the usage based approach linguistic units are seen as being abstracted from such events. Discourse is fundamentally interactive and necessarily dynamic. Abstracted units retain these properties to varying degrees. At both the semantic and the phonological pole, discourse unfolds in a number of channels: objective content, information structure, speech management; segmental content, prosody, gesture. Discourse presupposes an elaborate conceptual substrate which supports and makes coherent what is overtly expressed. One facet of this substrate is the context, including the speaker-hearer interaction and the ongoing discourse itself. Another is the viewing arrangement, i.e. the relation between the interlocutors and the situation described. Also involved are speech acts, based on culturally recognized scenarios of linguistic interaction; while typically covert, these can also be expressed by clauses used descriptively or as performatives (actual enactments of the scenarios). Closely related are vocatives and other kinds of expressive utterances. Being used for many purposes, discourse occurs in many spoken and written genres. Depending on the genre, various levels and dimensions of organization can be discerned. Important in conversation is organization into attentional frames: intonation groups each representing a single window of attention. As discourse proceeds, a conceptual structure is built and progressively updated. Discourse is most effective when it follows certain basic principles of structure building. Grammar is shaped by discourse, and grammatical structures serve particular discourse functions. Grammar includes not only conventional patterns for assembling complex expressions but also established ways of applying them to the ongoing discourse. Grounding is often effected in this manner.

Keywords:   attention, attentional frame, channel, conceptual substrate, context, conversation, discourse function, dynamicity, expressive, genre, gesture, grounding, information structure, interaction, intonation group, level of organization, performative, prosody, sound segment, speech act, speech management, structure building, usage-based approach, usage event, viewing arrangement, vocative, window of attention, writing

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