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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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Engaging the World

Engaging the World

(p.500) 14 Engaging the World
Cognitive Grammar

Ronald W. Langacker

Oxford University Press

Because it unfolds through time, conceptualization (and hence linguistic meaning) is inherently dynamic. There are numerous natural paths that it tends to follow, and which tend to coalign in linguistic structure. In one kind of path, a salient reference point provides mental access to a target. Certain basic grammatical phenomena are analyzed in terms of reference point relationships, including possessives, pronominal anaphora, topic constructions, and trajector/ landmark organization (subject and object). A subject differs from a discourse topic by being structurally internal to a clause and conceptually intrinsic to the clausal process. Trajector and landmark are characterized dynamically as the first and second reference points evoked in building up to the full conception of a profiled relationship. This explains their general grammatical accessibility as well as their role in certain specific constructions. The mental world we construct is grounded in our experience as creatures with bodies who engage in motor and sensory interactions (embodiment). In constructing it, we transcend direct experience through abstraction, conceptual integration, and subjectification: the application of mental operations immanent in certain conceptions to situations for which their occurrence is extrinsic. Examples include fictive motion, fictive change, and the covert invocation of imagined scenarios. Mental simulation is a fundamental aspect of conception and linguistic meaning. Subjectification is an important factor in grammaticization (the evolution of grammatical elements from lexical sources). Many grammatical notions are subjective counterparts of basic aspects of everyday experience. Grammar reflects the means of disengagement through which we transcend immediate experience and construct our mental world. It is thus a key to conceptual analysis.

Keywords:   abstraction, accessibility, anaphora, conceptual integration, dynamicity, embodiment, fictive change, fictive motion, grammaticization, landmark, mental simulation, natural path, object, possessive, pronominal anaphora, reference point, subject, subjectification, topic, trajectory

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