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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.55) 3 Construal
Cognitive Grammar

Ronald W. Langacker

Oxford University Press

An expression's meaning depends not only on the conceptual content it evokes but also on the construal it imposes on that content. Broad classes of construal phenomena include specificity, focusing, prominence, and perspective. Specificity (or its inverse, schematicity) is the degree of precision and detail at which a situation is characterized. One kind of focusing involves various kinds of organization into foreground vs. background, such as given vs. new in a discourse, or the asymmetry in complex expressions between component elements and the composite whole (the expression's compositional path). Another dimension of focusing is organization in terms of maximal scope (the full range of content an expression evokes), immediate scope (the general locus of attention), and profile (the specific focus of attention). Focusing is a kind of prominence, of which there are many sorts. Two are especially revelevant for grammar: profiling, a matter of what an expression designates (refers to); and trajector vs. landmark, the first and second most prominent participants in a profiled relationship. Subsumed under perspective are the overall viewing arrangement, vantage point, the viewing asymmetry between the subject and object of conception, and the time course of conception (sequence of mental access). Descriptive notions are supported by converging evidence from three sources: what is known independently about cognition; what is needed for viable semantic description; and utility in an optimal account of grammar. Varied evidence can be brought to bear on particular semantic descriptions, including paths of grammaticization and predictions concerning distribution and judgments of well-formedness.

Keywords:   composition, compositional path, content vs. construal, focusing, foreground vs. background, given vs. new, grammaticization, immediate scope, maximal scope, perspective, prediction, profiling, prominence, schematicity, semantic evidence, specificity, subjective vs. objective construal, time course of conception, trajector vs. landmark, vantage point, viewing arrangement

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