Language in use: Cognitive and discourse perspectives on language and language learning.

Language in use: Cognitive and discourse perspectives on language and language learning. Ed. by Andrea E. Tyler, Mari Takada, Yiyoung Kim, and Diana Marinova. (Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics.) Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2005. Pp. xiv, 223. ISBN 1589010442. $44.95.

Reviewed by Susanna Bartsch, Center for General Linguistics, Typology, and Universals Research

This volume contains a selection of papers presented at the 2003 Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT 2003), which had the main goal of bringing together research focusing on discourse-based and cognitive linguistics (CL) accounts of language. The papers are structured in four parts: language processing and L1 learning, L2 learning, discourse resources and meaning construction, and language and identity. In what follows, one paper from each of these parts is highlighted.

Adele Eva Goldberg and Giulia M. L. Bencini present their constructional approach to argument structure, in which the meaning of both verb and argument structure construction contribute to the overall meaning of a sentence. Evidence for this assumption is drawn from experimental research on sentence comprehension and production in adults. For instance, in production, a ‘constructional priming’ effect (11f.) is observed, in which not constituent structures, but constructions, as form-meaning pairings, are primed.

Susanne Niemeier explores the application of crucial tenets of CL to L2 teaching. She focuses on the handling of metaphorization of content and functional words in L2 teaching and how it might help learners to assess similar structuring principles underlying lexis and grammar. For instance, working with metaphor can enhance the learning of prepositions, if it is shown how basic (spatial) meanings and metaphorized (e.g. temporal and abstract) meanings of prepositions are related to each other.

Ann Wennerstrom is concerned with the use of CL models for studying the patterns of high-pitched contrast intonation and low-pitched given intonation and their interaction with cognitive processes (categorization and inference). In discourse, for instance, contrast intonation often aligns with ad hoc categorical oppositions, creating new mental spaces for them, whereas given intonation has a deictic function, indicating elements available in the mental space network. Interestingly, the (de)accentuated items do not require lexical opposites and antecedents.

Cynthia Gordon investigates the way adult members of the family of a three-year-old child use future-oriented narrative-like discourse to socialize the child into her future identity as ‘big sister’. Gordon identifies four narrative dimensions (action, interpersonal, imaginative, and evaluative) in adult-child conversations that do the most identity work. One shortcoming of this study is that it relies on a very small corpus (only nine instances of adult-child conversations).

The editors deserve praise for the organization of the volume in broad areas of inquiry relevant for the related discourse and CL paradigms, as well as for their selection of papers (sixteen from among the 120 papers presented at GURT 2003) dealing with topics of great interest in the mentioned research paradigms. Complementing this volume, another publication presents eighteen more papers from the GURT 2003 conference (Language in the context of use: Discourse and cognitive approaches to language, ed. by Andrea Tyler, Yiyoung Kim, and Mari Takada, Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter, 2008). GURT 2003 and both volumes constitute a most valuable contribution to the strengthening of linguistic research programs in which nonmodular and usage-based views of language and cognition are crucial.