Investigations in cognitive grammar

Investigations in cognitive grammar. By Ronald W. Langacker. (Mouton select.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2010. Pp. xiv, 396. ISBN 9783110214352. $39.95.

Reviewed by Adam Głaz, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland

This is the third volume on cognitive grammar by Ronald W. Langacker, the previous two having appeared in 1990 and 1999, consisting of articles either published or submitted for publication in various sources. (A notable exception in the present case is Ch. 8, written especially for the collection.) It is also L’s second book-length publication within the span of two years, following Cognitive grammar: A basic introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

The need for such works is hardly surprising, as cognitive grammar has been widely recognized and practiced throughout the globe since its beginnings in the early 1980’s. Coherent collections of articles by L are welcome to both practitioners and critics of the theory, if only to permit easier access to otherwise scattered pieces. The coherence of the present volume is achieved through slightly re-editing the individual contributions, omitting redundancies, and providing a single reference section, but above all through the treatment of ‘a number of overlapping topics’ viewed ‘from different perspectives and in relation to one another’ (v).

The volume includes: Ch. 1 ‘Constructions in cognitive grammar’ (1–39), Ch. 2 ‘Metonymy in grammar’ (40–59), Ch. 3 ‘A constructional approach to grammaticization’ (60–80), Ch. 4 ‘Possession, location, and existence’ (81–108), Ch. 5 ‘On the subject of impersonals’ (109–47), Ch. 6 ‘Enunciating the parallelism of nominal and clausal grounding’ (148–84), Ch. 7 ‘The English present: Temporal coincidence vs. epistemic immediacy’ (185–218), Ch. 8 ‘A functional account of the English auxiliary’ (219–58), Ch. 9 ‘Aspects of the grammar of finite clauses’ (259–89),  Ch. 10 ‘Finite complements in English’ (290–326), Ch. 11 ‘Subordination in cognitive grammar’ (327–40), and Ch. 12 ‘The conceptual basis of coordination’ (341–74). A recurrent motif applicable to several of these topics is that of ‘control’ or the ‘control cycle’, discussed in Chs. 5,  6, 7, 9, and 10.

The volume is a treat for cognitive grammar advocates. It presents in a succinct yet profound manner the theory’s present-day state of the art and sketches possible future developments. In doing so, it may be viewed as a continuation of the 2008 volume. If that volume systematically introduces L’s model to a new generation of linguists, then this collection builds upon it and traces a selection of topics in greater depth. Cognitive grammar continues to be one of the most fully developed models of language, if not the most fully developed, within the realm of cognitive linguistics. With the appearance of the present volume, one cannot help but be impressed by the model’s solid foundations, which remain basically unchanged since the launch of the project, and by its proven ability to account for ever new aspects of language use.

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