Cognitive Approaches

Conceptual Basis of Grammar

Cognitive grammar & constructional approaches view the grammar as an inventor of symbolic units. This accounts to the claim that the language system does not work predominantly by building a structure but by storing it. Cognitive grammar by Langacker focuses on the principles and mechanisms that give rise to and structure the units of language Construction grammars like Talmy's look at how the units of language are interconnected and structured since they suppose that grammar consists of constructions rather than stored words and applicable rules.

Guiding principles

1. The symbolic thesis:
The basic unit of a grammar is a form-meaning pairing termed variously a symbolic assembly in Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar or a construction in a construction grammar. A symbolic assembly has two poles

  1. the form: sound /kæt/, orthographie (cat), gesture
  2. the meaning: semantic content associated with the symbol

Consequence: If the basic grammatical unit is a symbolic unit, then form cannot be studied independently of meaning. Therefore, the study of grammar is the study of the full range of units (from phonemes to structures such as passive/active constructions) that make up a language.

2. The usage-based thesis: No distinction between competence & performance since: Knowledge of language is derived from & informed by language use.
There is an intimate relationship between the grammar (defined as the mental repository of symbolic units), and language use.