Cognitive Approaches

Language in use

  • How important is language use for the acquisition and knowledge of a language?
  • To what extent does spoken language evolve through its usage?

If we suppose that language is not, in terms of fundamental grammatical knowledge, innately given, might we then assume that our language system derives from how language is actually used? Is our ability to speak and understand language solely learned or are humans in some way biologically predetermined for language acquisition?

As we will see, CLs reject the Saussurian division of langue & parole or, in Chomskyan terms, of competence & performance and instead claim that:

  • Language is always embedded in context as well as culture
  • Knowledge of a language is derived from and informed by language use
  • Human language can only be meaningfully accounted by emphasising the interactive nature of language use
  • The relative frequency of linguistic units affects the nature and organisation of the language system

Move on to look at a detailed discussion of

Knowledge of language
Language change
Language acquisition