langacker - metonymy in grammar (gu talk handout)

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  • 1Metonymy in Grammar

    Ronald W. LangackerUniversity of California, San Diego


    (1) A basic assumption of syntax: Particular elements combine in very specific and determinateways. It is possible to give a definite and precise specification of the elements connectedto one another and how they are connected. This property will be called determinacy.

    (2)(a) [ [Alice]NP [ [likes]V [Bill]NP ]VP ]S (b) LIKE(x,y) x=Alice y=Bill

    (3)(a) Determinacy reflects a broader conception: (i) language is a separate mental module; (ii)syntax is autonomous; and (iii) semantics is well-delimited and fully compositional.

    (b) The cognitive linguistic alternative: (i) grammar is not autonomous from semantics; (ii)semantics is neither well-delimited nor fully compositional; and (iii) language draws onmore general cognitive systems and capacities from which it cannot be neatly separated.

    (c) The canonical situation is actually one of indeterminacy. Grammar is basicallymetonymic.


    Conceptualist Semantics

    (5) Some basic tenets of cognitive semantics:(a) Meaning resides in conceptualization, broadly interpreted as including any aspect of our

    mental experience.(b) Being grounded in perception and bodily experience, basic conceptual elements are

    imagistic rather than propositional.(c) Conception and linguistic semantics are crucially dependent on various imaginative

    capacities: metaphor, metonymy, blending, fictivity, and mental space construction.(d) Lexical semantics is flexible and open-ended (encyclopedic in scope).(e) Semantic structure is only partially (not fully) compositional.(f) Linguistic meanings incorporate not only the conceptual content evoked, but also the

    construal imposed on that content.

    (6) In our society, any election turns into a cat-fight.

    (7)(b) Encyclopedic Semantics(a) Dictionary Semantics

  • 2(8)(a) I picked up the cat.

    (b) A contented cat sounds like a smoothly-running motor.(c) He was saved by his cat-like reflexes.(d) Shes taking a cat-nap.(e) His opponents portrayed Bill Clinton as a tomcat.(f) This {birdcage/furniture/rug} is cat-proof.

    (9) Encyclopedic semantics is one manifestation of indeterminacy in language. It implies thatsemantic composition is also indeterminate: the meaning of the whole cannot bepredicted from the meanings of the parts unless the parts themselves have definite,limited meanings.

    (10) Construal is our ability to conceive and portray the same situation in alternate ways. Everylexical and grammatical element incorporates, as an inherent aspect of its meaning, acertain way of construing the conceptual content evoked. Dimensions of construalinclude specificity, scope, perspective, and prominence.

    (11)(a) [specific] calico cat > cat > feline > creature > thing [schematic](b) The clever girl gently picked up her calico cat. > A girl picked up a cat. > A female

    moved an animal. > Someone did something to something. > Something happened.

    (12) An expressions scope is the extent of the conceptual content it evokes and depends on forits characterization. Its immediate scope is the onstage region, i.e. the portion mostrelevant for a particular purpose.


    (14) Perspective includes such factors as vantage point (V) and orientation.

    (15)(a) Two kinds of prominence are especially important for grammar: profiling andtrajector/landmark alignment.

    (b) An expressions profile is the specific focus of attention within its immediate scope, i.e.the entity it designates (refers to).

    (c) An expression can profile either a thing or a relationship (in abstract senses of thoseterms).

    (d) When a relationship is profiled, varying degrees of prominence are conferred on itsparticipants.

    (e) One participant stands out as the primary focal participant, called the trajector (tr).There is often a secondary focal participant, called the landmark (lm).

    (f) Expressions that evoke the same conceptual content can nonetheless contrast in meaningbecause they differ in their choice of profile or trajector/landmark alignment.

  • 3(16)

    Cognitive Grammar

    (17) The central claim of Cognitive Grammar:(a) Grammar is symbolic in nature, forming a continuum with lexicon.(b) This continuum consists of constructions, i.e. assemblies of symbolic structures

    connected to one another.(c) A symbolic structure resides in the pairing of a semantic structure and a phonological

    structure (its semantic and phonological poles).(d) All grammatical elements are meaningful (primarily in terms of construal).

    (18)(a) An expressions grammatical category is determined by the nature of its profile (not itsoverall conceptual content).

    (b) A noun profiles a thing (abstractly defined).(c) A verb profiles a process, defined as a relationship followed sequentially in its evolution

    through time.(d) Members of certain other classessuch as adjectives, adverbs, and prepositionsprofile

    relationships that are non-processual (being apprehended holistically rather thansequentially).



  • 4(21)(a) A construction consists of two or more component structures that are integrated, at

    both the semantic and the phonological pole, to form a composite structure.(b) Integration depends on correspondences (dotted lines) established between component

    structure elements. Corresponding elements are superimposed (their specificationsmerged) in forming the composite structure.

    (c) Typically, the profile of one component structure is inherited at the composite structurelevel. This component (indicated by a heavy-line box) is called the profile determinant.

    (d) The composite structure at one level of organization can function in turn as a componentstructure in another construction, at a higher level of organization. In this wayconstituency can emerge.


    (23)(a) Grammatical patterns (rules) are schematic constructions, representing what iscommon to specific expressions that instantiate them. These constructional schemasserve as templates for producing and assessing new expressions.

    (b) The semantic pole of a constructional schema constitutes a pattern of semanticcomposition. Semantic structure is not distinct from grammar, but an inherent part of it.

    (24) Constructional Schema for Prepositional Phrases

  • 5(25)(a) A subject is a nominal expression whose profile corresponds to the trajector of a profiled

    relationship. An object is one whose profile corresponds to a landmark.(b) A head is the profile determinant at a given level of organization.(c) A complement is a component structure which specifies a schematic substructure of the

    head.(d) A modifier is a component structure a schematic substructure of which is specified by the


    Active Zones

    (26)(a) An entitys active zone, with respect to a profiled relationship, is that facet of it whichmost directly and crucially participates in that relationship.

    (b) There is often a discrepancy between a nominal expressions profile and its active zonewith respect to a relationship for which it functions as trajector or landmark.

    (27) The cigarette in her mouth was unlit.

    (28)(a) the cake in the oven; the letter in the envelope; the air in the balloon; the dresser in thebedroom; the food in my stomach

    (b) the swan in the water; the axe in your hand; the arrow in the target; the sword in thescabbard; the cork in the bottle

    (c) the water in the cup; the fish in the bowl; the dirt in the planter; the groceries in thepaper bag; the ice cubes in the tray

    (d) the man in the bathtub; the straw in the glass; the flowers in the vase; the cat in the litterbox; the oarsmen in that boat


    (30)(a) The boy {blinked/waved/coughed/meditated/ached/yawned/stretched/smiled/urinated}.(b) She hit me (in the {arm/stomach/mouth/back/leg/knee/neck}).(c) She hit me (with {her left hand/her right elbow/the top of her head/a stick/a baseball}).(d) I can {hear a piano/see the elephants in the distance [when only a cloud of dust is


    (31) The active zone is not necessarily a subpart of the profiled entity; it need only be associatedwith it in some evident fashion. Being identical to it and being a subpart are special casesof association.

  • 6(32)

    (33) I have to review this book, which weighs 5 pounds.

    Reference Point Constructions

    (34) We have the ability to invoke one conceived entity as a reference point (R) in order toestablish mental contact with another, i.e. to mentally access one conceived entitythrough another. The entity accessed in this way is called the target (T). The set ofentities accessible through a given reference point (the set of potential targets) arecollectively referred to as its dominion (D).


    (36) fishing pole, mosquito net, baseball glove, bicycle seat, axe handle, window shade, jar lid,book cover, fingernail, trout stream, pencil sharpener, tree root, movie theater, tomatoworm, checkbook, rose petal, mailman, arrowhead, sheep dog, wine bottle, elephanttable, chimney squirrel, airplane diaper


    (38) the mayors cellphone, Joes mother, my foot, the babys diaper, their office, his problems,your candidate, my bus, the students qualifications, our displeasure, her migraine, thedogs fleas, the banks current interest rate, Oswalds assassination [of Kennedy],Kennedys assassination [by Oswald]

    (39)(a) Your uncle, he should really get married.(b) That color, I just dont like it.(c) The lottery, I never have any luck.

  • 7(40)

    (41)(a) Taroo-ga fuku-ga itsumo hade-da. Taro always has gaudy clothes. [Japanese] Taro-S cloth


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