Categories an essay on cognitive linguistics

A speaker's behavior is the consequence of competing factors ranging from perceptual constraints to social motivations. The structures of language emerge from interrelated patterns of experience, social interaction, and cognitive mechanisms.

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The CAS approach reveals commonalities in many areas of language research, including first and second language acquisition, historical linguistics, psycholinguistics, language evolution and computational modeling. Language learning involves the acquisition of constructions that map linguistic form and function. The system is rational in that it optimally reflects prior first language L1 usage.

The L1 tunes the ways in which learners attend to language. Ellis, b. We see the traces laid down by the processing of each input as contributing to the composite, superimposed memory representation. Each time a stimulus is processed, it gives rise to a slightly different memory trace—either because the item itself is different or because it occurs in a different context that conditions its representation—the traces are not kept separate. Each trace contributes to the composite, but the characteristics of particular experiences tend nevertheless to be preserved, at least until they are overridden by canceling characteristics of other traces.

Also, the traces of one stimulus pattern can coexist with the traces of other stimuli, within the same composite memory trace. Statistical learning, machine learning, and deep networks are now widespread across computational learning theory in artificial intelligence, computer science, and cognitive science. Cognitive psychology recognized that these processes of human cognition take place automatically and unconsciously.

There is much research demonstrating implicit learning Reber, and implicit memory Schacter, Following Nisbett and Wilson , there has been widespread recognition of the overwhelming influences of implicit cognition. Likewise in SLA and applied linguistics, there is widespread recognition of the influence of frequency of experience upon learning and representation N. Ellis, , of connectionist and statistical learning mechanisms N. Ellis, ; Rebuschat, In connectionist models, remembering is an inferential process, constructive as much as reproductive. Remembering is the temporary reactivation of a particular pattern or vector across the units of a network.

This is successful, or not, dependent on the conspiring influences of the current input and the history of the network, as consolidated in the connection weights between units. The everyday phenomenon is that a small part of a memory can remind a person of the entire memory. The quality and richness of a representation is a function of the type and token frequencies of the exemplars experienced and of their richness of features and associations.

In , in the defining text of the Principles of Psychology , James considered language representations as follows: Every nameable thing, act, or relation has numerous properties, qualities, or aspects. In our minds the properties of each thing, together with its name, form an associated group. This is a remarkable description of the essence of connectionist learning given that it was written 80 years before the advent of computational connectionist models.

It has proven to be essentially correct. On the whole, the memory representations that result from an experience are representative of that experience: If the properties of the experience are rich, imageable, and multimodal, so too is the memory Embodied Cognition —e.

If the properties of experience are richly contextualized, so too is the memory Embedded Cognition —e. If the experience is part of a cultural script, if it plays out in interaction with others, so these are part of the memory too Extended Mind —e. Psychologically rich experience leads to richer representation and better explicit recall. The major force of learning is usage experience—engaged, motivated, purposeful, authentic, rich, enacted usage.


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Whatever else life might be, the only evidence we have of it, the only direct data to which we have access, is the succession of events in consciousness. The quality of these experiences determines whether and to what extent life was worth living. Broadly, we expect that the quality of the flow likewise determines the quality of language representations. More experience leads to stronger representation.

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Language is like other expertise in that it requires considerable practice—the rule of thumb is that accomplishing expertise demands 10, hours on task. Ellis, Recognition is easier than recall. These are problems of retrieval.

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What is needed for successful access is to be reminded by an appropriate retrieval cue. Specifically, the principle states that memory is improved when information available at encoding is also available at retrieval, that is, when the mental context at recall matches that at encoding. The relevant factors include the environmental context and the mental context including perceptual factors, emotional factors, scripts, plans, goals, and understandings. Lightbown applies transfer appropriate processing as a model for classroom second language acquisition.

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Learning and remembering are always situated. Their contexts extend beyond the here and now, streaming backwards in time through our personal and cultural histories: But our assessment of the role of situations in driving and shaping memory need not be restricted to the role of contextual features which happen to be outside the skin: that might be a relatively superficial characteristic. In even the most abstruse and detached activities of autobiographical remembering, our memory processes still lean and operate on the internal wing of the vast extended system of cultural and personal habits, hints, and patterns through which the inner representational regime has been sculpted and disciplined Clark, , p.

For, again, in our unusual case the biological brain is itself incomplete and always already permeated by structures and history which take it out of itself. Sutton, , pp. The aggregation of changes and adjustments that are made to this inheritance on each individual occasion of use results in a constant erosion and replacement of the sediment of usage that is called grammar.

The same applies across all of the systems of language. Learning a language involves the learning of constructions. These are the form—function mappings that are conventionalized as ways to express meanings in a speech community. As the latter examples illustrate, not all constructions carry meaning in the traditional sense; many constructions rather serve a more functional purpose.

Language learning involves learning the associations within and between constructions. Ellis, c , These various psycholinguistic factors conspire in the acquisition and use of any linguistic construction. Taking the social turn does not do away with linguistic structure. Instead it poses a set of questions relating to how language structure is learned from situated experience.

Contra Hall , this issue , I see nothing conceptually confusing in the notion of construction grammar, and the enterprise of cognitive linguistics is fully in the transdisciplinary spirit of DFG. The scientific study of language has long recognized that language has observable, reliable, and productive structure at various levels phonology, morphology, syntax, phraseology, pragmatic, stylistic, etc.

We must embrace the richness and sophistication of linguistic description, while at the same time recognizing the paucity of linguistic theories of learning.

All of these approaches can be brought to bear in researching how our history of usage affects language acquisition, knowledge, and processing. For example, N. Our analyses show that these constructions are a Zipfian in their verb type—token constituency in usage, b selective in their verb form occupancy, and c coherent in their semantics, with a network structure involving prototypical nodes of high betweenness centrality.

Psychological theory relating to the statistical learning of categories suggests that these are factors which promote learning. A central concern is how latent patterns of usage promote robust acquisition. How come you learned language from your people, I learned language from my people, our people never met, yet we can share meanings? There is so much exciting work to be done investigating the relations between language experience and language acquisition, knowledge, structure, and processing.

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Understanding how usage affects an individual learner's languages demands the recording of longitudinal corpora of learner language and subsequent transcription and analysis using a variety of corpus, conversation analysis, and computational techniques, many specially devised for learner language. It requires psycholinguistic investigation of the learner's language processing. It demands linguistic theory. Attention is key in learning, cognition, and instruction; attention can be personally, environmentally, socially, and culturally motivated.

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How do explicit and implicit learning together support language acquisition, what is the nature of their interface? How the participant agents and processes interact dynamically while maintaining robust latent structures demands collaborations with Complex Adaptive Systems, Dynamic Systems Theory, and Networks Science. There is much else still to do. Ortega explains these research priorities very clearly in her contribution to this special volume. Although such reintegration has been hampered in the past by the fragmentation of the study of language across university departments, conferences and funding bodies, the tide is now shifting and an integrated science of language is gradually emerging.

We envisage a future where broad, interdisciplinary departments of language science will become increasingly common. A longstanding concern of applied linguistics is the investigation of the different patterns of language competence that result from different patterns of language experience classroom instruction vs. Ellis, ; R. The interest is both theoretical and applied in that answers to these questions allow the catering of language experience to different language learner needs.

The relevant enquiries are ongoing. However, we know broadly that a focus on grammar results in grammatical competence, sometimes accompanied by low fluency, whereas a focus on meaning can result in communicative competence and fluency, sometimes accompanied by low accuracy. Krashen's response was to advocate a Natural Approach, which held that a language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill, b acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language—natural communication—in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding, c comprehensible input is the crucial and necessary ingredient for the acquisition of language, and d that real world conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful.

Lightbown , pp. These emphases are sustained now in socially and culturally motivated approaches to language exposure, as already quoted from Wagner , p.

Schmidt's paradigm case of a naturalistic learner, Wes, was very fluent, with high levels of strategic competence, but low levels of grammatical accuracy. He was described as being interested in the message, not the form, and as being impatient with correction. In discussing Wes's unconscious naturalistic acquisition of English as a second language ESL in the 5 years since coming to America, Schmidt reported: If language is seen as a medium of communication, as a tool for initiating, maintaining and regulating relationships and carrying on the business of life, then W has been a successful language learner ….

If language acquisition is taken to mean as it usually is the acquisition of grammatical structures, then the acquisition approach may be working, but very slowly …. Likewise, in the large European Science Foundation ESF crosslinguistic and longitudinal research project, Klein and Perdue examined how 40 adult learners picked up the language of their social environment by everyday communication. In this Basic Variety, most lexical items stem from the target language, but they are uninflected.

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There is no functional morphology. Note that there is no functional inflection whatsoever: no tense, no aspect, no mood, no agreement, no casemarking, no gender assignment; nor are there, for example, any expletive elements. Klein, , pp. At the population level too, the proportion of second language speakers affects the morphological complexity of the language N.

Ellis, a ; McWhorter, , ; Mufwene, , ; Trudgill, a , b. There are good cognitive psychological reasons why functional morphology is less learnable than lexis in SLA because of factors including low salience, low contingency, blocking, and learned attention N. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Spelling, Terminology, and Abbreviations : American spelling, rather than British, is preferred. Please try to avoid jargon and, wherever possible, abbreviations that are not commonly accepted.

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