Language in Use: Cognitive and Discourse Perspectives on Language and Language Learning

Language in Use: Cognitive and Discourse Perspectives on Language and Language Learning

Language in Use: Cognitive and Discourse Perspectives on Language and Language Learning

Language in Use: Cognitive and Discourse Perspectives on Language and Language Learning

Synopsis

Language in Use creatively brings together, for the first time, perspectives from cognitive linguistics, language acquisition, discourse analysis, and linguistic anthropology. The physical distance between nations and continents, and the boundaries between different theories and subfields within linguistics have made it difficult to recognize the possibilities of how research from each of these fields can challenge, inform, and enrich the others. This book aims to make those boundaries more transparent and encourages more collaborative research.

The unifying theme is studying how language is used in context and explores how language is shaped by the nature of human cognition and social-cultural activity. Language in Use examines language processing and first language learning and illuminates the insights that discourse and usage-based models provide in issues of second language learning. Using a diverse array of methodologies, it examines how speakers employ various discourse-level resources to structure interaction and create meaning. Finally, it addresses issues of language use and creation of social identity.

Unique in approach and wide-ranging in application, the contributions in this volume place emphasis on the analysis of actual discourse and the insights that analyses of such data bring to language learning as well as how language shapes and reflects social identity -- making it an invaluable addition to the library of anyone interested in cutting-edge linguistics.

Excerpt

In recent years there has been growing awareness of the importance of studying language and language learning in its context of use. Researchers who identify themselves as taking a cognitive approach (broadly defined) and those who take various discourse perspectives have sounded the theme, often independently of each other, that an accurate understanding of the properties of language requires an understanding of how language is used to create meaning. Moreover, an increasing number of researchers in language learning have argued that in acquiring a language the learner experiences the language in context. This perspective emphasizes the importance of studying language learning as it is embedded in meaningful communication and recognition that language learning is crucially shaped by the particular language patterns to which a learner is exposed. the aim of gurt 2003 was to bring together research from various perspectives that emphasize the shared notions that the properties of language and the process of language learning crucially involve how language is used in context and how these patterns relate to cognition more generally.

The presentations at gurt 2003 adhered to a shared set of tenets concerning language as it occurs in natural contexts. These shared tenets include the following: when humans use language, they do so for a purpose; with very few exceptions, the purpose is to communicate with other humans beings; communication always occurs in a context; language is created by humans who are unique not only in their language using ability but also in their particular physical and neurological anatomy, as well as many aspects of their social organization and culture making; and language is inevitably shaped by the nature of human cognition and social-cultural activity. in spite of the fact that these attributes stem from basic, commonsensical observations, for many linguists and language acquisitionists they have not been of central concern. Placing this particular perspective on language at the center of our inquiries has profound consequences in terms of the questions we ask, the data we consider, the patterns we discover, and our interpretation of the import of those patterns.

Although cognitive researchers, discourse analysis researchers, and language acquisition researchers share the foregoing assumptions about language, the particular areas of inquiry and emphases of these subfields are diverse enough that many of us have tended to remain unaware of the interrelations among these approaches. Thus, we also have remained unaware of the possibilities for research from each of these perspectives to challenge, inform, and enrich the others. a key goal of gurt 2003, the success of which is admirably reflected in this collection of papers, was to begin to make these connections more transparent.

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