Two Books on Discourse and Cognitive Linguistics

Two volumes that I find myself relying upon heavily for an article on discourse and 2 Thessalonians are:

Kibrik, Andrej A. 2011. Reference in Discourse. Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Summary:

This is the first full study of how people refer to entities in natural discourse. It contributes to the understanding of both linguistic diversity and the cognitive underpinnings of language and it provides a framework for further research in both fields. Andrej Kibrik focuses on the way specific entities are mentioned in natural discourse, during which about every third word usually depends on referential choice. He considers reference as an overt representation of underlying cognitive processes and combines a theoretically-oriented cognitive approach with empirically-based cross-linguistic analysis. He begins by introducing the cognitive approach to discourse analysis and by examining the relationship between discourse studies and linguistic typology. He discusses reference as a linguistic phenomenon, in connection with the traditional notions of deixis, anaphora, givenness, and topicality, and describes the way his theoretical approach is centered on notions of referent activation in working memory. He argues that the speaker is responsible for the shape of discourse and that referential expressions should be understood as choices made by speakers rather than as puzzles to be solved by addressees.

Kibrik examines the cross-linguistic aspects of reference and the typology of referential devices, including referring expressions per se, such as free and bound pronouns, and referential aids that help to tell apart the concurrently activated entities. This discussion is based on the data from about 200 languages from around the world. He then proposes a comprehensive model of referential choice, in which he draws on concepts from cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience, and applies this to Russian and English. He also draws together his empirical analyses in order to examine what light his analysis of discourse can shed on the way information is processed in working memory. In the final part of the book Andrej Kibrik offers a wider perspective, including deixis, referential aspects of gesticulation and signed languages.

This pioneering work will interest linguists and cognitive scientists interested in discourse, reference, typology, and the operations of working memory in linguistic communication.

Van Hoek, Karen; Andrej A. Kibrik and Leo Noordman. 1999. Discourse Studies in Cognitive Linguistics. Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 176. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Publisher’s Summary:

This volume presents selected papers from the 5th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference within the area of discourse analysis. The topics addressed include pronominal anaphora in English and Russian narratives, the subtleties of the definite article in English and Spanish, the use of discourse particles in Dutch, and the function of prosody as a marker of text structure in spoken narratives. The papers illustrate the potential of the emerging cognitive linguistic paradigm to provide fresh, revealing insights in the study of discourse.

Part I. Reference in Discourse
“Embodied in a Constructed World: Narrative processing, knowledge representation, and indirect anaphora” by Catherine Emmott
“Reference and Working Memory: Cognitive inferences from discourse observations” by Andrej A. Kibrik
“Roles, Frames and Definiteness” by Richard Epstein
“The Selection of Definite Expressions in Spanish” by Maquela Brizuela

Part II. Information Structuring in Discourse
“Theme, Comment, and Newness as Figures in Information Structuring” by Jan-Ola Östman and Tuija Virtanen
“Cognitive Effects of Shell Nouns” by Hans-Jörg Schmid

Part III. Discourse Markers
“Prosodic Markers of Text Structure” by Leo Noordman, Ingrid Huntjens-Dassen, Marc Swerts and Jacques M.B. Terken
“Accent and Modal Particles” by Els Elffers-van Ketel
“How Dutch Final Particles Constrain the Construal of Utterances: Experiment and etymology” by Robert S. Kirsner and Vincent J. van Heuven

There’s much food for thought in both of these two volumes and each illustrates effectively the cognitive grounding of language structure at and above the sentence.

Kibrik’s larger monograph (2011) is seminal, if I may say so. And as for the collection essays, a few papers really stand out for me. Emmot’s work on embodiment and narrative processing is simply brilliant and Epstein’s paper on definiteness, roles and frames is filled with relevant insight for discourse tracking. Finally, Noordman, Ingrid Huntjens-Dassen, Marc Swerts and Jacques M.B. Terken’s account of prosodic markers provoked much thought in my own ideas about Ancient Greek prosody.