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Cognition in construction grammar: connecting individual and community grammars

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

This paper examines, on the basis of a longitudinal corpus of 50 early modern authors, how change at the aggregate level of the community interacts with variation and change at the microlevel of the individual language user. In doing so, this study aims to address the methodological gap between collective change and entrenchment, that is, the gap between language as a social phenomenon and the cognitive processes responsible for the continuous reorganization of linguistic knowledge in individual speakers. Taking up the case of the prepositional passive, this study documents a strong community-wide increase in use that is accompanied by increasing schematicity. A comparison of the 50 authors reveals that regularities arising at the macro-level conceal highly complex and variable individual behavior, aspects of which may be explained by studying the larger (social) context in which these individuals operate (e.g. age cohorts, community of practice, biographical insights). Further analysis, focusing on how authors use the prepositional passive in unique and similar ways, elucidates the role of small individual biases in long-term change. Overall, it is demonstrated that language change is an emergent phenomenon that results from the complex interaction between individual speakers, who themselves are subject to change to varying degrees.
Journal: Cognitive linguistics
ISSN: 0936-5907
Volume: 31
Pages: 309 - 337
Publication year:2020
Keywords:A1 Journal article
BOF-publication weight:1
CSS-citation score:1
Authors from:Higher Education