Session descriptions

Title: Hunting for a ‘missing link’: between cognitive theories and classroom practices (workshop)

Organizer: Kamila Turewicz (kamila.turewicz@gmail.com)

The proposal of the workshop can be seen as a follow –up of PACL 2014 Conference’s session devoted to research on relevance of cognitive linguistics for language pedagogy, in particular, the presentations by Jakub Bielak (co-authors Mirosław Pawlak i Anna Mystkowska-Wiertelak): “Teaching the English voice with the help of Cognitive Grammar revisited” and Franka Kermer: “Cognitive Grammar and Foreign Language Pedagogy: Evidence from an Experimental Study”. My subsequent study of the (relatively scarce) literature reporting experimental investigation into effectiveness of adopting CG for foreign language classroom (Bielak (2007), Bielak, Pawlak, Mystkowska – Wiertelak (2013), Kermer (2014)) brought me to the conclusion that inconclusive character of results of the experimental study, obtained  in spite of high methodological standards, may point to a ‘missing link’ between the conceptualizations available within Cognitive Grammar (as this cognitive framework was the theoretical basis for the experiments) and reality of a ‘foreign language classroom’ of both practical language and descriptive grammar courses. Specifically, I tend to think that the crux of the issue is some disparity between the conceptualization of language postulated within cognitive linguistics paradigms and the dominating among the learners / students of a foreign language conception(s) of language and grammar.

As follows from Pawlak & Droździał – Szelest (2007) research, advanced students of English (and the teachers –to –be) tend to “view grammar as a static body of knowledge that has to be mastered in much the same way as any other factual information” (Pawlak & Droździał – Szelest 2007:309). Indeed, the nature of the classroom related ‘grammatical discourse’ strengthens the tendency to think of meaning and grammar as two different entities, rather than inseparable, permeating each other, facets of language, which shows in such phrases as: ‘form-meaning mapping’, ‘form – meaning pairings’, ‘effectiveness of rules based on Cognitive Grammar’, ‘semantic descriptions of selected grammatical items’. Presumably, the nature of grammatical discourse supports the students’ thinking about language, which is reflected in such statements as: ‘vocabulary much more important’, ‘the knowledge of rules does not guarantee that they will be effectively used in communication’, ‘communication is feasible with only rudiments of grammar’.

Essentially, what I have not found in the ‘classroom related grammatical discourse’ is introducing the learners / students to the idea of imaginary function of language – a benchmark of cognitive linguistics perspective on language. The question of how language can serve the function of construing mental images has not been adequately attended to in the kind of discourse; neither has the issue of embodiment of linguistic meaning. I tend to think that attempts to  implement for the requirements of language pedagogy CG conceptualisations through procedures, identical to traditional teaching of grammar but for the content of instructions, invites on the part of the learners the conclusion that the difference between traditional and cognitive grammar teaching is a matter of different theories and different explanations.

A possible solution to the problem signalled above can be a kind of ‘priming activity’, possibly a workshop, that would familiarise the learners with radically new conception of the nature of language structure prior to the cognitive grammar based instructions. My proposal is meant as an example of such a workshop. The activities in the workshop are based on the concepts of image schemata (Johnson  1987), conceptual metaphor, metonymy and metaphorical projections ( Lakoff and Jonson 1980), minimal, primitive and configurational concepts (Langacker 2008).

The activities aim at:

  1. helping the students discover embodied nature of language;
  2. helping the students realize that all facets of language are rooted in patterns of mental activities – image schemata – encoding all types of bodily experience;
  3. making the learners aware of the role of sensory/bodily experience for the construction of both concrete and abstract meanings;
  4. helping the learners understand that lexis / grammar / usage are ‘the same kind of thing’ and thus grammar is inherent in all language structure.

The outcome of the workshop I hope for would be constructive comments of workshop participants both on the idea of the type of workshop as a ‘priming’ activity and other issues relevant to the problem of implementing cognitive linguistics for the area of language pedagogy.

References:

  • Bielak, Jakub, Mirosław Pawlak, Anna Mystkowska-Wiertelak (2013) Teaching the English active and passive voice with the help of cognitive grammar: An empirical study. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching. Kalisz: Department of English Studies, Faculty of Pedagogy and Fine Arts, Adam Mickiewicz University,
  • Bielak, Jakub, (2007) Applying Cognitive Grammar in the classroom: Teaching English possessives. In Mirosław Pawlak (ed.)
  • Johnson, Mark. (1987) The Body in the Mind:  The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason.  Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Kermer, Franka. (2014) A Cognitive Grammar Approach to the Instruction of English Tense and Aspect in the L2 Context. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. Joensuu: University of Eastern Finland, Philosophical Faculty.
  • Lakoff, George, (2011) Kobiety, ogień i rzeczy niebezpieczne. Co kategorie mówią nam o umyśle. Kraków: Universitas.
  • Langacker, Ronald. W. (2008) Cognitive Grammar: a Basic Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Pawlak, Mirosław and Krystyna Droździał-Szelest  (2007) When I think about grammar… Exploring English Department students’ beliefs about grammar, grammar learning and grammar teaching. In Mirosław Pawlak (ed.)
  • Pawlak, Mirosław (ed.), (2007) Studies in Pedagogy and Fine Arts. Exploring Focus on Form in Language Teaching. Poznań-Kalisz: Faculty of Pedagogy and Fine Arts in Kalisz, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.

Title: Cognitive Approaches to Specialist Languages (theme sessions)

Organizer: Marcin Grygiel (mgrygiel@poczta.fm), University of Rzeszów

‘Specialist languages’, ‘special languages’ (SL) or ‘languages for special/specific purposes’ (SLP) are terms more widely used among practitioners than theorists. Yet, despite their enormous popularity, SL remain a little researched and variously defined area of applied linguistics (Sobkowiak 2008, Grucza 2009, Lewandowki 2013, Wille 2014). SL are characterized by subject-specific terminology and may include specific linguistic means of expression. These mostly cover lexical, semantic, stylistic and syntactic features. SL are traditionally invoked in the contexts of foreign language teaching and translation studies to refer to ergolects of business, medicine, law and other subject areas which are considered vital from the communicative point of view in professional interaction.

The aim of this session is to discuss a possible contribution of cognitive linguistics to the study of SL. Cognitive linguistics is a usage-based model in which language reality is perceived as inextricably linked to human experience. Similarly, the concept of SL is both usage-oriented and tightly connected to professional practices. SL seem to constitute an ontologically gradient phenomenon which generates a number of controversies. Some researchers discard SL as a construct for investigation, claiming that instead of languages we are dealing with terminologies. Others maintain that a specialist language includes “the totality of all linguistic means” and should be investigated at all linguistic levels (Hoffmann 1976: 170). Still in other approaches, SL are treated as semi-autonomous variants, varieties, jargons, technolects or sub-languages based on expert knowledge. The question arises to what extent these semiotic systems should be considered natural and to what extent artificial languages? What role does cognition play in the emergence and development of SL?

Cognitive linguistics promises to be a framework that could offer novel insights to the problem of defining and better understanding of SL. Additionally, cognitive linguistics can serve as an analytical tool in accounting how SL are conceptualized and linked to professional practices. Consequently, the aim of this session is to show the usefulness of cognitive apparatus in the study of SL. We will be especially interested in examples of how SL – with their underlying activities, reasoning and thinking – represent embodied, enactive, extended, and embedded (4E) cognitive processes. Particular issues of note for this session will include, though not be limited to:

  • conceptual metaphor, metonymy, conceptual blending as mechanisms to understand and experience the language of business, law, medicine, etc.,
  • SL as mirrors of the experienced world displaying social, cultural and professional realities,
  • spatial concepts in SL,
  • mental organization of SL vocabulary,
  • semantic and corpus studies of SL discourse.

 References

  • Grucza, Sambor (2009) ‘Kategoryzacja języków (specjalistycznych) w świetle antropocentrycznej teorii języków ludzkich’. Komunikacja Specjalistyczna 2. Warszawa: Katedra Języków Specjalistycznych UW, pp. 15-30.
  • Hoffmann, Lothar (1976) Kommunikationsmittel Fachsprache – eine Einführung. Tübingen: G. Narr.
  • Lewandowski, Marcin (2013) The Language of Football: An English-Polish Contrastive Study. Poznań: Wydawnictwo UAM.
  • Sobkowiak, Paweł (2008) Issues in ESP: Designing a Model for Teaching English for Business Purposes. Poznań: Wydawnictwo UAM.
  • Wille, Lucyna (2014) ‘On controversies surrounding specialist languages’. In Lucyna Wille and Marta Pikor-Niedziałek (eds.) Specialist Languages in Use and Translation. Rzeszów: Wydawnictwo UR, pp.11-21.

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