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30. Discourse Syntax

CATHERINE E. TRAVIS and RENA TORRES CACOULLOS


Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Syntax

Key-Topics corpus (linguistic), discourse, functional grammar

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00032.x


Extract

In this chapter we present a perspective that places language use in discourse at the forefront of syntax. The central postulate of usage-based theory is that the basis for grammatical knowledge is speakers’ linguistic experience – the frequency and contexts of use of forms ( Bybee 2010 ) – in contradistinction to the view that language use and knowledge about language (or “performance” and “competence” cf. Chomsky 1965 ) are independent. These two perspectives on syntax have been broadly characterized as functional (according to which grammatical structures conventionalize out of discourse patterns) and formal (according to which explanations of linguistic structure are based on grammatical form, independent of function) (cf. Croft (1995) vs. Newmeyer (1998)) . The discourse-based perspective on syntax sees the observation of spontaneous language use, rather than reflection about language use, as the appropriate way to obtain data for linguistic analysis. Conversation receives particular primacy in this area, as the form of language that we spend most of our time using, that which is acquired first and without any formal instruction, and that which provides the most systematic data for the analysis of grammar as it is produced in real time ( Labov 1984 ; Chafe 1994 ; Ono and Thompson 1995 ; Briz 1998 ; Du Bois 2003 ; Schegloff 2007 ). Community-based research has ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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