Context and cognition in Functional Discourse Grammar: What, where and why?

Evelien Keizer


This paper discusses a recurring problem in the development and application of models of grammar: That of deciding which linguistically relevant contextual information forms part of (i.e. enters) the grammar, and which contextual information interacts with the grammar without being part of it. More specifically it considers the active-passive alternation in English within the framework of Functional Discourse Grammar. First, the possible factors recorded in the literature as determining the choice between an active and a passive construction are discussed. On the basis of an in-depth discussion of authentic examples it is concluded that the major determinant triggering the use of one of the two variants is not a single factor, but rather the composite notion of Speaker’s perspective, a systematically encoded cognitive notion covering a number of communicatively relevant (pragmatic and semantic) factors. Subsequently, it is argued that since the Speaker’s choice of perspective is the result of a cognitive process it is plausible to assume that this process takes place at a preverbal level, i.e. within the Conceptual Component. Since, however, in choosing the perspective the Speaker clearly draws on contextual information, stored in the Contextual Component, it can be concluded that information from the Contextual Component enters the Grammatical Component through the Conceptual Component), thereby indirectly influencing the choice of a particular grammatical construction.

Quick links
A browser-friendly version of this article is not yet available. View PDF
Abb, Bernd, Michael Herweg, and Kai Lebeth
(1993) The incremental generation of passive sentences. In Proceedings of the Sixth Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics, 21-23 April 1993, Utrecht, The Netherlands. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Beedham, Christopher
(1982) The Passive Aspect in English, German and Russian. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.Google Scholar
Biber, Douglas, Stig Johansson, Geoffrey Leech, Susan Conrad, and Edward Finegan
(1999) Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Harlow: Longman.Google Scholar
Biber, Douglas, Susan Conrad, and Geoffrey Leech
(2002) Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Harlow: Longman.Google Scholar
Bock, J. Kathryn
(1986) Syntactic persistence in language production. Cognitive Psychology 18: 355-387. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Bolkestein, A. Machteld
(1985) Discourse and case-marking: Three-place predicates in Latin. In C. Touratier (ed.), Syntaxe et latin. Aix-en-Provence: Université de Provence, pp. 191-225.Google Scholar
Bolkestein, A. Machteld, and Rodie Risselada
(1987) The pragmatic motivation of syntactic and semantic perspective. In J. Verschueren, and M. Bertuccelli-Papi (eds.), The Pragmatic Perspective. Amsterdam and Philadelphia PA: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 497-512. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Bresnan, Joan
(1982) The passive in lexical theory. In J. Bresnan (ed.), The Mental Representation in Grammatical Theories. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, pp. 3-86.Google Scholar
Butler, Christopher S
(2008) Interpersonal meaning in the noun phrase. In D. García Velasco, and J. Rijkhoff (eds.), The Noun Phrase in Functional Discourse Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 221-261.Google Scholar
Chomsky, Noam
(1957) Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton. Crossref CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
(1970) Remarks on nominalization. In R.A. Jacobs, and P.S. Rosenbaum (eds.), Readings in English Transformational Grammar. Waltham MA: Ginn, pp. 184-221.Google Scholar
Comrie, Bernard
(1988) Passive and voice. In M. Shibatani (ed.), Passive and Voice. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 9-23. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Connolly, John H
(2004) The question of discourse representation in Functional Discourse Grammar. In J.L. Mackenzie, and M.A. Gómez-González (eds.), A New Architecture for Functional Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 89-116. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(2007) Context in Functional Discourse Grammar. Alfa: Revista de Lingüística 51/2: 11-33.Google Scholar
(2008) Freestanding noun phrases within documents: A pragmatic approach based on Functional Discourse Grammar. In D. García Velasco, and J. Rijkhoff (eds.), The Noun Phrase in Functional Discourse Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 263-285.Google Scholar
(2010) Accommodating multimodality in Functional Discourse Grammar. In G. Wanders, and E. Keizer (eds.), Web Papers in Functional Discourse Grammar 83: 1-18. Available at http://​home​.hum​.uva​.nl​/fdg​/working​_papers​/WP​-FDG​-83​_Connolly​.pdfGoogle Scholar
Cornish, Francis
(2009)  Text and discourse as context: Discourse anaphora and the FDG contextual component. In E. Keizer, and G. Wanders (eds.), Web Papers in Functional Discourse Grammar 82: 97-115. Available at http://​home​.hum​.uva​.nl​/fdg​/working​_papers​/WP​-FDG​-82​_Cornish​.pdfGoogle Scholar
Dik, Simon C
(1997) The Theory of Functional Grammar. Part 1: The Structure of the Clause. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
Dowty, D
(1991) Thematic proto-roles and argument selection. Language 67.3: 547-619. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Freidin, R
(1975) The analysis of passives. Language 51.2: 384-405. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
García Velasco, Daniel
(2008) Functional Discourse Grammar and extraction from (complex) noun phrases. In D. García Velasco, and J. Rijkhoff (eds.), The Noun Phrase in Functional Discourse Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 321-363.Google Scholar
Gries, Stephan Th
(2005) Syntactic priming: A corpus-based approach. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 34.4: 365-399. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Halliday, M.A.K
(1967) Notes on transitivity and theme in English, Part 2. Journal of Linguistics 3: 199-244. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Hawkins, J.A
(1994) A Performance Theory of Order and Constituency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Hengeveld, K., and J.L. Mackenzie
(2008) Functional Discourse Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Hinrichs, Lars, and Benedikt Szmrecsanyi
(2007) Recent changes in the function and frequency of Standard English genitive constructions: A multivariate analysis of tagged corpora. English Language and Linguistics 11.3: 437-474. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Hopper, Paul, and Sandra A. Thompson
(1980) Transitivity in grammar and discourse. Language 56.2: 251-299. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Huddleston, Rodney, and Geoffrey K. Pullum
(2002) The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Jespersen, Otto
(1933) Essentials of English Grammar. London: George Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
Katz, J.J., and Paul. M. Postal
(1964) An Integrated Theory of Linguistic Descriptions. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Keizer, Evelien
(2008) Reference and Ascription in F(D)G: An inventory of problems and some possible solutions. In J. Rijkhoff, and D. García Velasco (eds.), The Noun Phrase in Functional Discourse Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 181-220.Google Scholar
forthc.) Context, cognition and grammar: The active-passive alternation in Functional Discourse Grammar. To appear in Trilhas Linguísticas, Unesp, Universidade Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquita Filho”, Brazil.
Lambrecht, Knud
(1994) Information Structure and Sentence Form: Topic, Focus and the Mental Representations of Discourse Referents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Langacker, Ronald W
(1982) Space grammar, analysability, and the English passive. Language 58.1: 22-79. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Langacker, Ronald, W
(1987) Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, Vol. 1: Theoretical Prerequisites. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Langacker, Ronald W
(2002) Concept, Image, and Symbol. The Cognitive Basis of Language. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
Levelt, Willem J.M
(1989) Speaking. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Liberman, M
(2006) The ancient roots of passive avoidance. Language Log, http://​itre​.cis​.upenn​.edu​/~myl​/languagelog​/archives​/003382​.html.
Mallinson, G., and B.J. Blake
(1981) Language Typology: Cross-linguistic Studies in Syntax. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
Pickering, Martin J., and Simon Garrod
(2006) Alignment as the basis for successful communication. Research on Language and Computation 4: 203-228. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Pickering, Martin J., and Victor S. Ferreira
(2008) Structural priming: A critical review. Psychological Bulletin 134.3: 427-459. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Poutsma, H
(1926) A Grammar of Late Modern English, Part II, The Parts of Speech, Section II: The Verb and the Particles. Groningen: Noordhoff.Google Scholar
(1928) A grammar of late modern English, Part I: The Sentence, First Half: The Elements of the Sentence. 2nd edition. Groningen: Noordhoff.Google Scholar
Pullum, Geoffrey K
(2009) 50 Years of stupid grammar advice. The Chronicle of Higher Education, http://​chronicle​.com​/article​/50​-Years​-of​-Stupid​-Grammar​/25497.
(2011) The BBC enlightens us on passives. Language Log, http://​languagelog​.ldc​.upenn​.edu​/nll​/?p​=2990.
Quirk, R., S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, and J. Svartvik
(1985) A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London: Longman.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Rijkhoff, Jan
(2008) Layers, levels and contexts in Functional Discourse Grammar. In D. García Velasco, and J. Rijkhoff (eds.), The Noun Phrase in Functional Discourse Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 63-115.Google Scholar
Shibatani, Masayoshi
(1988) Introduction. In M. Shinatani (ed.), Passive and Voice. Amsterdam: John Benjamnins Publishing Company, pp. 1-8. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Svartvik, Jan
(1966) On Voice in the English Verb. The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
Tannenbaum, Percy H., and Frederick Williams
(1968) Generation of active and passive sentences as a function of subject or object focus. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 7.1: 246-250. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Thompson, Sandra
(1987) The passive in English: A discourse perspective. In R. Channon, and L. Chockey (eds.), In Honor of Ilse Lehiste. Dordrecht: Foris, pp. 497-511. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Toyota, Junichi
(2009) Fossilisation of passive in English: Analysis of passive verbs. English Studies 90.4: 476-497. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Wanner, Anja
(2009) Deconstructing the English Passive. Berlin: Mouton the Gruyter. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Zwicky, Arnold
(2006) How long have we been avoiding the passive, and why? Language Log, http://​itre​.cis​.upenn​.edu​/~myl​/languagelog​/archives​/003380​.html.