THE  NEW  PSYCHOI10GY 
OF  LANGUAGE 
Cognitive  and  Functional 
Approaches  to  Language  Structure 

Volume  2
Edited  by 
Michael  TOlnasello 
Max Planck Institute jiJr   AnthlD/}()l
Leipzig, Gennany
1m  LAWRENCE  ERLBAUM  ASSOCIATES,  PliBLISI IERS 
2003  Mahwah,  New Jersey 
Introduction: 
Some  Surprises  for  Psychologists 
Michael Tomasello
Max Planck Institute
Linguistics can sometimes he a technical discipline, with a rcalit\, and a v()-
cabu\;uyall its OWII. For this reason, psychologists have oneil \ailcd ('or lin-
guists to tell them what langllage is-that is, give them a good
according to the latest theory-so tbey can go on to study its
sion, processing, and acquisition. But mllch of the lllcol'cti(,d fralll('\ork
and vocabulary of modern linguistic theories relies on the calegories and
terminology of traditional   linguistics. Traditional Wcslt'rn lillgllis-
tics arose historically in the Middle Ages (Iinl11 Greek and ROinan
mainly for the teaching of Latin as a language of scholarship, '!OUIlS ,mel
verbs, and objects, predicate adjcClin's and pr('(II(;[I(' lIominaL-. arc
manifestly not phenomena that were ueated by psychologists, or ('

('11 lin-
guists with a psychological bent, with the goal of descrihing hm\ ;t!! Ill<' peo..
of the world, speaking more than 5,000 dilferenl
}
comprehend and use a naturallangllage. Many of thcm arc not
R
at all to many non-European languages (Croft, in press;
\
It may be that some of these categories arc indeed lIscful for the
tory purposes of psycholinguists. But some lllay not be; it is in each case all
empirical question, And that is oIle of the revolutionary aspects of the IlCW
-"
wave oflinguistic theories that By under the banner of FUllctiona! ,md/or
Cognitive Linguistics. Although they too IISC technical
of it from the traditional vocabulary-in principle each
defined with respect to the function it serves in real proccsses of
communication. I n addition to this general fUllctional (Hicillal i( 1Il. (:( )[!;ni-
2  TOMASELlO 
tive-Functional  (Usage-Based)  linguists  also  make  the  "cognitive  commit-
ment"  to  couch  their  definitions  and  explanations  as  much  as  possible  in 
constructs  and  terminolob'Y  that  are  compatible  with  those  of 
the other Cognitive Sciences  (Lakoff,  1990). This makes the work more ac-
cessible  to  psychologists,  and indeed it is  even  possible now  that 
gists can share in the discussion and help to identify psychologically real lin-
guistic  entities  involved  in  processes  of linguistic  communication. 
This  is  the  reasoning  behind  the  title  The New PI),cholo{,,'Y Lang;uage,
which  is  descriptive  of the  chapters  both  in  Tomasello  (1998) and  in  the 
current volume. Structural linguistics adopts many categories of traditional 
Western  linguistics  uncritically-indeed positing them as  innate asoectB  of 
a  supposed  universal  grammar-and then goes OIl  to create  new 
categories  based  not on  their cross-linguistic  applicability  or on  their  psy-
chological  plausibility,  but  rather  on  their  formal  adequacy  within  the 
framework  of a  speciflc  mathematical  theory  of language.  (Thus,  when  a 
formal advance is  made in the theory, as in  the new minimalism [Chomsky, 
it  is  automatically  assumed  to  be  a  part of universal  grammar, with 
no  empirical  verification  deemed  necessary.)  Cognitive-Functional  Lilli 
gllistics. on the ottwr hand, adopts the categories of traditional Western lin-
guistics only tentatively and provisionally based on their correspondence to 
the  actual  patterns of lise  of particular people  llsing particular languages; 
when it creates new categories itjustilles them on the basis of how people in 
a  particular  language,  or  set  of languages.  use  them  in  acts  of 
commnnication. 
In the introduction  to the first volume, I attempted to give an overview 
of CogJlitive-Functional  Linguists  for  psychologists  and  psycholinguists, 
in  the hopes that this might provide  them with some new perspectives for 
basic  processes  of linguistic  communication  (Tomasello, 
In the more modest introduction to this  the second volume, I simply wish 
to  highlight,  and  to  briefly  explore,  some of the  discoveries-or in  some 
cases,  rediscoveries with  modern  reformulations-of modern  Cognitive-
Functional  (Usage-Based)  Linguistics, with special reference to those that 
seem  to  have  most.  direct  relevance  for  psychologists.  Many  of these  dis-
cO

Related Interests

eries-or at least  the  new  light  in  which  they  are  cast  in  modern  Us-
age-Based  theories-will  be  surprising  to  psychologists  and  psycholil 
guists  who  have  not  kept  up  with  recent  research  on  such  things  as 
grammatical  analyses  of  non-Indo-European  languages,  grammaticali-
zatiol1  in language  history,  the  relation  between  written  and spoken  lan-
guage,  and  the  relation  between  language and  human cognition  and so-
cial  interaction. In  my opinion, a  serious consideration of these new facts 
about.  language  could  change  fundamentally  the  way  psychologists  and 
psycholinguists  go  about  their  business. 
INTRODUCTION
:1
Spoken Language Does Not Work Like Written Language 
Everyone  agrees  that  the  primary  foclis  of  Linguistics,  and  (l
Psycholinguistics,  should  he  spoken  language.  Spoken  lallgllage  was  1>1i-
malY by many tens of thousands of years ill  h llman  history. alld  indccd.  llll-
til  quite recently, the majority of human beings on  the 
a  written  language at all.  Today,  spoken language  is  still 
years  in  individual  ontogeny,  and  the  struggles  01  lllallY  childl 
learning to read-as compared with  the relative ease with which 
I(·alll 
to  speak-attests  to  the  "unnaturalness"  of written  language. 
The problem is  that learning to use a  wriUell  language-Ilot 10  llWlltioll 
metalinguistic  skills  for  talking  about  it,  as  ill  "Western  grallllll, 
schools-profoundly  influences  the  way  ,,'e  think  about  language"  Olsou 
1994,  pp.  258-2(5)  argued  this  point  forcefully  in  a  series  of 
some of which are:  (a)  Writing was  responsible  historically  lill' 
of spoken  language  into consciolls awareness,  that  is,  lor 
peeL'>  of language  into  object"  of reflection,  analysis,  and  design;  (I» 1'###BOT_TEXT### 
writing  system  brings  all  aspects  of what  is  said  in  spokcll  language  illlO 
awareness,  and  those aspect" of spoken  language  thal are nol rcprcsclllnl 
written language are extremely difficult to bring into    and 
Those aspects of spoken  language represented by writtell  language arc 
felt  by  individuals,  erroneously,  to  be a  complete  model  of languagc.  ,llld
once this model has been internalized, it is  extremely di!ficuh  to llllthil1k  il 
and  look  at  spoken  language  "naively." 
The way  to  deal with  this  problem,  of course,  is  to  focus  \lot  Oil 
mati cal  sentences"  found  introspectively-as  is  commou  ill milch  of Lill-
guistics-but rather  to  actually  observe,  record.  and  analy/.c  spontallcOllS 
spoken  speech  Ford,  Fox,  &  Thompson,  this  volullle).  This  is  llot  as 
easy  as  it sounds, and indeed it is  only with  the  inventioll  of al]fmlahlc  re-
cording equipment  (and  resources for  paying  transcribers)  that  it  has  1)("_
corne a  possibility at all.  With  the invention  of cOIllputational  lools  for tag-
and  searching  transcripts  of spoken  language.  a  whole  lIew  world  01 
corpus linguistics is  opening up that allows  for  Ihe analysis  of d("(,ClIl-"i/{·d 
corpuses  that  represent  what  people  aetnally  do  when  tiln  'Iwak  «-.g.. 
Biber ct aI.,  1998; Sinclair,  1991).  Here is  a  partial  list  of SOllH"  of til<'  filld-
ings  that emerge when  one  looks at spontaneous spoken  speech  (.'-ISS)  ill
comparisons  with 
•  There  is  very  little  in  SSS  that  conesponds  to  a  "sentence,"  as  many 
people discovered when they first read transcripts of the inl(H"lllai  COllvns;{-
tions  of politicians  as  recorded  on  the  infamous  tapes.  Pcople 
speak in  "intonation  units,"  which  consist of prosodically and semantically 
III


TOMASELLO 
coherent stretches of language  typically  containing only one  new  piece of 
information  (DuBois,  this  volume).  These  in tonalion  lin ils  arc  lypically 
units of one sort or another  NOlIll  Phrases, Adpositional 
Phrases,  Clauses),  but  only  sometimes  are  they  entil'e  "sentences"  on  the 
model  of written  language. 
•  What are often  thought of as prototypical utterances in a  language ac-
tually are not.  For installce, uttel'ances like the English ']ohn bought a  mo-
"  in  which  there  arc  full  HOUIlS  (i.e.,  noun  phrases)  designating 
both of the main participants, are extremely rare in SSS  (but reasonably fre-
quent in  writing).  In  SSS,  what people  prefer to  do mostly  is  to  introduce 
the  main  referent  in  one  intonation  unit,  and  then  predicate  something 
about it in  another  (often  using a  pronominal  reference  to  the just intro-
duced entity), as  in: "hey ... y<1 know that guyJohn ... down at the poolhall 
., . he bought a  Harley ... if you can believe that."  (Chafe,  1994,1998). 
•  What are  thought of as  the  prototypical  lISCS  of ceI'lain  linguistic con-
structions often are not. For example, textbooks tell  us that English relative 
clauses serve  to  "restrict"  reference, as  in  "The motorcycle  that he bought 
uses  diesel  fuel,"  and  they often  do do  this  ill  writing.  But,  it  turilS  out,  in 
SSS  people very seldom  use  a  relative  clause  to  restrict  the  refer-
ence  of the  primary  participant  (subject),  which,  as  noted  previously,  is 
most often a  pnmoun. Also, people seldom use the word thaI to introduce a 
relative clause in SSS.  This leads once again to more natural utterances like 
"ya  know  that motorcycle  he  bought .... [it  uses  diesell"  (Fox  &  Thomp-
son,  I 
•  Utterances  high  in  transitivity  (an  agellt  does  something  to  cause  a 
change of state in a  patient), which are oftcn used as thc prototype of a sen-
tence  in  mallY  languages,  arc  not  so  frequent  in  SSS.  In  one  analysis, 
Thompson and Hopper (in pl'ess)  fmllid that only about one quarter of the 
clausal intonation units ill  SSS had two  pal'ticipanIS,  and many of these were 
low  in  transitivity  (primary participant not very  agentive or secondary par-
ticipant did not undergo change of state). There were also lIlany 
verbal  predicates instead of  lexical  verbs  (e.f:5.,  have a hard timp
go to allthp trouble 0/ V-ing, wander around etc.). 
•  When one systematically compares stich things as  noun phrases, subor-
dinate clauses of all  types, focus constructions of all  types, and many others, 
one  finds  that  SSS  and written  language  are  very  different  grammatically 
(Miller  &  Weinert,  1998).  Many  constructions  occllr  ollly  or  mainly  in 
speech, for example,  imperatives and interrogatives, or only in writing,  for 
example, some  types  of complex  nominals  (e.g.,  "a  rigorous  and valid  ex-
amination of Applied Economics that consists of three papers"), hut not in 
both. 
INTRODU<:nON 
These are enough examples to  make  the point. The reallhillg-spollta-
neow; spoken speech-has properties of it.s  own  that are dilkrcllt, in  SOlIW 
cases very dillcl'ent, from  the intuitive model oflanguagc til"t literate, Cd!l-
cated people carry around  in  their heads.  This  internalized  1II0dd  llIay  of 
course  be used  to generate  hypotheses about the structure  of SSS,  blll  the 
bct is  that SSS  must he studied in  its  own  right,  by  the  normal  processes 01 
scientific  observation  and  experimentation,  however  ditIindt  and 
this  may  be. 
Grammar Arises Historically From Language Use 
Although it is  not well  known in  the Cognitive Science COl1l 111 II 11 it

Related Interests

,  lite  lact 
is  that virtually all  linguists who are  involved  in  the detailed analysis  of indi-
vidual languages cross-linguistically-mostly known as lingnistic 
•  now agree that there are vel)' few if any specitic grammatical consll'uniol1s or 
markers  that  are  universally  present  in  all  lanf:5uages,  There  are  mallY  lall-
guages  that  simply  do  not  have  one  or  the  other  of      clauses, 
sentential  complements,  passive  ('oBstructions,  grammatical  markers  fell' 
tense,  grammatical  markers of evidentiality,  ditransitives,  topic  markers,  ({
wjJUla (to be),  case  mal'king of grammatical  roles,  subjullctive  llIood,  defi-
nite  and  indefinite  articles,  incorporated  nouns,  plural  mark<'rs,  and  Oil 
and  on.  Typological  research  has  also  established  beyond  a  rc,!sonahlc 
doubt  that  not only are  specific  grammatical  constructions  no!  ullin'lsa!. 
but hasically none of the  so-called  minor word classes  or English  th,\!  help 
to  constitute  particular  ('onstructions  (e.g.,  prepositiolls.  <!uxi\ian  v('r\)s, 
articles,  adverhs,  compiemcntizers,  LlIld  the 
sal  across  languages  either  (Croft,  in  press;  Dryer,  I 
This  does  not  mean  that  there  are  no  language  universals-there  dc-
monstrably are-but only  that we  must look  for  those  ulliv(Tsals  ill 
besides  particular linguistic items  and  constructions.  Olle  place  to  look  is 
human cognition, and  of course  that is  one of the  central  tCllets  of ( 
live  Linguistics. Talmy (this volume)  ontlines foUl'  "concept structllrillg 
terns"  that,  by  hypothesis,  underlie  all  languages.  Thus,  all  IIll/lla1l 
conceptualize  the  world  in  terms  of certain  configurations  or space  ami 
time,  force  dynamics  and  causality,  perspective  and  attentiol1al  distribu-
tion;  and so languages, as conventional symbolic systems designcd  to  C()lll-
municate  about  this  world,  obviously  reflect  these  uH1ceptllaliz;tti()lIs  as 
well.  Kemmer  (this  volume)  analyzes  how  many  difIcrellt  iangmigcs  COll-
strue  events  and elaborate  their  participants,  proposing a  llllivcrsal 
model  that then different languages  instantiate differently ill  their various 
constructions. Haspelmath  (this volume)  illustral('s graphicallv sornc oj i1lC 


TOMASELLO
interesting and complex ways in which universal forms of conceptualization 
get symbolized into languages cross-linguistically, with both some universal 
patterns  and  also  a  healthy  dose  of language-specific  idiosyncrasies.  An-
other place to  look for universals  is  human communication in  the sense of 
the communicative goals  and  needs  of human  beings-some of which  are 
universal  and some of which  are particular to  particular speech communi-
ties.  Comrie  (this volume)  outlines some  possible linguistic  universals  due 
to the kinds of things that humans need to talk about most urgently and the 
ways  they need to talk about them in order to avoid ambiguities and achieve 
their  communicative  goals. 
If grammatical  items  and constructions are  not universally  given  to  hu-
man beings, then where do they come from?  Beginning in the last century, 
historical  linguists  have  observed  that  many  grammatical  items  in  a  lan-
guage seem  to  come from  more contentfullexical items.  Some of the best-
known  European  examples  are  as  follows: 
•  The  main  future  tense  marker in  English  comes  from  the  full  lexical 
verb will, as  in  I will it to hapjJen. At some point expressions arose of the 
form  It'll happen (with  the  volitional  component  of  will "bleached" 
out). Similarly,  the original use of go was for movement (I'm going to the
SlOTI') and  this  became  I'm gonna do it tomorrow (with  the  movement 
bleached  out). 
•  The English  past perfective,  using have, is  very likely derived from sen-
tences such as I have afinger broken or I have the prisoners bound (in which 
have is  a verb of possession). This evolved into something like I have bro-
ken afinger (in which  the possession meaning of have is bleached out). 
•  English  phrases snch as  on the top ofand in the side ofevolved into  on top
of and  inside of and eventually into  atop and  inside. In some  languages 
relator  words  such  as  these  spatial  prepositions  may  also  become  at-
tached to  nouns as  case  markers  (although not in English)-in this in-
stance  as  possible  locative  case  markers. 
•  In French, the main negative is  the expression  ne . .. pas, as inJe ne sais
Currently in spoken French, the ne is becoming less often used and 
jiaS is  becoming the main negative marker. But the word pas was at one 
point the word for "step," with  the expression being something like the 
English  "not one  bit"  or "not one  step  further." 
In  addition,  larger  constructions  themselves  are  producLs  of  grammat-
icalization  processes,  albeit  these  processes  may  be  somewhat different and 
so they have been called syntactitization (Givan,  1979, 1995). The basic idea is 
that instead of sequences of words becoming one word,  or a  word changing 
INTRODUCTION
from  a  more referential  to a  more grammatical fllnction,  or a  word  tllmillg 
into a grammatical morpheme, in  this case whole phrases takc ()Il  a  lICW  kind 
of organization;  that  is,  loose  discourse  sequences,  often  acr()ss  illton;lti()1l 
units,  become  tighter  syntactic  constructions.  SOllie  possible  examples: 
•  Loose  discourse  sequences such  as  Hf jmlleri Ihe door find il o/JI'III'I/llIav 
become syntacticized into Hf tmlled tlte door o/JI'TI (<I resultativt' COllstruc-
tion). 
•  Loose  discourse  sequences such  as  AI,  /JoJ/i"il'lld ... 1/(' /J/I/XI  /Jilli/{) ... 
lie jJlays in a band. may  become  My bOY/rifllll filays /Jim/{) ill 1/ I}(II/d. Or, 
similarly,  My boyfriend . .. He rid!!s hOTSes ... HI' lifts Oil tlifill. Illay bccolllc 
My boyfrimd, who riries hones, bets on thl'lli.
•  Similarly,  if someone expresses the belief that Mary will  wcdjollll, an-
other person might respond with  an  assent I bdil've Ihlll, /(lilowcil  iJy  a 
repetition  of the  expressed  belief  that  A1a')  will wed ./111111, which  iJc-
come syntacticized  into  the single statement  I bdielll' Ihlll Mill)' lIIil1l1li'd
John.
•  Complex sentences  may  also  derive  from  discourse  sequcllces  or ini-
tially  separate utterances, as  in  I wanl it . .. I buy il. enllving into! wllnl
to bny it.
Interestingly,  along  with  plenty  of  idiosyncratic  gralllllIaticali;ratioll 
paths  in  individual  languages,  there  would  seem  to  be  some  ()r 
nearly  universal,  grammaticalization  and  syntactitizatioll  paths  as  \'ell. 
Among  the most widely attested arc  such  things  as  (a)  main  verb  auxil-
iary verb  tense-aspect-mood marker (e.g., a process begun hy Ellgli,h  will
[future]  and  have [perfective]);  (b)  demonstrative  definite  article  (e.g., 
English  the from  that); (c) the numeral "one"  indefinite article   
uno/a, French  un, English  a); and  (el)  demonstrative  cOllIplemcnti/.(T 
(e.g.,  in English  I know that I know that shl'\ ("()lIIing). These  h;q>pen  scpa-
rately in separate languages, presumably attesting to commoll  processes of 
change  based  on  universal  principles  of human  cognitioll  and  lillgllistic 
communication  (Croft,  2(00). 
Bybee  (this volume)  proposes some specific explanations for  these (Olll-
mon  grammaticalization  paths  in  terms  of cognitive  and  connnllnicati\e 
processes well  known  to psychologists, such as  automatization, habituation, 
decontextualization  (emancipation),  categorization,  pragmatic  inflTt'lJ(-
ing, and others. These processes occur as individuals use pieces of language 
in communication over time, with speakers cOllstantly trying to say no lllorc 
than is  necessary and listeners trying to make sure that speakers say  enough 
that they can understand adequately the intended message. Van  Hoek (this 
8  TOMASELLO
certain  processes of reference  and anaphora across 
clauses  and intonation  units operate the way  they do in  Her ex-
focuses  on  the  way  people  package  their conceptualizations for 
purposes  of interpersonal  communication. 
The Units of Language Are Many and Various 
and Do Not Constitute "A Grammar" 
In  traditional  Western  linguistics  we  speak  of "The  Grammar"  of a  lan-
guage, and Chomsky has followed  in  this  tradition  speaking of children 
with "A Grammar." But languages as  they are really spoken and 
of "The Grammar" of a  lan-
guage  as  a  coherent entity  many interesting strnctures  must simply  be  ig-
nored.  For example, it is  well  known  that in  mlditionalterms English is  an 
SVO  language;  typically  precede  the  verb 
and  agree  with  it  in  number.  Thus  we  say: 
She  the  piano. 
They  piaL the  piano. 
this  way  we  say: 
There  my  shoe.  Here  is  my  shoe. 
There  are  mv  shoes.  Here  are  my  shoes. 
In  this case,  it is  the element following  the verb that agrees with  it  in  num-
ber and so is,  by that criterion, its subject.  (Making matters even more com-
plicated,  the ,"cry similar looking utterance  It  is  shoe does  not  also  have 
the f(mn  *It art'  m.'1 .Ihoes.)  It is  also well  known  that many so-called  ergative 
languages have ergative organization  in, for example, first  and second per-
son  utterances,  but  acclisative  organization  in  third  person  ul.lerances 
can  also  be  split  based  on  tense;  DeLancey,  1981).
is  that different constructions in a  language  often  have  their 
own  !(1IOsyncratic  properties  that  do  not  lit  neatly  into  the  rules  of "The 
Grammar."  Fillmore,  Kay,  and  O'Conner  in  their  famous  1988  paper  in 
Language (reprinted in abridged form  in  this volume)  explore some of the 
many and various idiosyncratic constructions of English, focusing especially 
on  the  construction  exemplified  in  utterances  such  as  She  wouldn '{ Ziv£'  in 
New  YOTh,  much  less  Boston.  vVhereas  it  was  always  known  that all  languages 
have  some  idioms,  metaphors,  proverbs,  and  quirky  constructions,  what 
this paper underlines is  the fact  that many constnlctions in  a  language are 
in fact  mixtur"es  of more "rellular" and more "idiomat.ic" subconstructions. 
INTRODliCTION

Subsequent studies  on  various  other "odd"  cOllstruction,  haq'  tllrlwd  up 
many  other similar  examples,  most  famously: 
the  nominal  extraposltlOn  construction  ,II..: 1.;ulIlm·cht, 
as  in  It's  am.azinf!  the  !JeotJuJ  wmlt/.I'I'l  lint'. 
the WXDY construction 
, as in  //1111 '11/11'1/,11''' dlJ-
,  as  in  fie  smikd /ii.1  Wll)'  il/lo  !I/(, 
constructioll  (JackendofL  as  ill f II' \ 
caref'''  awa_'1. 
•  the  -el"  construction,  as  in  Th£'  Tilher  lhl')'  IIrl',  thl'  nirl'l  IIII'

Related Interests

  rill'. 
the  incredulity  construction,  as  in  Him  bl'  a  dor/or! 
These constrtlctions are notjnst  totally weird idioms, but rarhn tlin repre-
sent complex mixtures of regular and idiomatic componen Is,  and so in  t 1;1-
ditional  Linguist.ics  it  is  difficult  to  know  what  to do with  th(,1I1. 
The theoretical move in  traditional as well  as CllOl1lskian  lillguistic,",  has 
always  been  to  simply  designate  some  items  and  constrlluiollS  or a  bll-
are  then  to  tlie  lexicoll. 
has been most clearly instantiated in CholllskY's  ( 19HO) dis-
tinction  between  the  Core  and  the  Periphery  in  The  Grall1l1lal  or a  lall-
guage.  More  recently,  it is  also  evident in  the vVords  and Rliks approaclI 
of Pinker  (1999) and  Clahsen  (99), in  which  all irregular asp('ch  or a
language are in  the lexicon-and so must  be learned by  rote-wlicr("ls all 
the regular aspects of a  language are a part of its  grammaJ" ;lIId  Edl ulI-
der  a  rule  that  then  generates  its  structural  description.  The  plOhlt-lII
again  is  that this  tidy distinction  is  very  diflindt to  maintain  ill  tlw  bee or 
mixed constructions such as  those listed,  in which  it is  al1llost 
lO segregate  the  regular and  idiomatic  aspens.  To  look  1l1OIC 
one  example,  the  incredulity construction  (Alv  rnalhn  rid!'  II 
can generale !lew ex-
In  some  ways  it  is  like  other English  (OIl:'itlllctioIlS 
(e.g.,  it  has  SVO  ordering,  the  NPs  are  regular),  but of cour..,("  til('  S  is 
marked  as  an  pronoun  (accusative  case)  and  the verb  is  Ilollfillite 
(not marked  for  agreemell t).  And  so  the  question  is:  Is  tli is  a   
construction  or an idiom?  If it  is  an  idiom,  it  mllst be called ,I  prodllcti\(' 
idiom. The problem is  that there are thousands and thousands ofpro<illc-
tive  idioms in  a  language  that are  regular and  idiomatic  in  myriad fliifn-
ent  ways-so  that  they  merge  into  more  n.:gular  constructiO!lS  with  110 
clear  break  (Nunberg,  & Wasow, 
The discovery-perhaps best credited to Bolinger (I  but dlle 
to  the work of Fillmore,  Kay,  and colleagues-is that  there  is  no deal" dis-
tinction between  the "core" and the "DeI"iDhclv" of a  bm.rIl:HT{' and this llll-
10 11 TOMASEI J'()
dermines the whole idea of The Grammar of a language as a clearly defined
set of rules. It is interesting and important that when linguists who have
worked for years ill the Cholllskiall tradition look Gu-efully at particular
grammatical items and constructions, they find that many of them that
were at one time considered members of the same categOlY (e.g., comple-
mentizer) or construction (e.g., complement clause) turn Ollt to be very dif:
fcrent from one another in detail-and so not assimilable to the same rigid
rule (Cullicovcr, 1999; Jackendoft, 1996).
The altcrmltive is to conceive of a language as "a structured inventory of
symbolic units," each with its own structure and fllnction (Langacker,
1987) _These units may vary in both their complexity and generality. For ex-
ample, the Olle word utterance Forf'! is a very simple and concrete construc-
tion llsed for a specific fllnction in the game of golf. Thank you and DOll'/
mention il are II1ultiword cOflstrunions used for relatively specific social
functiolls. Some other constructions are composed of specific words along
with "slots" into which whole classes of items llIay fit, for example, Down with
and Hooray jiJr There arc also constructions that are extremely gen-
eral and abstT<lct. Thus, the ditransitive construction in English proto-
typically indicates transfer of possession and is represented by utterances
such as lie gave the doctor money, abstractly described as NP+VP+NP+NP. Ab-
stTact linguistic constrnctions such as this have their own meanings, ill rela-
tive independence of the lexical items involved, and indeed this is the
source of much of the creativity of langlwge (Goldberg, 1995). Abstract
constructions are thus an important part of the inventory of symbolic re-
sources that language users control-and they do much of the work that
would be done by core grammar in more traditional accounts-bUl they
are best seen as just one form that linguistic constructions may take.
In genera!, the breakdown or the distinction between linguistic "core"
and linguistic "periphery" is a genuine scientific discovery about the way
language works, and sorting out its implications will playa key role in creat-
ing a new psychology oflangllage. V

Related Interests

hen we conceive of linguistic construc-
tions as cognitive schemas of the same type as we tind in other cognitive
<: skills, that is, as relatively automatized procedures for gettillg things done
(in this case, communicatively), it is quite natural that they should not be of
only two kinds (regular and idiomatic) hut rather that they should valy
from simple to complex and, independently, from concrete to abstract in
many complex ways.
Frequency Counts
Individuals do not hear abstract constructions; they hear only individual IIt-
terances. To create abstract constructions, they mllst find patterns in the
language they bear around them. Children begin with constructions based
INTRODU(TIC)N
on concrete items and phrases; they then discover ,1 variety or rl'iatlvdv lo-
cal constructional patterns; and only laler do tlley discoHT ilIon' gell('ral
patterns among these local constructiollal patterns (Tomasello, 199:2,
2000). But as children create general constructions, they do lIoi
throwaway their more item-based and local constructions. The ide;1 tl1;11
people operate always and only with the most ahstract structlllcs 111<11 lin-
guists can find is what Langacker (1987) called the rulf-lis!jlllfllt). It rl'lkcts
a very deep difference in the theoretical goals or hmKtllilt!Iuists alld IHOIC
psychologically oriented linguists.
In cognirive\y and functionally oriented (usage-hased) appro<lclJ('s, pl'O-
pie can possess abstTact cognitive strnctures that they use ill ct'rt;lill ill-
stances, but they still operate on some occasions with the 1II0le COIHT('\C
structures that instantiate the abstraction. Asjust a handftd !if llI;lllY thou-
sands, or tens of thousands, of relatively cOllcrete alld fixed expressiolls
that native speakers of English control (which mayor lll<l) Hot i IIst,lIlt I;It(·
more abstract constructions): I'm siml)ly amazed, / loo/m{ rtlPl)'whflf'lOI iI. rOil
k.ef'P out of this, That was a dose mlf, It'.s a moltn Ii/priorilil's. Jcinlll lillll' lolilll(,
... , I'd do il all otW! again, I'm surprisl'd to /tnti' thai, Do w/zal.)'III( ./(, lold.', / .'1'
whalyou mean, f thought you'd Tlevf,. ask, I fav!' .1(!IIlf 1/10/1'. You ((/11 '11w IIII!
IVhere did you find it?, He', bus,'Y right now, rou mil 't belil'1..l1' 1/ wllrd II(' \In.l. a II d
on and on (Pawley & Syder, 1983).
Bybee and Scheibman (1999) provided evidence that peopk SOllll'llIlH'S
produce complex utterances-which they know at sume level have illtcnlal
structure-as single processing They analyze in some depth nrio(!s
Ilses of the English word don't and find thaI in highly frequellt and 1'(:1;1-
tively fixed expression like 1 don 'f know people lend 10 redlice the
ation of don 'I, in some cases so rmlCh thaI it IS harelv recoglliza!)le ir Jj>(,II('d
to in isolation. Thus, the most common pronullciation of / dOIl'1 1111070 is ac-
tually something more like ldunno, and in some cases the C'xpressioll is
barely more than a characteristic intonation contour. This salllc )"edUC"lioll
or the word don't does not occur in other, less frequent exprC'iSiOllS and
constructions. Although most adults can allalyze this expressioll illto it-;
components-for   if a questionel- persists they call say each or tht'
words slowly and emphatically, "I ... DON'T. , . KNOW!"-b'Olll a proct",-
ing point of view its great frequency has made it a productioll rowil1c.
Bybee (1995) argued thaI the token frequency of an expressioll MT\,(', to
entrench it in a speaker's repertoire and make it a processing \lllii.
frequency-repeated instantiations of the same pallern bll! with diff(T('1I1
concrete items-entrenches the pattern but also, at the same lilllt', makes il
more generally applicable to more items. Thus, young childrcll ill
form and use only very concrete and local construclional islallds (based Oil
specific lexical items) but with high type freqnency in one or 11101(' .,Iol'i. for
example: VVhere's (hr' X?, / wanna X, Mort' X, It:\ (J X, I'm X-inJ!: ii, Put X 111'1(',
12 13
T()MASEI,LO
Mommy it, [.et's X it, Throw X, X gone, I X-ed it, Sit on the X,
here, Then<s a X, X broken (Braine, 1976; Lieven, Pine, & Baldwin, see
Tomasello, 2000, for a review of the evidence).
Frequency also plavs a crucial role in grammaticalization and language
Thus, it is well known that the linguistic constructions that are most
resistant to change those that are most That is why most ilTeg-
ular verbs in a language are typically highly frequent (e.g., in English the
verbs to he and to have). Bybee and Thompson (in press) analyzed the exam-
ple of the subjunctive mood in Canadian French, which has basically been
lost. However, in a few highly frequent fixed expressions it lives on (as it
also does in frequent English expressions like "If I were you. . . . At the
same lime, highly frequent expressions also in some contexts become
grammaticalized, and so changt' their function, sometimes retaining the
old hmction in otht'r contexts (as in the English main verbs have and goand
their more recent instantiations as auxiliary verbs as well). In the context of
language acquisition, Brooks, Tomasello, Lewis, and Dodson (1999) ar-
gued and presented evidence thai the entrenchmenl of particular verbs in
particular constructions (in both comprehension and prodllction) is a rna-
CIctor preventing children from overgeneralizing their abstract con-
structions 10 inappropriate verbs. This finding (in combination with that of
Brooks &Tomasello, 1999, who demonstrated the importance of two other
usage-based thus solves in large measure the puzzle of why children
grammatical rules indiscriminately with their en-
tire be expected to if they possessed the abstract
ruics that formal grammar writers often attribute to them Pinker,
1984,
and entrenchment raises the specter of Behaviorism,
which, as is well known, was exorcised from Linguistics once and for all by
Chomsky (19,1)9). Butjust because frequency and entrenchment were im-
portant concepts for behaviorists-who knew little of the structure of lan-
guage-does not mean that they are useless in other, more cognitively and
sophisticated approaches, It turns out that both the type and
token frequency with which particular constructions are used makes an
enormous difference both in their historical and ill the way they are un-
derstood, acquired, cognitively represented, and used by contemporary
speakers of a languagt'.
CONCLUSION
Linguistics as a discipline hovers between the Humanities and the Behav-
ioral/Cognitive Sciences. For much of it'; history Linguistics consisted
solely of the analysis of texts and the teaching of rules, Many linQ'uists thus
INTROIllI( :nON
did not consider it their concern to worry about psvcilOiogicall('<tlily, or to
acquire expertise with the kinds of rigorons methods of
statistical analysis that are the fOllndation (lIthe Heitavioral/(
cllces. But, with t.he rise of Cognitive Science as an
prise, with the rise of new technolog-ies that make possihle the
and analysis of real live linguistic communication. and wil h 111<' li'iC or (
nitive-Functional (Usage-Based) approaches to ling-uistic IlH'my, tile bal·
ance is beginning to tip toward the side ofsciencc. In a llllllit', lin-
guists and psYtchologists will work togetlrer to investigate the
psychological processes by means of which human being's ('(
produce, and acquire a natLIrallangliage, The chapters ill Ihis VOlllIlH'-<lS
well as those in the first volume-represent theoretical approaches Ihal \·ill
help us to make progress IowaI'd thai goal.
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Related Interests