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[Xmca-l] Halliday and Langacker


Langacker was here at my uni not long ago, and I was rather struck by
the similarity between his work and Halliday's. Halliday is, of
course, not at all a cognitivist: he believes that cognition just one
mode of social being. But Langacker shares (at least) three important
points with Halliday:

a) Neither H nor L see that "words" and "rules" are separate things.
The rule is just a word's eye view of the clause, and a rule is a
clause-eye view of the word. Both are quite explicitly influenced by
Gestaltist ideas.

b) Both H and L see that the grammar has a kind of "grounding"
function (e.g. the word "the" grounds you in your context, the "Does"
in "Does Martin care?" grounds you in the present). For H, it grounds
you in a set of choices where the things not said are as important to
your choice as the things that are said, while for L it grounds you in
a set of structures that are (a little too close to stereotypes or
prototypes for my taste, but I have rather strong prejudices here).

c) Neither H nor L sees that language is innate or that language
structures are intrinsically universal. H is somewhat more open to the
idea that a language structure can be ubiquitous without being
intrinsically universal; L seems somewhat more of a cultural
relativist (to me).

For my work, though, H is a lot more congenial; H takes a very
militant developmentalist view, writes brilliantly on child language,
and he's always interested in what he calls "appliable" theories,
hence his work with genre-based teaching in Australia.

(I just got this neat little code from Elsevier, which allows anybody
in my social network to click on my article for free until October:
it's about a rather fetching and somewhat abstruse bit of Korean data,
but it does include a fairly extended discussion of H's compatibility
with Vygotsky in it!)


David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies