Cognitive Situation Models and the Representation of Grammatical Mood
Choice of grammatical mood is usually associated with illocutionary force, in linguistic description (e.g. Wierzbicka 1991) as much as in automatic speech processing, where it is taken as surface cue for dialogue act identification (e.g. Rieser & Moore 2005). While however corpus-based research shows that the mapping between sentence mood and illocutionary force is not as direct as it has been hoped for, studies focussing more on semantic properties (e.g. Sperber & Wilson 1988) often fail to account for the subtle differences between the sentence moods particularly with respect to the interpersonal relationship between participants in dialogue (Halliday 1985).
I present results from the analysis of corpora that differ only with respect to single situational variables on how speakers’ situation models determine their mood choices in interaction. In all of these corpora, the speakers’ tasks are the same, but their concepts of the situation can be shown to differ radically. I use conversation analytic methodology to determine the speakers’ situation models as participant categories, i.e. categories that are attended to by the speakers themselves. Statistical analyses show that the different situation models identifiable not only significantly determine the use of grammatical mood, but that they also correlate with a spectrum of further linguistic choices. The situation models determined therefore constitute general conceptual patterns with relevance for linguistic choice at various linguistic levels.
I discuss different options for modelling the relationship between grammatical meaning and situation model. While there is always the option of incorporating the findings into a detailed semantic description of the respective linguistic form, such a representation fails to account for the generality of the relationship between situation models and language function (cf. Fischer 2000). Instead, I propose a model that specifies inheritance relationships between grammatical constructions and cognitive schemata. I suggest a construction-based account in which grammatical meaning and idealized cognitive models, such as speech act scenarios (cf. Panther & Thornburg 1998) and situation models accounting for the interpersonal relationship between the participants, interact. Using the embodied construction grammar formalism (Chang et al. 2002), which allows the unified treatment of cognitive schemata like constructions, frames, spaces, and maps, I show how the empirical results obtained can be represented in a maximally general way.
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