Course of
Linguistics and Literature

Associate Professor HORITA Yuko (English Language and Literature)

[Theme] My English Research

"Cognitive linguistics" has been widely studied since the 1980s. Cognitive linguistics refers to one aspect of how humans recognize language, as well as a means of attempting to perceive language systematically through its connection to cognition. Even in identical circumstances, we humans have different perceptions and attach different meanings to things, and this cognitive ability is thought to be the foundation of language (meaning). Using this point of view, I have conducted studies on English syntax, or more specifically on English expressions like "resultative construction" and "cognate object construction."

Resultative construction in English is the pattern found in sentences like "Mary wiped the table clean."The word order is "subject > verb > object > adjective (or prepositional phrase)." The meaning is conveyed by a certain condition occurring as a result of the object's being influenced by the actions of the subject. Another highly interesting point is the way the intransitive verb "dance" can be used in this sentence structure: "Paula danced her toes sore."Intransitive verbs do not normally take objects, so you can't say "Paula danced her toes," without using "sore."Similarly, according to native speakers of English, you can say "We heated the coffee hot" but not if you switch "hot" for "tepid."Being Japanese, the first time I learned these subtleties, I didn't really understand the criteria for making these judgments. The motivation for my first study came from a desire to find the reasons for statements that you can say and cannot say, even though their sentence structures were identical.

As the sentence "Mary smiled a merry smile." demonstrates, cognate object construction follows a pattern of "subject > verb > object." However, in the majority of cases the verb is intransitive, and oftentimes an isomorphism of the verb or a noun sharing the same root will be used in place of the object. But, the above example doesn't mean that "The smile Mary smiled was merry." There are various restrictions on who is allowed to use this construction, and though the process of finding an answer is definitely not easy, I find the conditions under which they can be used and the explanations for these conditions to be quite fascinating.

All kinds of things, different from what you learned in school, can be learned once you delve deeper into English expressions. Although native speakers of English may understand the nature of their language better, when questioned about why things are a certain way, not all of them have a complete understanding or can provide clear answers. By observing (studying) English from a Japanese perspective, I can identify aspects that a native speaker would not notice, and conversely by making comparisons with English, I can find more interesting things about Japanese. My greatest goal is to gain more insight, through my research, into the cognitive mechanisms that are at work behind the language.

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