Dagmar Divjak @ LEL Research Seminars

Posted on March 13, 2018 by


On Tuesday 20th March, we will be joined by Professor Dagmar Divjak at the LEL Research Seminars. Professor Divjak specialises in Russian and Slavonic studies at the University of Sheffield, but her main area of interest is “understanding how our cognitive capacities give rise to the patterns we see in language and how language learners might use these patterns to build up knowledge of their language”.

Professor Divjak’s talk (see abstract below) will address issues regarding the conceptualisation of construal in cognitive linguistics and report on her current progress in the empirical testing of construal by means of eye-tracking

The event details are as follows:

Room Booked: Sam Alex_A101
Date: Tues 20th March 2018
Time: 16.15 – 17.30

As usual, the talk will be concluded with a wine reception and followed by dinner. We look forward to seeing you there!

Out of our sight, but into our minds? Investigating construal in language with eye-tracking.

Professor Dagmar Divjak

(University of Sheffield)

Languages provide various ways to describe situations, their participants and properties, and the relations between those participants. Speaking thus often implies making a choice, for example between the active and passive voice: The nurse vaccinated the child vs The child was vaccinated by the nurse.

Cognitive linguists consider two grammatical possibilities for expressing one and the same situation as two different ways of describing and thereby construing that situation (Langacker 1987). The event depicted in the active and in the passive sentence above is one and the same, but the active sentence is said to foreground the agent (the nurse), while the passive sentence foregrounds the patient (the child).

Although construal is one of the fundamental notions in the cognitive approach to language and has tremendous potential as explanatory device, it has not yet been tested empirically. Most attempts to explain linguistic phenomena by appealing to alternative construals are based on the analysts’ own intuitions about the data. This leaves open the question of whether each construal in fact corresponds to a different conceptualization of the situation and whether the proposed linguistic analyses and interpretations capture any cognitive reality associated with these constructions.

I will report on work in progress that addresses (some of) these issues. I will focus on how construal can be operationalized by putting it in the larger framework of studies on attention and how this approach makes it possible to test construal empirically using eye tracking.