Lecture 4
One of our earliest and most basic
achievements as infants is to acquire an
understanding of objects and of the way in
which they relate to each other in physical
The kind of concepts represented by words
such as up, down, in, out, on, off and so on
are the building blocks on which we construct
our mental models of the physical world.
Piaget (1936) recognized the
fundamental importance of these
concepts when he characterized the
first stage of cognitive development as
“sensorimotor knowledge”.
 We use space as a domain for
structuring other less concrete aspects
of our experience.
For example, when we say that someone
occupies a ‘high’ position in society, we are
using the up-down axis as a means of talking
about social status. If someone says that they
are ‘in trouble’, they are treating ‘trouble’ as
a container and themselves as a contained
If we say that we have a ‘close’ relationship
with someone, we are constructing the notion
of intimacy in terms of physical proximity.
To refer to a situation where one object
(trajector射体) is contained within
another (the landmark界标).
 In is also used in a whole range of
situations where there is only an
approximation to this ideal meaning.
 The
 The
 The
 The
 The
 The
cat in the house
bird in the garden
flowers in the vase
chair in the corner
water in the vase
crack in the vase
finger in the ring
In the last example, it is odd to conceptualise
the situation in terms of the finger being ‘in’
the ring.
The finger functions as a fixed entity (LM)
and the ring is placed as TR.
These examples show that, in order to
explain the forms that we use to code these
situations in language, we need to go beyond
the level of surface topographical
Background knowledge involving the
relevant functional relationships is
crucial to an understanding of the forms
of coding, which reflect subtle aspects
of everyday human experience.
 The bulb in the socket
 The jar in the lid
The topographical relationships are
similar in each case, but only the
second example is the relationship
constructed in terms of containment.
 Our background knowledge is crucial to
an understanding of the relevant
linguistic patterns.
The pen on the desk
The writing on the paper
The poster on the wall
The wrinkle on the face
The fly on the ceiling
The writing is applied to the paper in a
manner that bears some similarity to the way
in which a pen is placed on a desk.
The wall, like the papers, forms a background,
with the writing and the poster as
foregrounded or displayed entities.
The last example is unusual in that the
topological relationship between the ceiling
and the fly is precisely the opposite of that
which holds in the normal situation coded by
The function of at is to locate two entities at
precisely the same point in space and
construe them as geometric points.
John is at the supermarket.
John is in the supermarket.
As we move away from objects in our visual
field, their image on the retina grows smaller,
so that at a given distance they begin to
approximate to a point.
Let’s meet at the library.
This distinction is lost when the building is
construed as a point.
The café is at the highway.
*The café is on the highway.
The café is located at the place where the
path intersects with the highway at some
point ahead, a location that is quite naturally
conceptualized as a point.
The concept of path is also present in the following
examples, but in a more abstract form.
The bird has a white band at its neck.
The bird is at the top of the tree.
There are bubbles at the surface.
The conceptualizer scans the body of the bird and
comes across a white band when this scanning
process reaches the neck.
There is implicit movement through the liquid,
encountering bubbles when it reaches the surface.
Construal of objects and
spatial relationships
The choice of one preposition over another is a
matter not of the objective properties of the
observed situation but of the way in which the
various elements of the situation and the
relationships between them are constructed.
(1) the words on the page
(2) the words in the margin
The paper is construed as a background serving to
display the (foregrounded) words makes the concept
of support more salient than that of containment.
Construal of objects and
spatial relationships
The function of a margin is not to
display text but to define a particular
area of the page, so that in cases such
as (2) it it the notion of containment
that is salient.
 (3) John is in the bus/train/plane/boat.
 (4) John is on the bus/train/plane/boat.
Construal of objects and
spatial relationships
Vehicles can be construed either as
container or as supporting surfaces.
 (3) and (4) involve salience, framing
and construal. The use of in is favoured
if the vehicle is stationary.
 When on is used, it is because the role
of the vehicle is more salient than its
role as a container.
Construal of objects and
spatial relationships
(5) He hit the ball through the outfield.
 (6) He rolled the ball across the pitch.
 (7) The pushed the mower over the
 Through involves construal of LM as a
container, whereas across and over are
construed as a supporting surface.
Construal of objects and
spatial relationships
Different languages often make different
choices. Convention does indeed play a
significant role. The notion of construal itself
predicts that there should be some degree of
conventionality at work, since in situation that
lend themselves to different construals, it is
to be expected that different languages will
make different choices for their preferred
We shall look at the ways in which we
use spatial terms and spatial concepts
to structure non-structural meanings.
 1a. The sun is out; The stars are out.
 1b. The light is out; The fire is out; He
blew the candles out.
 2a. He threw out a suggestion to the
 2b. They threw out Bill’s suggestion.
It seems odd that the sun or stars are
‘out’ they are visible, but when lights,
candles, or fires are ‘out’, they are
 3. He blew up the balloon.
 4. He rolled up the carpet.
 Up in 3 is part of an expression that
refers to an object getting bigger,
whereas in 4 the object gets smaller.
Prepositions that normally express
opposite meanings sometimes express
similar meanings:
 She filled in the form.
 She filled out the form.
 Sometimes prepositions express
meanings that seem to be quite
unrelated to each other.
The students dropped in.
 The students dropped out.
 Prepositional usage has been claimed to
be simply chaotic in English. A careful
analysis shows that the situation is less
unruly than it appears at first sight.
The core meaning of out involves an
image schema that an entity (TR) is
located outside a container (LM). The
out relationship is sometimes static and
sometimes dynamic.
 The cat is out of the house.
 The cat went out of the house.
One form of extension from the
dynamic situation involves situations in
which an entity expands in size or
comes to occupy a greater area. The TR
is reflexive.
 The lava spread out.
 Roll out the carpet.
Another semantic extension involves a
process whereby an entity moves away
from a landmark without any obvious
notion of exit.
 She set out for Shanghai.
 He reached out to grab it.
 “The sun is out” involves applications
of the basic notion of exit from location.
LM is a container that is inaccessible to
an observer and TR is an entity that is
deemed to have emerged from this
area into the observer’s perceptual field.
 “The fire is out” involves movement of
an entity away from the observer into
the hidden area.
From unknown to known
 I worked out a solution to the problem.
 Becoming unavailable
 Our supplies have run out.
 The notion of Exit
 1) Exit from perceptual field; 2) from
cognitive field; 3) from area of control
or availability; 4) from normal state.
Fill in and fill out the form
A process whereby material is inserted
into spaces in the form
 A process that causes the form to
increase in size as material is added.
 Speak up and speak out
The image schema for through involves
the path of an entity (TR) in physical
space as it enters a container and then
moves from the point of entry to a
point at the opposite side of the
 The train (TR) rushed through the
tunnel (LM).
 The postman pushed the letter through
the letterbox.
John was looking through the window.
(a virtual trajectory)
 John was walking through the grass. (a
notional line)
 One factor in the growth of semantic
network is the activation of elements in
the knowledge base associated with
core meaning.
Another component of the knowledge
frame is the idea that TR traverses LM
only with difficulty.
 We headached our way through peakhour traffic.
 John sold the house to Mary through
Smith’s. (landmark as instrument)
 A small child could not sit through a
four-hour dinner. (landmark as ordeal)
Radial Categories
A property of such networks associated with
out, up and through is that they are
structured around a core meaning
The property of radiality is characteristic of
many types of linguistic and conceptual
categories. The prototype model recognizes
that category membership is a gradient
phenomenon, such that some members of a
category are more central members than
Likeable, washable, readable, solvable
(able to be verbed)
 Payable (due to be paid)
 comparable: a part of the situation as a
whole has been semantically
foregrounded at the expenses of those
aspects of the situation that relate to
the process itself.
The meaning of the combined form is
the outcome of an interaction between
the frames associated with the two
 The background knowledge associated
with the verb modulates the meaning of
the suffix in a particular direction
peculiar to that verb.
 Drinkable (can be drunk safely)
Discourse analysis and linguistics
Discourse analysis comes from the realization
that language, action and knowledge are in
separable. J.L Austin pointed out in his 1955
lectures at Harvard University that utterances
are actions (Austin, 1962). Some actions can
be performed only through language (e.g.
apologizing), whilst others can be performed
either verbally or non-verbally (e.g.
threatening). In addition, when we start to
study how language is used in social
interaction, it becomes clear that
communication is impossible without shared
Discourse analysis and linguistics
There is a dialectic relationship between language
and situation. In certain games, ceremonies and
formal rituals, actual forms of words may be laid
down as part of the proceedings. Of course most
everyday uses of language are more flexible. Given a
social situation such as a small village shop’, it is
possible to predict a great deal about the content,
functions and style of language used there. Much of
the language will be either local gossip or
transactional, concerned with buying and selling. We
often know what kind of language to expect in
different situations; and conversely, given a fragment
of language, we can often reconstruct in some detail
the social situation which produced it.
Discourse analysis and linguistics
For example, when we turn the knob of
a radio to tune in different programs. It
usually takes a few seconds to identify
whether we are listening to a sermon,
sports commentary, quiz program, news
broadcast, play, or to a program for
young children or school pupils, or
whatever. The identifying features
include phonology, lexis, syntax and
paralinguistic features.
Discourse analysis and linguistics
Furthermore, situations can be altered
or created by using language in
different ways, for example, by
selecting the speech act of whispering
sweet nothings, rather than nagging,
carping, complaining or accusing. It is
clear enough that much language is not
to be taken literally, that language is
used to perform actions, and that
different social situations produce
Discourse analysis and linguistics
An implication of points about the uses
of language is that much of syntactic
theory has to be thoroughly
reconsidered. An increasing number of
linguists are starting to suggest that the
analysis of sentence structure should be
based on an information structure of a
given-new or theme-rheme kind.
Discourse analysis and linguistics
Much of the fascination of discourse analysis
derives, in fact, from the realization that the
boundaries of linguistics are being redrawn.
In has become increasingly clear that a
coherent view of language, including syntax,
must take account of discourse phenomena.
The grammatical, structural units of clause or
sentence are not necessarily either the most
important nits for language study, or the
biggest, although the clause will probably
remain basic as a unit of syntax, or
prepositional information, and as the
Discourse analysis and linguistics
It is worthwhile making explicit the implications of
discourse analysis for sociolinguistic theory.
Sociolinguistics will ultimately have to be based, at
least partly, on analysis of how people actually talk to
each other in everyday settings, such as streets,
shops, restaurants, buses, trains, schools, factories
and homes. Therefore, sociolinguistics will have to
incorporate analyses of how conversation works. It is
chiefly through conversational interaction, social
‘roles’ are recognized and sustained. We can talk
about intuitively recognizable social roles such as
‘teacher’ and ‘doctor’. There is quite specific
conversational behavior attached to being a teacher.
Discourse analysis and linguistics
On the one hand, there is no use of
language which is not embedded in the
culture; on the other hand, there are no
large-scale relationships between
language and society which are not
realized, at least partly, through verbal
interaction. Part of cultural knowledge
is conversational competence.
Discourse organization
By definition, sentence grammars ignore the
syntagmatic chaining of clauses and
sentences in larger exchanges or sequences.
Certain phenomena involving particles,
adverbs and conjunctions can only be
explained with reference to the syntagmatic
chaining of linguistic units at the clause or
above. Discourse is a rank above the clause
and a level of linguistic description above
Discourse organization
Firstly, connected discourse is not
random. People are quite able to
distinguish between a random list of
sentences and a coherent text, and it is
the principles which underlie this
recognition of coherence which are the
topic of the study for discourse analysts.
Discourse organization
There are several ways of demonstrating informally
that discourse is organized. First, conversationalists
themselves frequently refer to discourse structure in
the course of conversation, by utterances such as oh,
by the way...., anyway, as I was saying .... In
everyday situations, people are aware that not
anything can follow anything: some utterance require
to be prefaced by such an excuse or a claim of
relevance. This insertion of metatext, pointing to the
organization of the text itself, is particularly common
in certain discourse styles, such as lecturing, and it
occurs in written and spoken discourse.
Discourse organization
Second, there are many jokes which
depend on our ability to recognize
simplest type is:
 (1)
A: Yes, I can.
B: Can you see into the future?
Discourse organization
At the risk of being tedious, this joke
depends on two things: the recognition
that the question-answer sequence has
been reversed; and that the
grammatical cohesion has been
disrupted. Yes, I can is elliptic and only
interpretable via the following, instead
of the preceding, utterance.
Discourse organization
One the same mode is the joke about the
man who goes into a chemist’s shop. The
exchange goes:
(2) Customer: Good morning. Do you have
anything to treat complete lost of voice?
Shopkeeper: Good morning, sir. And what
can I do for you?
In this case, the shopkeeper’s utterance
occurs in the wrong structural position. It
occurs second, although it is strongly marked
as an opening conversational move: by the
Discourse organization
Such examples demonstrate immediately our
discourse competence to recognize that
utterance can occur in some sequences but
not others. Therefore, discourse should in
principle be analyzable in terms of
syntagmatic constraints on possible
sequences of utterances. Stubbs ( 1983:17)
points out that some discourse sequences are
impossible, or at least highly improbable.
Consider this example:
Discourse organization
(3) I approach a stranger in the street.
 *Excuse me. My name’s Mike Stubbs.
Can you tell me the way to the station?
 The sequence of speech acts is illformed:
 *apology + identification + request for
Discourse organization
There seem to be two ways of explaining why it is illformed. Either the sequence of acts is itself ill-formed:
there are co-occurrence restrictions on the sequence.
Or alternatively the combination of speech acts and
social situation is ill-formed: speaker do not identify
or introduce themselves to strangers in the street. A
plausible rule is that identification is unclear only if
speaker predict further interaction on a later occasion.
Thus speakers are likely to introduce themselves to
people they meet at a party, but not in a railway
carriage. This example shows (a) that although the
individual sentences in (3) are well-formed, the
whole sequence is not; (b) that traditional
grammatical descriptions are therefore unlikely to
Discourse organization
It is more difficult to find comparable deviance across
two speaker’s utterances, for our ability to
contextualize almost anything readily copes with odd
sequences. But deviant sequences do occur:
(4) A: Goodbye!
B: Hi!
The oddity of this particular sequence is explicable
via B’s participant knowledge that the exchange
occurred after A and B had approached each other
down a long corridor. The greeting was prepared in
advance of the actual encounter, and split-second
timing of the exchange itself meant that A’s
contribution was interpreted only after B had spoken.
Discourse organization
Stubbs (1983:19) holds that spontaneous
conversation, although it may look chaotic
when closely transcribed, is, in fact, highly
ordered. It is not, however, ordered in the
same ways written text. Conversation is
polysystemic: that is, its coherence depends
on several quite different types of
mechanisms, such as repetition of words and
phrases, structural markers, fine
synchronization in time, and an underlying
hierarchic structure relating sequences of
Discourse organization
Some discourse types can be usefully
represented as variations or recursive two
part question-answer (QA) exchange or
exchanges. For example, Sinclair and
Coulthard (1975) propose that teacher-pupil
talk is of ten characterized by an underlying
exchange structure:
Teacher: initiation
Teacher: feedback
Consider the following case during a
period of observation in a school. At the
start of one English class, the teacher,
after talking quietly to some pupils at
the front of the room, turned and said
to the whole class:
Right! Fags out please!
No pupils were smoking. So the teacher did not mean
his words to be taken literally. Perhaps the utterance
is used to attract the pupils’ attention. To open the
communication channels. It had a contact function of
putting the teacher in touch with the pupils. Here we
have the questions: how did the pupils know that the
teacher did not really mean that they had to
extinguish their non-existent cigarettes? What shared
knowledge and expectations concerning appropriate
speech behavior did they draw on in order to
interpret successfully what the teacher actually
meant? How could the teacher say one thing, yet
mean another? These problems have not received
much detailed consideration by linguists.
Various social factors determine the individual
speaker’s use of language. All speakers are
multidialectal or multistylistic, in the sense
that they adapt their style of speaking to suit
the social situation in which they find
themselves. Such style-shifting demands
constant judgments, yet speakers are not
normally conscious of making such judgments
until they find themselves in a problematic
situation for which they do not know the
conventions, or for which the criteria for
speaking in a certain way clash.
On the other hand, it is intuitively clear that a
teacher, for example, does not speak in the
say way to his wife, his mother-in-law, his
colleagues, his headmaster, a student teacher,
or his pupils. His way of talking to his pupils
will also change according to the matter to
hand: teaching an academic subject,
organizing the school concert, or handing out
punishment. People therefore adapt their
speech according to the person they are
talking to and the point behind the talk.
These are social, rather than purely linguistic,
Despite great development in linguistics
over the past 75 years, and particularly since
the mid 1950s, linguistic description is still
firmly based on traditional parts of speech
and on the view that the clause or sentence
is the basic linguistic unit. Yet, traditional
grammar fails to give a satisfactory account
of adverbs, co-ordinating conjunctions and
particles (including well, now, right and so
Well Syntax and semantics have little to say about
such items as well, now, right, OK, anyway, you
know, I see, hello, bye-bye. Syntax has little to say
about them, since they make no syntactic predictions.
Most, if not all, have uses in which they are
potentially complete utterances. Nor does semantics
have much to say about such items, since when they
are not used in their literal meanings, they have no
property of thesis: that is, they have no propositional
content. For this reason, they are common at the
closing of conversations, where they can be used
without introducing new topics. This transactionmanagement function relates them to summonses
such as hey! or John! and to greetings and farewells
Further, such items are purely performative
and have no truth value: to say hello to
someone is to greet them. The other main
fact about such items is that they are
essentially interactive, and almost all are
restricted to spoken language. When
utterance-initial, the function of items such as
well, now, and right is to relate utterances to
each other, or to mark a boundary in the
discourse. Some (e.g. now, anyhow) may be
used to mark initial boundaries of units of
written or spoken language, and they are
Some of the main points about such items can be
made in a discussion of well. The lexical item well
has several different functions and meanings. As an
adjective, it can contrast with ill. (He was ill, but is
well again now.) As an adverb it can modify a
following item. ( He is well qualified. ) However,
when well occurs utterance-initially, it does not
generally have what might be referred to as these
literal interpretations. In utterance-initial position,
there is little agreement about what part of speech it
is. If we are restricted to traditional part of speech
categories, then it is presumably as adverb. However,
it has also been labeled interjection, filler, initiator, or
has been given ‘the suitably vague and central term
In its use as an utterance-initial particle, it is almost
entirely restricted to spoken English, where it is very
common. In this function, it is notoriously difficult to
translate into foreign languages, and it is notoriously
poorly explained in dictionaries. This is because it has
no propositional content, and also because
dictionaries are mainly based on written data.
Utterance-initially, it usually has one of two functions.
It may have a rather general introductory function
(Well, what shall we do?). In such positions, it may
be more or less synonymous with now, so OK, right,
anyway, and may function as a disjunction marker
indicating a break with what has gone immediately
before, and the initial boundary of a new selection of
Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) refer to this
function as a frame. Alternatively, if well
occur utterance-initially after a question, it
indicates an indirect answer, claiming
relevance although admitting a shift in topic.
Labov and Fanshel (1977:156) call such items
discourse markers. In other words, well can
indicate a break in the discourse, a shift in
the topic, or as a preface to modifying some
assumptions in what has gone before, or as a
preface to closing the topic and potentially
the whole conversation.