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Sunday, January 23, 2011

cognitive approaches to language

One thing l like about linguistics; there is no orthodoxy. Unless perhaps you fall in with a crowd of Late-Chomsky true believers who speak a sort of esoteric language known only the very small inner circle of 32nd degree Chomsky disciples. Out in the real world where linguists actually do things, like translate the bible into ethnic minority languages, the body of language theory that any given translation consultant will be working with will often be made of up an eclectic selection of bits and pieces of many different schools of thought.

This eclecticism can make monographs on language theory and translation difficult to read. It has been about thirty years since I was first introduced to Generative Grammar by a not-quite-a-PhD colleague who had studied early Chomsky at the Univ of Washington. I started by reading the Cambridge series of text books on Generative Grammar, theory that was already over twenty years old. Around a decade later I started reading different sorts of functionalists like T. Givon, S. Dik, and M.A.K. Halliday. Just after the turn of the century I got introduced to cognitive approaches by reading Reinier de Blois :  

Reinier de Blois, Towards a New Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew Based on Semantic Domains.,   United Bible Societies 2001

Blakemore, Diane. 1992. Understanding Utterances. Oxford: Blackwell.

Carston, R. 2002. Thoughts and Utterances: The Pragmatics of Explicit Communication. Oxford: Blackwell.

Gutt, Ernst-August 1992.  Relevance Theory: A Guide to Successful Communication in Translation, Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and New York: United Bible Societies.

Gutt, Ernst-August 2000. Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context , Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing (2 nd edition).

In last few years there have been some  monographs from SIL people, two of which I found particularly helpful.

A Relevance Theoretic approach to the particle hINA in Koine Greek
Margaret Gavin Sim PhD, 2006

Scenarios, Discourse, and Translation
The scenario theory of Cognitive Linguistics,
its relevance for analysing New Testament Greek
and modern Parkari texts,
and its implications for translation theory
Richard A. Hoyle

What I really like about E-A Gutt, M. Sim, and R. Hoyle is the application oriented presentation of the theory. In other words, the theory is demonstrated in practice so you can see what is means in terms of solving actual translation problems. 

cognitive linguistics and the doctrine of scripture

In 2010, I started thinking about the implications of inference based communication models (e.g. Relevance Theory) for the doctrine of scripture. I tried to run this by a couple of translation consultants and they just threw up their hands; "we don't do theology" which is not exactly what they said but that is how I understood their response.

I took a look at the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy" which was published over period of years late 70's early 80's to see to what extent the document assumed a code model of language. The answer to this isn't straight forward. In the discussion of hermeneutics the problem of language and cultural frameworks was certainly addressed. However, I think if you were to take a long hard look at the assumptions about language shared by the contributors to "Chicago Statement", I think the code model of language would be discovered as common denominator. I am still mulling this over.


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