Categories and Units in Language and Linguistics CULL

The Conference:

International Conference:
Categories and Units in Language and Linguistics
9th-10th. April 2018, Wałbrzych, Poland

Plenary Speakers:

Prof. Alan Cienki
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands & Moscow State Linguistic University, Russia

Insights on the nature of language from the study of gesture units

Given the tight connections between gesture use and speech production (McNeill 1992), one might logically expect there to be gestural units that are analogous to linguistic units. To some degree, these expectations are borne out; witness the gesture units described by Kendon (1980), McNeill (1992), and others. In short, they are claimed to consist of a starting rest position, preparation, main stroke phase, a possible hold, and retraction to a rest position. However, anyone who has attempted to do annotations of gesture using video data quickly realizes the degree to which this schema represents an idealization of actual behavior. Some of the complexities include the frequent phenomenon of multiple-stroke gesture units, sometimes with only subtle movement changes possibly indicating different strokes; the use of sequences of strokes that can form sets within a larger unit; and the repetition of similar gestures across a unit of discourse that can serve as markers of discourse coherence (McNeill & Levy 1993).

While phoneticians face some similar analytical challenges, with speech production as a continuous flow that needs to be parsed for analysis, gesturing by speakers of a given language does not comprise a set of “gesturemes”, comparable to phonemes or morphemes. Rather, there is a continuum of degrees to which gestures have a conventional communicative status (Kendon 1988). Ultimately, we see that studying speakers’ gestures raises larger questions about talk as a polysemiotic communicative system. Spoken language, intonation, gesture, and other means of embodied expression are semiotic systems that overlap with each other to varying degrees, and along various time scales (Cienki 2012, 2015, 2017), in communication as a complex dynamic system (Ellis & Larsen-Freeman 2009).

Prof. Ewa Dąbrowska
University of Birmingham, UK

Usage patterns and cognitive routines: Reflections on the status of linguistic units

There are two complementary perspectives for examining linguistic units: linguistic units as patterns of language use, or as cognitive routines for producing or comprehending utterances. Since languages are produced by human minds, most cognitive linguists assume that there is a fairly direct correspondence between the two: that is to say, usage patterns exist because speakers have acquired certain generalizations about their language and apply them when producing utterances. In this presentation, I argue that this is not always the case, and therefore, it is important to distinguish between the two perspectives.

There are patterns in language which are not explicitly represented in speakers’ minds, or at least not in all speakers minds. This is partly because linguistic knowledge, including grammatical knowledge, is distributed: that is to say, individual speakers know only a subset of the constructions that are arguably present in the language, and partly because different speakers may represent “the same” knowledge at different levels of abstraction. In addition, patterns may arise not because speakers “know” something, but simply because they do what is easiest for them.

When we study units of language in cognitive terms, we need to distinguish between units in the sense of stored form-meaning pairings and units in the sense of the cognitive routines that underlie language use. This has interesting consequences. Different speakers (or even the same speaker on different occasions) may produce the same utterance in different ways. Furthermore, the cognitive routines used in production are almost certainly different from those used in comprehension. I conclude with some suggestions on how research on language acquisition and processing might inform decisions about what counts as a linguistic unit.

Prof. Henryk Kardela
Maria Curie Skłodowska University, Poland

Emergent Categories in Derivational Morphology: A Cognitive Grammar Perspective

Adopting Ronald Langacker’s grammar-as-viewing perspective on linguistic structure, the presentation makes use of Langacker’s (2016) conception of Baseline/Elaboration (B/E-organization) to account for the emergence of morphological categories. Taking as a point of departure Langacker’s assertion that ‘[he] (…) embrace[s] the spirit of classic Saussurean diagrams […], with the understanding that explicit, substantive characterization is required for the elements they depict’ (Langacker 1987:11), the presentation examines the nature of this characterization. It is claimed that the B/E approach to morphology, according to which ‘structure and function (…) are indissociable, like the two sides of a coin’ (p. 24), is eminently suited to account for the dynamicity of the semasiology-onomasiology relationship (cf. Grzegorczykowa and Szymanek 1993, Panther and Thornburg 2003, Dirven and Verspoor 2004, Štekauer 2004, Janda 2011) between the signifier and the signified in the emergent morphological structure.

Prof. Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk
State University of Applied Sciences, Konin / University of Łódź , Poland

Categories of the third kind: language and the outside world

The question asked in the present analysis concerns the relationship between what is known as an onomasiological versus semasiological analysis in language (e.g., Wierzchowski 1980) and relates to discussions regarding the degree to which linguists may or should deal with real-world phenomena rather than focusing on a linguistic system only. The question also involves research in the identification and analysis of similarities and contrasts in a cross-linguistic perspective in this respect.  A more precise focus of the paper is on what can be called categories of the third kind, the term introduced by Rudi Keller (1994) in a diachronic context, here used with reference to concepts which share their characteristics between physical/physiological and mental properties and dimensions, discussed by reference to the concept of time and exemplified in more detail by emotion meanings in English and Polish.  The analysis will first focus on their real-world contribution to the analysis, then on the framework of its shift towards conceptual and translational clustering.

The present paper advances the analysis of the conceptual approximation of meanings in more detail (Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk 2010, 2012) on the example of basic and self-conscious emotion categories and presents a multidisciplinary approach to the study of such units (Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk & Wilson 2016; Wilson & Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk 2017). This approach combines data from observation, online tasks and questionnaire knowledge (Fontaine et al. 2013, Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk & Wilson 2016) with corpus-based cognitive linguistic methodology (Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk & Dziwirek 2009, Dziwirek & Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk 2010, Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk & Wilson 2013).

Since the publication of the influential book by Ekman (2004) on the universality of basic emotion facial expressions, the thesis has been supported or challenged by numerous studies. The study presented here, which combines an inter-methodological approach, is a voice against parts of the universality thesis concerning the researched concepts and categories.


The aim of CULL is to bring together scholars of varied disciplines to explore CATEGORIES and UNITS used in language study, language pedagogy, psychology of language and psychology from a range of perspectives. By applying a variety of analytical, and empirical tools and concepts, contributors will hopefully demonstrate:

  • how categories and units relate to the specific disciplines and sub-disciplines and how they influence and/or possibly constrain theory and model building
  • what theoretical influences have led to their proposal
  • what is their past, and present status
  • how they may change in the future
  • how they can be studied with the use of empirical methodology: survey, experiment, corpus

Although other topics may be considered, we welcome papers dealing with, but not limited to, issues such as the following:

  • models and theories of categorisation
  • categories from the point of view of different schools of linguistics, language pedagogy, didactics, psychology
  • categories used in EAP, ESP and other aspects of language teaching
  • categories at different levels of linguistic description: phonology, morphology, study of meaning, discourse, pragmatics
  • categories in the study of gestures
  • mental categories that relate to linguistic functioning
  • categories used in cognitive psychology vis a vis those used in cognitive linguistics
  • units and categories in analysis of human behaviour
  • units and categories used in literary studies and analysis
  • literary genres, analyses
  • units and categories in art
  • creative writing
  • categories used in statistics as applied to the study of language, but also glottodidactics, and language acquisition
  • categories that pertain to the study of human cognition and affectivity, emotions
  • historical outlooks on the development of units and their status in general linguistics, cognitive linguistics, functional linguistics, didactics, psychology of language, educational psychology
  • units and categories used in the study of communication, inter-cultural communication, pragmatics.

The list is not exhaustive. Especially papers and presentations that use empirical methodology  are welcome.

The primary language of the conference is English, but presentations in Polish are also welcome.
Językiem głównym konferencji jest język angielski, ale przyjmujemy również prezentacje w języku polskim.
Link do pobrania pierwszego ogłoszenia konferencyjnego w języku polskim: