The semiotics of motion encoding in Early English: a cognitive semiotic analysis of phrasal verbs in Old and Middle English

Semiotica 2023 (251):55-91 (2023)
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Abstract

This paper offers a renewed construction grammar analysis of linguistic constructions in a diachronic perspective. The present theory, termedAgentive Cognitive Construction Grammar(AgCCxG), is informed byactive inference(AIF), a process theory for the comprehension of intelligent agency. AgCCxG defends the idea that language bear traces of non-linguistic, bodily-acquired information that reflects sémiotico-biological processes of energy exchange and conservation. One of the major claims of the paper is that embodied cognition has evolved to facilitate ontogenic mental alignment among humans. This is demonstrated by the results of a corpus study in which the patterns of association between verbs, the particle UP and argument structure in Old and Middle English have been studied. The conclusion is that, similar to biological systems, the linguistic sign system displays patterns of equilibrium and non-equilibrium. In other words, while in Old English usage near equilibrium was reached through the use of a conservative set of constructional semiotic templates (attachment patterns), associated with motor modalities, Middle English displays high rates of randomness resulting in a less stable, yet distinct, system of constructional attachment.

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