Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework of our project is formed by recent developments in cognitive linguistics and cognitive poetics. These disciplines are the theoretical foundation of our programme, and form a solid ground for stylistic analysis. Within this framework, two notions are of crucial importance: 1) the cognitive linguistic notion of 'construal', and 2) connecting micro- and macro-levels of analysis.

A central theoretical concept which is an integral part of all three subprojects is the cognitive linguistic notion of ‘construal’, i.e. the way in which language users create images of the world that also could have been different, by using specific linguistic devices. For instance, if the utterance “It is possible that John will come” is true, than the same holds for “It is not impossible that John will come”, and vice versa. However, the second sentence evokes the image of someone who is carefully weighing all kinds of things, and with that the utterance clearly gives another picture of John than the first utterance. Taking the cognitive linguistic notion of construal as starting point, and on the basis of the many results of research into various forms of construal, the effect(s) of these kinds of differences in style and language usage will be studied and analyzed in detail.  

Connecting micro- and macro-levels of analysis
Connecting micro- and macro-levels of analysis in another integral part of the programme. Stylistic analysis is most successful when it demonstrates how certain macro-features of the interpretation of a text are actually produced at the micro-level (in the choice of words, grammatical constructions, and combinations of these). The effect that a text as a whole has on readers, is not the simple sum of all effects at the micro level (if only because there are also ‘top-down’ processes taking place during reading), but the choice of specific expressions, indicating particular aspects of construal (like the given “John-example” above), does constribute to the effect of the whole. A good example is Anbeek & Verhagen (2001), when they show how the image of uncertainty of the protagonist of Voskuil’s Het Bureau about the inner life of other human beings is produced by the presence of emotional-evaluative adjectives in noun phrases denoting observable behavior of other people (‘a shy nod’, ‘a plaintive voice’), and their absence in predicative constructions (no expressions like ‘She appeared to be a shy person’). For literary studies and rhetoric, the innovative feature here is that the micro-level is also a focus of analysis. For linguistics, the reverse is true: macro-effects that play a central role in literary and rhetorical studies constitute a new area of applying and testing linguistic insights.

Last Modified: 23-06-2008