Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2213-8706
  • E-ISSN: 2213-8714
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This paper points out that certain frequently used terms in linguistic literature, such as“prominent/salient” and “background/ground”, are in fact interpreted differently or even contrarily in Functional Grammar and Cognitive Grammar. The paper attributes their diversified interpretations to the fundamental differences between these two linguistic schools in terms of paradigm and methodology, i.e. to focus on communicative activities of speech and discourse rules or on cognitive abilities and rules. The paper claims that “prominence” as a concept in cognitive grammar mainly relates to the speaker’s concerns, and can be more specifically reworded as topicality or accessibility since it, while conflicting with the focus-stress pattern, mostly conforms to the syntactic hierarchy of syntactic functions and the accessibility hierarchy of NPs, with the case being that the higher position an element occupies in the syntactic hierarchy the more prominent it is cognitively; “prominence” in Functional Grammar, however, mainly relates to the communicative function and the information status of the relevant elements, which thus can be more specifically reworded as focus or focusing, and it mostly conforms to the focus-stress pattern but conflicts with the syntactic hierarchy, with the case being that the more deeply an element is syntactically embedded the more prominent it is functionally. Some controversial opinions about emphasized elements in certain Chinese constructions might arise from the diversified interpretations of the relevant terms. On this basis, the paper further discusses certain problems existing in the ‘figure-background’ theory in cognitive grammar.


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