Frame negotiation: From discourse strategies to conceptual structures

Lukeš D. Frame negotiation: From discourse strategies to conceptual structures. In: International Cognitive Linguistics Conference. Krakow; 2007.

One of the points of convergence for most cognitively-minded treatments of language today seems to be the concept of "frame". It appears in cognitive linguistics as well as other branches of language study in a variety of guises. Fillmore first used it to investigate the semantics of lexical items which was later extended by Lakoff into the concept of Idealized Cognitive Models. Some aspects of frames appear in the idea of "domain" as used by the conceptual metaphor theory. Frame-like constructs also come up in theories of online processing of language. In that case, they are referred to as 'mental models', 'spaces', or 'scenarios'. Although probably the most complete treatment of the phenomenon was given by Lakoff (1987) under the label of Idealized Cognitive Models, the term "frame" has received much attention in both more recent theorizing and popular treatments. I prefer to use‘frame’ because of the similarities it allows us to observe with other areas of linguistics that have so far stayed out of the cognitive-linguistic fold. The term itself was first introduced by the ethnomethodologist Erving Goffman in 1975 and it has remained popular ever since in fields such as conversation analysis (Tannen 1993) and anthropology (Strauss and Quinn 1997). In particular, conversation analysis, and discourse analysis in general, have much to offer to the cognitive linguistic enterprise with their emphasis on longer stretches of language than simply the phrase or sentence which are the mainstays of most, though by no means all, cognitive linguistic investigations at present.
Conceptual frames have been studied in all possible contexts from phonology or morphology to syntax or semantics. However, most of these studies have been concerned with the unconscious processing of frames both online and off-line (i.e. long-term entrenchment within the conceptual system). While that is of course of immense and immediate interests to cognitive science, it has led us to neglect some of the more overt aspects of frames can in daily discourse. Frames are not merely some lexeme-like constructs stored within the brain, they are actively negotiated in the course of meaning creation, which after all is the cornerstone of language processing as viewed through the spectacles of cognitive linguistics. Frame negotiation is not a simple process, and neither does it subject itself to a unified analysis. On one hand, it could be said to be a type of conceptual integration, however, these processes are not well enough understood to be able to shed light on the phenomenon without insights from fields dealing with the pragmatic context of speech. But viewing frame negotiation simply as a pragmatic discourse strategy is not sufficient, either. Only a combination of these approaches can bring satisfactory results.
In this paper, I will demonstrate how frame negotiation occurs in both public and private discourse on a variety of examples. I will then show what cognitive and discursive processes are involved in frame negotiation and how their study can elucidate some issues faced by blending theory and construction grammar on the one hand, and political applications of frame analysis, on the other. Moreover, I will present the claim that frame negotiation is more common than it might appear at first glance. In fact, it is possible that our account of conceptual structures can only be complete if we take the negotiation of frames of reference into consideration. As an added bonus, this approach will serve to bring cognitive linguistics closer with discourse analysis (cf. attempts by Werth 1999, Langacker 2001) which is likely to be as beneficial as its encounters with cognitive psychology and ethnography.