Ronald Wayne Langacker (born December 27, 1942) is an American linguist and professoremeritus at the University of California, San Diego. He is best known as one of the founders of the cognitive linguistics movement and the creator of cognitive grammar. He has also made significant contributions to the comparative study of Uto-Aztecan languages, publishing several articles on historical Uto-Aztecan linguistics, as well as editing collections of grammar sketches of under-described Uto-Aztecan languages.
Born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Langacker received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1966. From 1966 until 2003, he was professor of linguistics at the University of California, San Diego. From 1997 until 1999 he also served as president of the International Cognitive Linguistics Association.
Langacker develops the central ideas of cognitive grammar in his seminal, two-volume Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, which became a major departure point for the emerging field of cognitive linguistics. Cognitive grammar treats human languages as consisting solely of semantic units, phonological units, and symbolic units (conventional pairings of phonological and semantic units). Like construction grammar, and unlike many mainstream linguistic theories, cognitive grammar extends the notion of symbolic units to the grammar of languages. Langacker further assumes that linguistic structures are motivated by general cognitive processes. In formulating his theory, he makes extensive use of principles of gestalt psychology and draws analogies between linguistic structure and aspects of visual perception.
- Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, Volume I, Theoretical Prerequisites. Ronald W. Langacker. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-8047-1261-1.
- Concept, Image, and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of Grammar. Ronald W. Langacker. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1991. ISBN 3-11-012863-2, ISBN 0-89925-820-4.
- Foundations of Cognitive Grammar, Volume II, Descriptive Application. Ronald W. Langacker. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8047-1909-8.
- Grammar and Conceptualization. Ronald W. Langacker. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1999. ISBN 3-11-016603-8.
- Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction. Ronald W. Langacker. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-533196-7.
- "After I ran over the cat with our car, there was cat all over the driveway." (Concept, Image, and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of Grammar, p. 73)
- "I can think of a unicorn with daisies growing out of its nostrils, but I don't need a name for it."
This is the first volume of a two-volume work that introduces a new and fundamentally different conception of language structure and linguistic investigation. The central claim of cognitive grammar is that grammar forms a continuum with lexicon and is fully describable in terms of symbolic units (i.e. form-meaning pairings). In contrast to current orthodoxy, the author argues that grammar is not autonomous with respect to semantics, but rather reduces to patterns for the structuring and symbolization of conceptual content.
It is impossible within the limits of a review to discuss, or even do justice to, the wealth of information and genuine insights that the book contains. . . . Let us look forward to seeing the continuation of this promising approach to language. Langacker has written a highly stimulating first part; it will be exciting to see the sequel.
Canadian Journal of Linguistics
It represents important changes in the thrust of linguistic approaches to language. . . . It is rich, full, and thought-provoking. . . . The issues it raises are significant and will be much debated in the future.
Understanding Langacker s grammar is made easier by the fact that, instead of using mathematical formalisms to prove his points, he uses common knowledge of language to persuade the reader. . . . The book is valuable for several factors in addition to its clarification of grammar. The insights into verbal thought and meaning are prime reasons for recommending the book to the semantically inclined.