Language and Conceptual SystemsConstruction Grammar: Professors Fillmore, Kay, Lakoff, Sweetser, and Wilensky are working together on a unified theoretical system that integrates the often separately-treated domains of syntax, morphology, semantics, pragmatics, and the lexicon. Using advanced computational techniques, this approach associates each lexical element or construction with its properties in grammar, meaning, and usage. Full sentences or larger discourse units are then constructed by linking together individual lexical elements or constructions in accord with their specific properties.
Cognitive Linguistics: Developing further an approach to language that was largely pioneered at Berkeley, Professors Feldman, Fillmore, Kay, Lakoff, Rhodes, Slobin and Sweetser are exploring the relations between linguistic structure and conceptual structure, and modeling these relations in computational systems, particularly connectionist networks. The central concern of this project is analyzing the similarities and differences among languages in how they express and organize conceptual material - such as space and time, motion and location, force interactions, point of view and focus of attention - with special emphasis on the role of metaphor and metonymy in structuring these domains.
Child Language Development: Berkeley has been the center for one of the two prevailing views of language acquisition. While others have followed Chomsky's view which treats language as an independent "module" with a structure that is largely innately determined, the Berkeley view has emphasized the close connections between the development of language and its functional significance, particularly its relation to cognition and cognitive development. Professors Slobin, Ervin-Tripp, and Gopnik have also been particularly concerned with variation in language and language acquisition, variation across languages, across cultures and across different groups in society. This functional view of language acquisition has been the base for a highly productive and diverse research program.