LINGUIST List 9.854

Tue Jun 9 1998

Sum: Constructivism and Ling

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>




    Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998 00:56:43 +0200
    From: Ralf <>


    0. Introduction

    I thank all the people who informed me about constructivist linguistics approaches, and I was very happy to find some interested linguists who would like to know more about constructivism or constructivist linguistics. especially, i had some email discussions which were/are very interesting.

    Science-theoretically, "constructivism" is multi-facetted and far from being a unified theory. there is a kind of common sense, however, the smallest common denominator being probably the concept of self-organisation of systems. // The main proponents of the new scientific paradigm (as mentioned by colleagues) are: jean piaget; heinz von foerster, e. von glasersfeld; humberto maturana, francisco j. varela; siegfried j. schmidt, gebhard rusch; berger & luckmann, and still some others.

    1. Interested in (getting ((any) further) infos on) Constructivism:

    Kath Copley <> Gert Westermann <> Kazuko Shinohara <> Friederike Spitzl-Dupic <> Charles Belair <> David Scarratt <> Martin Stegu <> Martin Stegu <> Susana Sotillo <> Richard Schrodt <> Wolfgang Schulze <> Tobias Schoofs <> Juergen Broschart <am004mail1.rrz.Uni-Koeln.DE> Anita Fetzer <> Sylvia Moosmueller <> Ralf Vollmann <>

    2. Web pages:

    2.1. linguists (Wolfgang Schulze) (Gert Westermann) (Gert Westermann) (Elisabeth Bates)

    2.2. constructivist websites:

    (some may be wrong or inadequate... had no time to check again.) (on Heinz von Foerster) (organisers of workshops)

    3. Constructivist work in linguistics:

    Two people informed me about the linguistics section ("Linguistik und Konstruktivismus") at a recent congress (30.04.-03.05.1998) in Heidelberg, 'Ways of Worldmaking; The Reality of Constructivism II' ("Weisen der Welterzeugung"), a section organised by Juergen Broschart, University of Koeln <>. Please have a look at for details about this event, where a complete list of the speeches can be found.

    Gert Westermann (, Centre for Cognitive Science, University of Edinburgh, works on constructivist approaches to language and cognition; he has recently developed a constructivist neural network that learns the English Past Tense. (see

    Martin Stegu's <> works contain constructivist linguistics approaches in communication research. Cf. and reference below.

    Anita Fetzer <> is doing research in context - contextual function based on Habermas's concept of validity claim, Goffman's frame analysis, systemic grammar, and ethnomethodology, and is interested in work done on SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY and SYSTEM THEORY.

    Susana Sotillo's <> recent paper presented at the March 1997 AAAL conference on language learning partnerships and the co-construction of an electronic zpd is to be submitted for publication. It is not explicitly on constructivism, but has considered this theory. (see

    Wolfgang Schulze <> is working on a constructivist language theory ("Konstruktivistische Sprachtheorie"), in which the "grammar of scenes and scenarios" is developed. A book series is going to appear, cf.

    Tobias Schoofs <> is working within a more "classical" constructivist framework (a la piaget). Especially, he and his colleagues are designing machine translation programs whose semantic problems are to be solved with artificial neural networks (ANNs). Cf.

    I myself will mention here the international child language acquisition project directed by wolfgang u. dressler <> from vienna, austria. its main theory is exposed in dressler & karpf 1995 (see below).

    Cognitive grammarians (Scott DeLancey <>, George Lakoff and others) have been mentioned to be working in a quite similar way. Constructivist ideas are also said to be found in 'more cognitivist' linguistics (e.g. Steven Pinker, etc.).

    Special interest was uttered whether syntax has ever been analysed in a constructivist way. -- After what I found out now, I would hint to the work of Scott DeLancey and other cognitive grammarians, who indeed are proceeding similarly to what might be a constructivist approach, although without using this label, see ""; for electronic papers. -- Cf. also Schulze above, of course.

    4. Litterature:

    Stegu, Martin 1997: Semiotik und (pluraler) Konstruktivismus. in: Bernard Jeff (ed.): Welt der Zeichen, Welt der Dinge. Wien: OeGS (= Angewandte Semiotik 15).

    Fetzer, Anita 1997: Konversationsanalyse und Konversationsunterricht. Zeitschrift fr Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht [online], 2,1., pp.29

    Fetzer, Anita n.d.: Contextualization in a German-English context: face-wants/needs and information-wants/needs. In Raasch, Albert. (ed.). Language teaching to adults, http://www.phil.uni-

    I quoted only electronic papers here; for more references, please contact Anita Fetzer

    - cf. also the homepages of the above-mentioned colleagues for references.

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    Schulze, Wolfgang 1998: Person - Klasse - Kongruenz (PKK). Fragmente einer Kategorialtypologie des einfachen Satzes in den ostkaukasischen Sprachen. Band I: Die Grundlagen. Mnchen: Lincom, to appear.

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    Dressler, Wolfgang U. & Annemarie Peltzer-Karpf 1995: The theoretical relevance of Pre- and Protomorphology in language acquisition. in: G. Booij & J. van Marle (eds.): Yearbook of Morphology 1994, 99-122.

    Dressler, Wolfgang U. (ed.) 1997: Studies in Pre- and Protomorphology. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences.

    Dziubalska-Kolaczyk, Katarzyna (ed.) 1997: Papers and Studies in Contrastive Linguistics 33. Poznan.

    Gillis, Steven (ed.) 1998: Antwerp Papers In Linguistics. Vol 95. Universiteit Anwerpen.


    Humberto Maturana & Francisco Varela [1987]. The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Shambhala : Boston & London. [orig.: El arbol des conocimiento // German: Der Baum der Erkenntnis.]

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    Berger, Peter L. & Thomas Luckmann 1966: The social construction of reality. [= B&L 1969: Die gesellschaftliche Konstruktion der Wirklichkeit. Eine Theorie der Wissenssoziologie. Fischer Tb.]

    Hirschauer, Stefan 1993: Die soziale Konstruktion der Transsexualitt.

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    Foerster, H. v. et al. (1992) Einfhrung in den Konstruktivismus. Mnchen: Piper.

    For publications by Heinz von Foerster, Ernst von Glasersfeld, and others, please have a look at the above-mentioned websites.


    So thank you all once again for the information. please keep on informing or contacting me. best regards, ralf vollmann