Carnegie Mellon University

Rhetoric and Reflexivity in Chomskyan and Cognitive Linguistics

Author: Chris Werry
Degree: Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Carnegie Mellon University, 2002

This dissertation analyzes the rhetoric of Chomskyan and cognitive linguistics. Drawing on work in the rhetoric of inquiry, rhetorical theory, and the integrationalist school of linguistics, the dissertation examines some of the major topoi, tropes and rhetorical strategies that both characterize and enable knowledge production within Chomskyan and cognitive linguistics. A central claim made in the dissertation is that the idea of language as a unified, stable, coherent disciplinary object that is 'found' rather than 'made', and which is amenable to scientific analysis depends on a set of rhetorical strategies that work to repress various aspects of the reflexive practices carried out both by language users and linguists. The dissertation describes how the repression of reflexivity within Chomskyan and cognitive linguistics has played an important role in linguistic inquiry. I argue that this repression has contributed to linguistics divorcing itself from the cultural and rhetorical dimensions of communicative practices. The dissertation also focuses on several other key aspects of the rhetoric of Chomskyan and cognitive linguistics. I argue that both theories of language are deeply "ocularcentric." While a range of figurative expressions characterize Chomskyan and cognitive linguistic discourse, ocular metaphors and references are assigned a place of particular importance. The assumption that language exists primarily as something visible, that it can be represented in terms of comparisons with various forms of visual phenomenon, and that linguistic analysis can be understood as a kind of visual perception, has been integral to the objects, concepts, data and methodologies that characterize both areas of inquiry. This study examines the role visual imagery plays in Chomskyan and cognitive linguistics texts, and considers the rhetorical work it is used to carry out. I also argue that ocularcentrism and the repression of reflexivity can be traced in part to the influence of what Roy Harris dubs 'scriptism', or the influence of written models on theories of language, as well as to the influence of computational models and analogies. I thus examine how writing and the classificatory spaces written form make possible influence the representation of language in Chomskyan linguistics.