Cognitive Grammar and Readers’ Perceived Sense of Closeness: A Study of Responses to Mary Borden’s ‘Belgium’

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This article analyses the degree to which readers report a perceived
sense of closeness to the events depicted in ‘Belgium’, the opening story
of Mary Borden’s The Forbidden Zone. Theoretically, I draw on Ronald
Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar, which models language primarily
through its notion of construal, an aspect of which claims that -ing forms
impose an internal perspective on a scene that results in the
interpretative effect of it being ‘close by’. This study tests this idea
empirically by utilising a quantitative tool (Likert scale) to elicit two sets
of verbal data which are then analysed qualitatively. My analysis
demonstrates that readers respond to the events in the story and
articulate the relationship of particular language features to their
responses in different – and often surprising – ways. The study is the
first in stylistics to empirically test the interpretative effects of verb
forms as theorised by Cognitive Grammar and thus contributes new
knowledge both by exploring how the landscapes of First World War
literature are experienced by readers and analysing how the language of
those landscapes may give rise to particular reported effects by readers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-427
JournalLanguage and Literature
Issue number3
Early online date4 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

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  • Cognitive Grammar
  • First World War literature
  • Mary Borden
  • The Forbidden Zone
  • empirical stylistics
  • landscapes
  • reader response


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