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Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association

Editor-in-Chief: Stefanowitsch, Anatol / Schoenefeld, Doris

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Constructions of purpose: A corpus-based analysis of corporate mission statements

Birgitta Meex / Geert Brône / Cornelia Wermuth
Published Online: 2013-12-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/gcla-2013-0009


The various incarnations of cognitive linguistics can be characterized by a common contextualized view on linguistic structure. Emerging from this philosophical cornerstone of the cognitive-linguistic enterprise is a growing body of research that systematically inquires into the intricate interplay of the cognitive, social and situational dimensions determining grammatical and lexical choice. The present paper ties in with current explorations of the interface between cognition, pragmatics and grammar through a corpus-based study of the grammatical and discursive construction of purpose. We argue that constructions marking such goal-oriented actions provide a valuable resource for the study of the grammar-discourse interface, because they (implicitly or explicitly) involve a positioning on various axes, including modal, temporal, force-dynamic and interpersonal.

In order to answer the onomasiological question of how purpose is expressed in discourse, and how the above axes interact in motivating the choice for a specific grammatical construction, we conducted an exploratory corpus study, based on authentic German data. The specific text genre that we selected for our analysis is that of corporate mission statements (Leitbilder), which provide an interesting locus for investigating purposivity, since they contain a concise statement of an organization’s chief purpose for existence. A qualitative analysis reveals that this genre makes use of specific grammatical patterns that profile positions and developments along different conceptual dimensions. This conceptual multidimensionality provides the possibility to simultaneously highlight or background different aspects associated with constructions of purpose.

Keywords : modality; purpose; discourse; force dynamics; corporate mission statements

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Published Online: 2013-12-18

Published in Print: 2013-12-01

Citation Information: Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 151–174, ISSN (Online) 2197-2796, ISSN (Print) 2197-2788, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/gcla-2013-0009.

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