Super Linguistics Colloquium Series
Spring 2021 Schedule
Note: If not indicated otherwise, talks will take place on Zoom. The time zone is Central European Time (Oslo local time). If you would like to attend the talk, please send an email to Pritty Patel-Grosz.
Despite their differences, human language and the vocal communication of nonhuman primates share many features. Both constitute forms of coordinated activity, rely on many shared neural mechanisms, and involve discrete, combinatorial cognition that includes rich pragmatic inference. These common features suggest that during evolution the ancestors of all modern primates faced similar social problems and responded with similar systems of communication and cognition. When language later evolved from this common foundation, many of its distinctive features were already present.
In a recent paper, we presented a Meaning-First approach (MFA) to grammar (Sauerland & Alexiadou 2020, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.571295). In this talk, we discuss the potential this view might have to generate perspectives and research questions for super-linguistic phenomena. The three relevant assumptions of the MFA are the following: i) complex thought-structure generation is independent of language and occurs in species other than humans, ii) humans can communicate thoughts by compression into an articulateable form, and iii) cognitive systems other than logical thought can (and do) intrude in the compression / articulation process adding a socio-emotive dimension. After introducing the MFA, we argue that phenomena involving different communicative modalities can easily be accommodated in the MFA because language-independent representations are central to it. Two specific applications of the MFA, we then discuss are a) an account of multi-modal code-blending as parallel compression (Branchini & Donati 2016, 10.5334/gjgl.29) and b) the interaction between ellipsis and the intrusion of socio-emotive content.