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Super Linguistics

Super Linguistics is an emerging sub-field of linguistics that applies formal linguistic methodology to objects of study beyond language, such as gestures, music, dance, and non-verbal pictorial representations.

Wood with trees in front, lake, mountain and sky. Photo.

About the Group

The members of this group are researchers who are interested in linguistic investigations beyond language, which thus fall under the umbrella term of Super Linguistics. Current areas of exploration within the group include the following.

Meaningful body movement

This research focuses on how meaning can be expressed through body movement, such as gesture (ie, movements of the hands, face, or other parts of the body that accompany or replace speech) and dance. Specific research topics include: formal semantic analysis of discourse-managing gestures, pointing gestures, dance, and the dance-music interface, as well as cross-cultural variation in how a particular meaning can be expressed through body movement.

Cross-species comparison of gesture inventories in human and non-human primates

This line of inquiry probes for atomic meaning components and potential universals in meaningful body movement by comparing humans to non-human primates. We explore the question of whether gestures that are shared across different species of great apes can still be detected in human adults.


This direction focuses on how emoji are used to convey meaning in written online communication. One specific topic currently under investigation is the differences between affective and non-affective emoji, and how users determine the anchoring to individuals who carry roles such as Agent or Experiencer with regards to the event or state described by the emoji.


This direction focuses on how meaning is expressed and structured in pictorial representations. Specific questions of interest include how we interpret various aspects of a given pictorial representation depending on its pragmatic intent and how these various aspects of pictorial content combine with each other to form complex meanings.

International Activities and Cooperation

The Super Linguistics research group fosters international collaborations both through the colloquium series and joint research projects (See the events page for a list of local and international Super Linguistics activities.)

The Super Linguistics Research Group, together with LINGUAE , established an international Super Linguistics network which connects researchers from linguistics, anthropology, biology, cognitive science, musicology, neuroscience, philosophy, primatology and psychology, conducting Super Linguistics research.

Tags: gestures, music, dance, non-verbal pictorial representations, animal calls and gestures
Published Aug. 16, 2018 12:37 PM - Last modified Mar. 29, 2022 12:17 PM