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Levinson awarded prestigious ERC Advanced Grant
Photo Bert Beelen
December 2, 2010
The research will be guided by the hypothesis of ‘The Interaction Engine’ (Levinson 2006), which holds that human interactive abilities are distinct from, and phylogenetically older than, our language capacity. Inverting current views, the hypothesis suggests that the interaction system is fundamentally ethological and universal, while the language system lacks many universals and is largely diversified by cultural evolution.
The interaction system and language system therefore do not mesh neatly, and this can be detected in the domain of contingent action sequences – the crucial characteristic of human communicative interaction. Two specific areas,
(a) the timing of turn-taking and
(b) the ascription of speech acts or intentions;
will each be examined from three distinct disciplinary perspectives:
(i) cross-cultural corpus and experimental studies in a dozen languages,
(ii) developmental studies (corpus and experiment based) from early infancy up to middle childhood,
(iii) cognitive studies employing both behavioural measures (reaction time, eye tracking) and neurocognitive methods.