You are here: Home News News archive Levinson awarded prestigious ERC Advanced Grant

This content is archived, it could be outdated.

Levinson awarded prestigious ERC Advanced Grant

MPI director Stephen Levinson has been awarded a prestigious 2.5 million euro ERC Advanced Grant. The five-year project aims to fast-start an interdisciplinary science of human communicative interaction, focusing on the underlying properties of sequences of contingent actions.
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.

Distinct perspectives

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.

About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


Max Planck Institute
for Psycholinguistics


Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213

Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn

Image right