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Mark Dingemanse -


My work focuses on language and social interaction. I investigate how people use language in everyday life and how language itself is shaped by this use. To address these questions, I combine in-depth research in societies I know well with a broader comparative and interdisciplinary outlook.

Although my research is primarily curiosity-driven and can go in unpredictable directions, three recurring interests animate it.

  1. Depictionthe imitative or iconic mode of expression used together with, and sometimes instead of, ordinary words. Depiction is a powerful and systematic way of communicating, yet linguistics is yet to develop a way of integrating it into the established scientific vision of language. My research aims to contribute to that. Key publication: Arbitrariness, Iconicity and Systematicity in LanguageTrends in Cognitive Sciences
  2. Social interaction, the primary ecology of language use. Language is a social phenomenon, so to fully understand it we need to study it in this context. I'm interested in the social and conversational infrastructure that makes complex language possible, especially from a cross-linguistic comparative view. Key publication: Universal Principles in the Repair of Communication Problems, PLOS ONE.
  3. Theory and methods. Over the course of my research —spurred on by the challenges of studying ideophones and contributing to the emerging field of pragmatic typology— I've become especially interested in how theories and methods shape and constrain our scientific work, from research questions to data collection and analysis. Key link: Conceptual Foundations of Language Science, a new series I co-edit at Language Science Press.

Since 2007 I have carried out regular fieldwork on the Siwu language in Kawu (Akpafu) in Ghana's Volta Region. My home base there is in the friendly village of Akpafu-Mempeasem. I have spent over a year in the field, learning the language, and documenting social interaction and verbal art. 

My institutional home is the Max Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics. I'm scientific staff in the Language & Cognition Department headed by Steve Levinson. I also work together with colleagues from the Neurobiology of Language and Language & Genetics departments, as well as with a large international network of collaborators.

Some current collaborators

  • Tessa van Leeuwen (Donders Institute, Radboud University)
  • Kimi Akita (Nagoya University) & Mutsumi Imai (Keio University)
  • Pamela Perniss (Brighton) and Gabriella Vigliocco (UCL)
  • Sabine Stoll, Damián Blasi, Steven Moran & Taras Zakharko (Zürich)
  • Riccardo Fusaroli & Kristian Tylén (Interacting Minds Center, Aarhus University) & Morten Christiansen (Cornell University)
  • Tessa Verhoef (UCSD/MPI) & Seán Roberts (Bristol University)
  • Marcus Perlman (U. of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Bodo Winter (University of Birmingham)
  • N.J. Enfield (University of Sydney)
PhD supervision
  • Karen Sanders (Tulane University, New Orleans) — A Study On Handedness In Citonga Multimodal Interactions (completed May 2015)
  • Julija Baranova (2012-, co-supervising with Nick Enfield)
  • Gwilym Lockwood (2013-, co-supervising with Peter Hagoort)
  • Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia (2014-, co-supervising with Steve Levinson)

Some projects

Here are some of the collaborative projects at MPI I am involved in:

Head over to my irregularly updated weblog The Ideophone for some light reading on African languages, sound symbolism, and a wide range of other topics.

Last checked 2017-07-01

Mark Dingemanse

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
PO Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands