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Nick Enfield -


Professional interests: Human sociality, language in social interaction, semantics and semiotics; areal linguistics, language contact and change; gesture and nonverbal behaviour; descriptive and functional linguistics; Southeast Asian languages; language-culture-cognition relationship.

My research addresses the intersection of language, cognition, social interaction, and culture, from three main angles:

1. Semiotic structure and process

   - Grammatical and semantic structure in language

   - Structure of social interaction and context-situated understanding

   - Composite nature of communication (speech-plus-gesture)

2. Causal dependencies in semiotic systems

   - The interplay between individual cognitive representations (and processes), actual communicative interactions, and higher-level systems such as languages

  - The relation between different causal frames or 'timescales' (microgenetic, ontogenetic, phylogenetic, enchronic, diachronic, synchronic)

3. Language and Human Sociality

   - How language constitutes a primary resource for carrying out (joint) action in the social realm, and what these properties of language and its use tell us about human social intelligence (or Theory of Mind)

   - The relation between social cognition and social action

My empirical specialization is in the languages of mainland Southeast Asia, especially Lao and Kri. Lao is the national language of Laos, spoken by over 20 million people in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and elsewhere. Kri (Vietic sub-branch of Austroasiatic) is spoken near the Laos-Vietnam border in Khammouane Province by an isolated community of around 300 people.

Last checked 2015-07-09

Nick Enfield

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