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This five-year project (2011 - 2016), funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant to Stephen C. Levinson, aimed to fast-start an interdisciplinary science of human communicative interaction, focusing on the underlying properties of sequences of contingent actions.

The research was guided by the hypothesis of 'The Interaction Engine' (Levinson 2006, downloadable here), 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, were each 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.

Sara Bögels
Marisa Casillas
Elma Hilbrink
Judith Holler
Stephen C. Levinson
Francisco Torreira
Connie de Vos

PhD students:
Mathias Barthel*
Kang-Suk Byun*
Gabriela Garrido*
Rósa Gísladóttir*
Paul Hömke*
Lilla Magyari*
Emma Valtersson*

(* = supported by the Language and Cognition Department)


Last checked 2018-09-06 by Ludy Cilissen

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