Publications

Displaying 1 - 20 of 71
  • Dideriksen, C., Fusaroli, R., Tylén, K., Dingemanse, M., & Christiansen, M. H. (in press). Contextualizing Conversational Strategies: Backchannel, Repair and Linguistic Alignment in Spontaneous and Task-Oriented Conversations. In Proceedings of CogSci 2019.

    Abstract

    Do interlocutors adjust their conversational strategies to the specific contextual demands of a given situation? Prior studies have yielded conflicting results, making it unclear how strategies vary with demands. We combine insights from qualitative and quantitative approaches in a within-participant experimental design involving two different contexts: spontaneously occurring conversations (SOC) and task-oriented conversations (TOC). We systematically assess backchanneling, other-repair and linguistic alignment. We find that SOC exhibit a higher number of backchannels, a reduced and more generic repair format and higher rates of lexical and syntactic alignment. TOC are characterized by a high number of specific repairs and a lower rate of lexical and syntactic alignment. However, when alignment occurs, more linguistic forms are aligned. The findings show that conversational strategies adapt to specific contextual demands.
  • Dingemanse, M. (in press). The language of perception in Siwu. In A. Majid, & S. C. Levinson (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Language of Perception.

    Abstract

    The language of perception in Siwu, a Kwa language of eastern Ghana, is described based on linguistic elicitation, ethnographic field research, and a standardised set of stimuli targeting the perceptual domains of Colour, Shape, Sound, Touch, Taste, and Smell. Verbs of perception pattern into active-explorative and passive-inchoative construals of sensing. Percepts are sometimes encoded by stative verbs or nominal concepts but most often by ideophones. Colour is not a culturally salient category and Siwu may represent an intermediate type of ‘non-partition’ system, in which the available terms do not cover the colour space exhaustively. High codability in the domains of Touch and Taste appears to be associated with the availability of ideophones with highly precise meanings, while lower codability in the domain of Smell is associated with a lack of conventionalised vocabulary.
  • Dingemanse, M. (in press). Recruiting assistance in interaction: a West-African corpus study. In Getting others to do things: A pragmatic typology of recruitments. Berlin: Language Science Press.

    Abstract

    Doing things for and with others is one of the foundations of human social life. This chapter studies a systematic collection of 207 requests for assistance and collaboration from a video corpus of everyday conversations in Siwu, a Kwa language of Ghana. A range of social action formats and semiotic resources reveals how language is adapted to the interactional challenges posed by recruiting assistance. While many of the formats bear a language-specific signature, their sequential and interactional properties show important commonalities across languages. Two tentative findings are put forward for further cross-linguistic examination: a “rule of three” that may play a role in the organisation of successive response pursuits, and a striking commonality in animal-oriented recruitments across languages that may be explained by convergent cultural evolution. The Siwu recruitment system emerges as one instance of a sophisticated machinery for organising collaborative action that transcends language and culture.
  • Dingemanse, M. (in press). Resource-rationality beyond individual minds: the case of interactive language use. Behavioural and Brain Sciences.

    Abstract

    Resource-rational approaches offer much promise for understanding human cognition, especially if they can reach beyond the confines of individual minds. Language allows people to transcend individual resource limitations by augmenting computation and enabling distributed cognition. Interactive language use, an environment where social rational agents routinely deal with resource constraints together, offers a natural laboratory to test resource-rationality in the wild.
  • Van Leeuwen, T. M., Van Petersen, E., Burghoorn, F., Dingemanse, M., & Van Lier, R. (in press). Autistic traits in synaesthesia: Atypical sensory sensitivity and enhanced perception of details. Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences.

    Abstract

    In synaesthetes specific sensory stimuli (e.g., black letters) elicit additional experiences (e.g. colour). Synaesthesia is highly prevalent among individuals with autism spectrum disorder but the mechanisms of this co-occurrence are not clear. We hypothesized autism and synaesthesia share atypical sensory sensitivity and perception. We assessed autistic traits, sensory sensitivity, and visual perception in two synaesthete populations. In Study 1, synaesthetes (N=79, of different types) scored higher than non-synaesthetes (N=76) on the Attention-to-detail and Social skills subscales of the Autism Spectrum Quotient indexing autistic traits, and on the Glasgow Sensory Questionnaire indexing sensory hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity which frequently occur in autism. Synaesthetes performed two local/global visual tasks because individuals with autism typically show a bias toward detail processing. In synaesthetes, elevated motion coherence thresholds suggested reduced global motion perception and higher accuracy on an embedded figures task suggested enhanced local perception. In Study 2 sequence-space synaesthetes (N=18) completed the same tasks. Questionnaire and embedded figures results qualitatively resembled Study 1 results but no significant group differences with non-synaesthetes (N=20) were obtained. Unexpectedly, sequence-space synaesthetes had reduced motion coherence thresholds. Altogether, our studies suggest atypical sensory sensitivity and a bias towards detail processing are shared features of synaesthesia and autism spectrum disorder.
  • Akita, K., & Dingemanse, M. (2019). Ideophones (Mimetics, Expressives). In Oxford Research Encyclopedia for Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.477.

    Abstract

    Ideophones, also termed “mimetics” or “expressives,” are marked words that depict sensory imagery. They are found in many of the world’s languages, and sizable lexical classes of ideophones are particularly well-documented in languages of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Ideophones are not limited to onomatopoeia like meow and smack, but cover a wide range of sensory domains, such as manner of motion (e.g., plisti plasta ‘splish-splash’ in Basque), texture (e.g., tsaklii ‘rough’ in Ewe), and psychological states (e.g., wakuwaku ‘excited’ in Japanese). Across languages, ideophones stand out as marked words due to special phonotactics, expressive morphology including certain types of reduplication, and relative syntactic independence, in addition to production features like prosodic foregrounding and common co-occurrence with iconic gestures. Three intertwined issues have been repeatedly debated in the century-long literature on ideophones. (a) Definition: Isolated descriptive traditions and cross-linguistic variation have sometimes obscured a typologically unified view of ideophones, but recent advances show the promise of a prototype definition of ideophones as conventionalised depictions in speech, with room for language-specific nuances. (b) Integration: The variable integration of ideophones across linguistic levels reveals an interaction between expressiveness and grammatical integration, and has important implications for how to conceive of dependencies between linguistic systems. (c) Iconicity: Ideophones form a natural laboratory for the study of iconic form-meaning associations in natural languages, and converging evidence from corpus and experimental studies suggests important developmental, evolutionary, and communicative advantages of ideophones.
  • Cuskley, C., Dingemanse, M., Kirby, S., & van Leeuwen, T. M. (2019). Cross-modal associations and synaesthesia: Categorical perception and structure in vowel-colour mappings in a large online sample. Behaviour Research Methods. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13428-019-01203-7.

    Abstract

    We report associations between vowel sounds, graphemes, and colours collected online from over 1000 Dutch speakers. We provide open materials including a Python implementation of the structure measure, and code for a single page web application to run simple cross-modal tasks. We also provide a full dataset of colour-vowel associations from 1164 participants, including over 200 synaesthetes identified using consistency measures. Our analysis reveals salient patterns in cross-modal associations, and introduces a novel measure of isomorphism in cross-modal mappings. We find that while acoustic features of vowels significantly predict certain mappings (replicating prior work), both vowel phoneme category and grapheme category are even better predictors of colour choice. Phoneme category is the best predictor of colour choice overall, pointing to the importance of phonological representations in addition to acoustic cues. Generally, high/front vowels are lighter, more green, and more yellow than low/back vowels. Synaesthetes respond more strongly on some dimensions, choosing lighter and more yellow colours for high and mid front vowels than non-synaesthetes. We also present a novel measure of cross-modal mappings adapted from ecology, which uses a simulated distribution of mappings to measure the extent to which participants' actual mappings are structured isomorphically across modalities. Synaesthetes have mappings that tend to be more structured than non-synaesthetes, and more consistent colour choices across trials correlate with higher structure scores. Nevertheless, the large majority (~70%) of participants produce structured mappings, indicating that the capacity to make isomorphically structured mappings across distinct modalities is shared to a large extent, even if the exact nature of mappings varies across individuals. Overall, this novel structure measure suggests a distribution of structured cross-modal association in the population, with synaesthetes on one extreme and participants with unstructured associations on the other.
  • Dingemanse, M. (2019). 'Ideophone' as a comparative concept. In K. Akita, & P. Pardeshi (Eds.), Ideophones, Mimetics, and Expressives (pp. 13-33). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/ill.16.02din.

    Abstract

    This chapter makes the case for ‘ideophone’ as a comparative concept: a notion that captures a recurrent typological pattern and provides a template for understanding language-specific phenomena that prove similar. It revises an earlier definition to account for the observation that ideophones typically form an open lexical class, and uses insights from canonical typology to explore the larger typological space. According to the resulting definition, a canonical ideophone is a member of an open lexical class of marked words that depict sensory imagery. The five elements of this definition can be seen as dimensions that together generate a possibility space to characterise cross-linguistic diversity in depictive means of expression. This approach allows for the systematic comparative treatment of ideophones and ideophone-like phenomena. Some phenomena in the larger typological space are discussed to demonstrate the utility of the approach: phonaesthemes in European languages, specialised semantic classes in West-Chadic, diachronic diversions in Aslian, and depicting constructions in signed languages.
  • Dingemanse, M., Blythe, J., & Dirksmeyer, T. (2018). Formats for other-initiation of repair across languages: An exercise in pragmatic typology. In I. Nikolaeva (Ed.), Linguistic Typology: Critical Concepts in Linguistics. Vol. 4. London: Routledge.

    Abstract

    In conversation, people regularly deal with problems of speaking, hearing, and understanding. We report on a cross-linguistic investigation of the conversational structure of other-initiated repair (also known as collaborative repair, feedback, requests for clarification, or grounding sequences). We take stock of formats for initiating repair across languages (comparable to English huh?, who?, y’mean X?, etc.) and find that different languages make available a wide but remarkably similar range of linguistic resources for this function. We exploit the patterned variation as evidence for several underlying concerns addressed by repair initiation: characterising trouble, managing responsibility, and handling knowledge. The concerns do not always point in the same direction and thus provide participants in interaction with alternative principles for selecting one format over possible others. By comparing conversational structures across languages, this paper contributes to pragmatic typology: the typology of systems of language use and the principles that shape them.
  • Dingemanse, M. (2018). Redrawing the margins of language: Lessons from research on ideophones. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 3(1): 4. doi:10.5334/gjgl.444.

    Abstract

    Ideophones (also known as expressives or mimetics, and including onomatopoeia) have been systematically studied in linguistics since the 1850s, when they were first described as a lexical class of vivid sensory words in West-African languages. This paper surveys the research history of ideophones, from its roots in African linguistics to its fruits in general linguistics and typology around the globe. It shows that despite a recurrent narrative of marginalisation, work on ideophones has made an impact in many areas of linguistics, from theories of phonological features to typologies of manner and motion, and from sound symbolism to sensory language. Due to their hybrid nature as gradient vocal gestures that grow roots in discrete linguistic systems, ideophones provide opportunities to reframe typological questions, reconsider the role of language ideology in linguistic scholarship, and rethink the margins of language. With ideophones increasingly being brought into the fold of the language sciences, this review synthesises past theoretical insights and empirical findings in order to enable future work to build on them.
  • Floyd, S., Rossi, G., Baranova, J., Blythe, J., Dingemanse, M., Kendrick, K. H., Zinken, J., & Enfield, N. J. (2018). Universals and cultural diversity in the expression of gratitude. Royal Society Open Science, 5: 180391. doi:10.1098/rsos.180391.

    Abstract

    Gratitude is argued to have evolved to motivate and maintain social reciprocity among people, and to be linked to a wide range of positive effects — social, psychological, and even physical. But is socially reciprocal behaviour dependent on the expression of gratitude, for example by saying "thank you" as in English? Current research has not included cross-cultural elements, and has tended to conflate gratitude as an emotion with gratitude as a linguistic practice, as might appear to be the case in English. Here we ask to what extent people actually express gratitude in different societies by focussing on episodes of everyday life where someone obtains a good, service, or support from another, and comparing these episodes across eight languages from five continents. What we find is that expressions of gratitude in these episodes are remarkably rare, suggesting that social reciprocity in everyday life relies on tacit understandings of people’s rights and duties surrounding mutual assistance and collaboration. At the same time, we also find minor cross-cultural variation, with slightly higher rates in Western European languages English and Italian, showing that universal tendencies of social reciprocity should not be conflated with more culturally variable practices of expressing gratitude. Our study complements previous experimental and culture-specific research on social reciprocity with a systematic comparison of audiovisual corpora of naturally occurring social interaction from different cultures from around the world.
  • Majid, A., Roberts, S. G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O'Grady, L., Woll, B., LeLan, B., De Sousa, H., Cansler, B. L., Shayan, S., De Vos, C., Senft, G., Enfield, N. J., Razak, R. A., Fedden, S., Tufvesson, S., Dingemanse, M., Ozturk, O., Brown, P., Hill, C., Le Guen, O., Hirtzel, V., Van Gijn, R., Sicoli, M. A., & Levinson, S. C. (2018). Differential coding of perception in the world’s languages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(45), 11369-11376. doi:10.1073/pnas.1720419115.

    Abstract

    Is there a universal hierarchy of the senses, such that some senses (e.g., vision) are more accessible to consciousness and linguistic description than others (e.g., smell)? The long-standing presumption in Western thought has been that vision and audition are more objective than the other senses, serving as the basis of knowledge and understanding, whereas touch, taste, and smell are crude and of little value. This predicts that humans ought to be better at communicating about sight and hearing than the other senses, and decades of work based on English and related languages certainly suggests this is true. However, how well does this reflect the diversity of languages and communities worldwide? To test whether there is a universal hierarchy of the senses, stimuli from the five basic senses were used to elicit descriptions in 20 diverse languages, including 3 unrelated sign languages. We found that languages differ fundamentally in which sensory domains they linguistically code systematically, and how they do so. The tendency for better coding in some domains can be explained in part by cultural preoccupations. Although languages seem free to elaborate specific sensory domains, some general tendencies emerge: for example, with some exceptions, smell is poorly coded. The surprise is that, despite the gradual phylogenetic accumulation of the senses, and the imbalances in the neural tissue dedicated to them, no single hierarchy of the senses imposes itself upon language.
  • Dingemanse, M., & Akita, K. (2017). An inverse relation between expressiveness and grammatical integration: on the morphosyntactic typology of ideophones, with special reference to Japanese. Journal of Linguistics, 53(3), 501-532. doi:10.1017/S002222671600030X.

    Abstract

    Words and phrases may differ in the extent to which they are susceptible to prosodic foregrounding and expressive morphology: their expressiveness. They may also differ in the degree to which they are integrated in the morphosyntactic structure of the utterance: their grammatical integration. We describe an inverse relation that holds across widely varied languages, such that more expressiveness goes together with less grammatical integration, and vice versa. We review typological evidence for this inverse relation in 10 languages, then quantify and explain it using Japanese corpus data. We do this by tracking ideophones —vivid sensory words also known as mimetics or expressives— across different morphosyntactic contexts and measuring their expressiveness in terms of intonation, phonation and expressive morphology. We find that as expressiveness increases, grammatical integration decreases. Using gesture as a measure independent of the speech signal, we find that the most expressive ideophones are most likely to come together with iconic gestures. We argue that the ultimate cause is the encounter of two distinct and partly incommensurable modes of representation: the gradient, iconic, depictive system represented by ideophones and iconic gestures and the discrete, arbitrary, descriptive system represented by ordinary words. The study shows how people combine modes of representation in speech and demonstrates the value of integrating description and depiction into the scientific vision of language.

    Supplementary material

    Open data & R code
  • Dingemanse, M. (2017). Expressiveness and system integration: On the typology of ideophones, with special reference to Siwu. STUF - Language Typology and Universals, 70(2), 363-384. doi:10.1515/stuf-2017-0018.

    Abstract

    Ideophones are often described as words that are highly expressive and morphosyntactically marginal. A study of ideophones in everyday conversations in Siwu (Kwa, eastern Ghana) reveals a landscape of variation and change that sheds light on some larger questions in the morphosyntactic typology of ideophones. The article documents a trade-off between expressiveness and morphosyntactic integration, with high expressiveness linked to low integration and vice versa. It also describes a pathway for deideophonisation and finds that frequency of use is a factor that influences the degree to which ideophones can come to be more like ordinary words. The findings have implications for processes of (de)ideophonisation, ideophone borrowing, and ideophone typology. A key point is that the internal diversity we find in naturally occurring data, far from being mere noise, is patterned variation that can help us to get a handle on the factors shaping ideophone systems within and across languages.
  • Dingemanse, M. (2017). Brain-to-brain interfaces and the role of language in distributing agency. In N. J. Enfield, & P. Kockelman (Eds.), Distributed Agency (pp. 59-66). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190457204.003.0007.

    Abstract

    Brain-to-brain interfaces, in which brains are physically connected without the intervention of language, promise new ways of collaboration and communication between humans. I examine the narrow view of language implicit in current conceptions of brain-to-brain interfaces and put forward a constructive alternative, stressing the role of language in organising joint agency. Two features of language stand out as crucial: its selectivity, which provides people with much-needed filters between public words and private worlds; and its negotiability, which provides people with systematic opportunities for calibrating understanding and expressing consent and dissent. Without these checks and balances, brain-to-brain interfaces run the risk of reducing people to the level of amoeba in a slime mold; with them, they may mature to become useful extensions of human agency
  • Dingemanse, M., Rossi, G., & Floyd, S. (2017). Place reference in story beginnings: a cross-linguistic study of narrative and interactional affordances. Language in Society, 46(2), 129-158. doi:10.1017/S0047404516001019.

    Abstract

    People often begin stories in conversation by referring to person, time, and place. We study story beginnings in three societies and find place reference is recurrently used to (i) set the stage, foreshadowing the type of story and the kind of response due, and to (ii) make the story cohere, anchoring elements of the developing story. Recipients orient to these interactional affordances of place reference by responding in ways that attend to the relevance of place for the story and by requesting clarification when references are incongruent or noticeably absent. The findings are based on 108 story beginnings in three unrelated languages: Cha’palaa, a Barbacoan language of Ecuador; Northern Italian, a Romance language of Italy; and Siwu, a Kwa language of Ghana. The commonalities suggest we have identified generic affordances of place reference, and that storytelling in conversation offers a robust sequential environment for systematic comparative research on conversational structures.
  • Dingemanse, M. (2017). On the margins of language: Ideophones, interjections and dependencies in linguistic theory. In N. J. Enfield (Ed.), Dependencies in language (pp. 195-202). Berlin: Language Science Press. doi:10.5281/zenodo.573781.

    Abstract

    Linguistic discovery is viewpoint-dependent, just like our ideas about what is marginal and what is central in language. In this essay I consider two supposed marginalia —ideophones and interjections— which provide some useful pointers for widening our field of view. Ideophones challenge us to take a fresh look at language and consider how it is that our communication system combines multiple modes of representation. Interjections challenge us to extend linguistic inquiry beyond sentence level, and remind us that language is social-interactive at core. Marginalia, then, are not the obscure, exotic phenomena that can be safely ignored: they represent opportunities for innovation and invite us to keep pushing the edges of linguistic inquiry.
  • Fusaroli, R., Tylén, K., Garly, K., Steensig, J., Christiansen, M. H., & Dingemanse, M. (2017). Measures and mechanisms of common ground: Backchannels, conversational repair, and interactive alignment in free and task-oriented social interactions. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink, & E. Davelaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2017) (pp. 2055-2060). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    A crucial aspect of everyday conversational interactions is our ability to establish and maintain common ground. Understanding the relevant mechanisms involved in such social coordination remains an important challenge for cognitive science. While common ground is often discussed in very general terms, different contexts of interaction are likely to afford different coordination mechanisms. In this paper, we investigate the presence and relation of three mechanisms of social coordination – backchannels, interactive alignment and conversational repair – across free and task-oriented conversations. We find significant differences: task-oriented conversations involve higher presence of repair – restricted offers in particular – and backchannel, as well as a reduced level of lexical and syntactic alignment. We find that restricted repair is associated with lexical alignment and open repair with backchannels. Our findings highlight the need to explicitly assess several mechanisms at once and to investigate diverse activities to understand their role and relations.
  • Baranova, J., & Dingemanse, M. (2016). Reasons for requests. Discourse Studies, 18(6), 641-675. doi:10.1177/1461445616667154.

    Abstract

    Reasons play an important role in social interaction. We study reasons-giving in the context of request sequences in Russian. By contrasting request sequences with and without reasons, we are able to shed light on the interactional work people do when they provide reasons or ask for them. In a systematic collection of request sequences in everyday conversation (N = 158), we find reasons in a variety of sequential positions, showing the various points at which participants may orient to the need for a reason. Reasons may be left implicit (as in many minimal requests that are readily complied with), or they can be made explicit. Participants may make reasons explicit either as part of the initial formulation of a request or in an interactionally contingent way. Across sequential positions, we show that reasons for requests recurrently deal with three possible issues: (1) providing information when a request is underspecified, (2) managing relationships between the requester and requestee and (3) explicating ancillary actions implemented by a request. By spelling out information normally left to presuppositions and implicatures, reasons make requests more understandable and help participants to navigate the social landscape of asking assistance from others.
  • Dingemanse, M., Kendrick, K. H., & Enfield, N. J. (2016). A Coding Scheme for Other-Initiated Repair across Languages. Open Linguistics, 2, 35-46. doi:10.1515/opli-2016-0002.

    Abstract

    We provide an annotated coding scheme for other-initiated repair, along with guidelines for building collections and aggregating cases based on interactionally relevant similarities and differences. The questions and categories of the scheme are grounded in inductive observations of conversational data and connected to a rich body of work on other-initiated repair in conversation analysis. The scheme is developed and tested in a 12-language comparative project and can serve as a stepping stone for future work on other-initiated repair and the systematic comparative study of conversational structures.

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