Stephen C. Levinson

Publications

Displaying 1 - 32 of 32
  • Boroditsky, L., Gaby, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2008). Time in space. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 11 (pp. 52-76). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492932.

    Abstract

    How do different languages and cultures conceptualise time? This question is part of a broader set of questions about how humans come to represent and reason about abstract entities – things we cannot see or touch. For example, how do we come to represent and reason about abstract domains like justice, ideas, kinship, morality, or politics? There are two aspects of this project: (1) Time arrangement tasks to assess the way people arrange time either as temporal progressions expressed in picture cards or done using small tokens or points in space. (2) A time & space language inventory to discover and document the linguistic coding of time and its relation to space, as well as the cultural knowledge structures related to time.

    Supplementary material

    2008_Time_in_space_stimuli.zip
  • Burenhult, N., & Levinson, S. C. (2008). Language and landscape: A cross-linguistic perspective. Language Sciences, 30(2/3), 135-150. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2006.12.028.

    Abstract

    This special issue is the outcome of collaborative work on the relationship between language and landscape, carried out in the Language and Cognition Group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. The contributions explore the linguistic categories of landscape terms and place names in nine genetically, typologically and geographically diverse languages, drawing on data from first-hand fieldwork. The present introductory article lays out the reasons why the domain of landscape is of central interest to the language sciences and beyond, and it outlines some of the major patterns that emerge from the cross-linguistic comparison which the papers invite. The data point to considerable variation within and across languages in how systems of landscape terms and place names are ontologised. This has important implications for practical applications from international law to modern navigation systems.
  • Dingemanse, M., Hill, C., Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2008). Ethnography of the senses. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field manual volume 11 (pp. 18-28). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492935.

    Abstract

    This entry provides some orientation and task suggestions on how to explore the perceptual world of your field site and the interaction between the cultural world and the sensory lexicon in your community. The material consists of procedural texts; soundscapes; other documentary and observational tasks. The goal of this task is to explore the perceptual world of your field site and the interaction between the cultural world and the sensory lexicon in your community.
  • Dunn, M., Levinson, S. C., Lindström, E., Reesink, G., & Terrill, A. (2008). Structural phylogeny in historical linguistics: Methodological explorations applied in Island Melanesia. Language, 84(4), 710-759. doi:10.1353/lan.0.0069.

    Abstract

    Using various methods derived from evolutionary biology, including maximum parsimony and Bayesian phylogenetic analysis, we tackle the question of the relationships among a group of Papuan isolate languages that have hitherto resisted accepted attempts at demonstration of interrelatedness. Instead of using existing vocabulary-based methods, which cannot be applied to these languages due to the paucity of shared lexemes, we created a database of STRUCTURAL FEATURES—abstract phonological and grammatical features apart from their form. The methods are first tested on the closely related Oceanic languages spoken in the same region as the Papuan languages in question. We find that using biological methods on structural features can recapitulate the results of the comparative method tree for the Oceanic languages, thus showing that structural features can be a valid way of extracting linguistic history. Application of the same methods to the otherwise unrelatable Papuan languages is therefore likely to be similarly valid. Because languages that have been in contact for protracted periods may also converge, we outline additional methods for distinguishing convergence from inherited relatedness.
  • Enfield, N. J., & Levinson, S. C. (2008). Metalanguage for speech acts. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field manual volume 11 (pp. 77-79). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492937.

    Abstract

    People of all cultures have some degree of concern with categorizing types of communicative social action. All languages have words with meanings like speak, say, talk, complain, curse, promise, accuse, nod, wink, point and chant. But the exact distinctions they make will differ in both quantity and quality. How is communicative social action categorised across languages and cultures? The goal of this task is to establish a basis for cross-linguistic comparison of native metalanguages for social action.
  • Enfield, N. J., Levinson, S. C., & Stivers, T. (2008). Social action formulation: A "10-minutes" task. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field manual volume 11 (pp. 80-81). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492939.

    Abstract

    This Field Manual entry has been superceded by the 2009 version: https://doi.org/10.17617/2.883564

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  • Levinson, S. C., & Majid, A. (2008). Preface and priorities. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field manual volume 11 (pp. iii-iv). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2008). Landscape, seascape and the ontology of places on Rossel Island, Papua New Guinea. Language Sciences, 30(2/3), 256-290. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2006.12.032.

    Abstract

    This paper describes the descriptive landscape and seascape terminology of an isolate language, Yélî Dnye, spoken on a remote island off Papua New Guinea. The terminology reveals an ontology of landscape terms fundamentally mismatching that in European languages, and in current GIS applications. These landscape terms, and a rich set of seascape terms, provide the ontological basis for toponyms across subdomains. Considering what motivates landscape categorization, three factors are considered: perceptual salience, human affordance and use, and cultural ideas. The data show that cultural ideas and practices are the major categorizing force: they directly impact the ecology with environmental artifacts, construct religious ideas which play a major role in the use of the environment and its naming, and provide abstract cultural templates which organize large portions of vocabulary across subdomains.
  • Levinson, S. C., Bohnemeyer, J., & Enfield, N. J. (2008). Time and space questionnaire. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 11 (pp. 42-49). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492955.

    Abstract

    This entry contains: 1. An invitation to think about to what extent the grammar of space and time share lexical and morphosyntactic resources − the suggestions here are only prompts, since it would take a long questionnaire to fully explore this; 2. A suggestion about how to collect gestural data that might show us to what extent the spatial and temporal domains, have a psychological continuity. This is really the goal − but you need to do the linguistic work first or in addition. The goal of this task is to explore the extent to which time is conceptualised on a spatial basis.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2008). Space in language and cognition. Singapore: Word Publishing Company/CUP.

    Abstract

    Chinese translation of the 2003 publication.
  • Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2008). Language does provide support for basic tastes [Commentary on A study of the science of taste: On the origins and influence of the core ideas by Robert P. Erickson]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, 86-87. doi:10.1017/S0140525X08003476.

    Abstract

    Recurrent lexicalization patterns across widely different cultural contexts can provide a window onto common conceptualizations. The cross-linguistic data support the idea that sweet, salt, sour, and bitter are basic tastes. In addition, umami and fatty are likely basic tastes, as well.
  • De Ruiter, J. P., & Levinson, S. C. (2008). A biological infrastructure for communication underlies the cultural evolution of languages [Commentary on Christiansen & Chater: Language as shaped by the brain]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31(5), 518-518. doi:10.1017/S0140525X08005086.

    Abstract

    Universal Grammar (UG) is indeed evolutionarily implausible. But if languages are just “adapted” to a large primate brain, it is hard to see why other primates do not have complex languages. The answer is that humans have evolved a specialized and uniquely human cognitive architecture, whose main function is to compute mappings between arbitrary signals and communicative intentions. This underlies the development of language in the human species.
  • Ameka, F. K., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). Introduction-The typology and semantics of locative predicates: Posturals, positionals and other beasts. Linguistics, 45(5), 847-872. doi:10.1515/LING.2007.025.

    Abstract

    This special issue is devoted to a relatively neglected topic in linguistics, namely the verbal component of locative statements. English tends, of course, to use a simple copula in utterances like “The cup is on the table”, but many languages, perhaps as many as half of the world's languages, have a set of alternate verbs, or alternate verbal affixes, which contrast in this slot. Often these are classificatory verbs of 'sitting', 'standing' and 'lying'. For this reason, perhaps, Aristotle listed position among his basic (“noncomposite”) categories.
  • Ameka, F. K., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (2007). The typology and semantics of locative predication: Posturals, positionals and other beasts [Special Issue]. Linguistics, 45(5).

    Abstract

    This special issue is devoted to a relatively neglected topic in linguistics, namely the verbal component of locative statements. English tends, of course, to use a simple copula in utterances like “The cup is on the table”, but many languages, perhaps as many as half of the world's languages, have a set of alternate verbs, or alternate verbal affixes, which contrast in this slot. Often these are classificatory verbs of ‘sitting’, ‘standing’ and ‘lying’. For this reason, perhaps, Aristotle listed position among his basic (“noncomposite”) categories.
  • Boroditsky, L., Gaby, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). Time in space. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field manual volume 10 (pp. 59-80). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.468721.

    Abstract

    This Field Manual entry has been superceded by the 2008 version: https://doi.org/10.17617/2.492932

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  • Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). Gesichtsbedrohende Akte [reprint: Face-threatening acts, 1987]. In S. K. Herrmann, S. Kraemer, & H. Kuch (Eds.), Verletzende Worte: Die Grammatik sprachlicher Missachtung (pp. 59-88). Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

    Abstract

    This article is a reprint of parts of chapters 2 and 3 from Brown and Levinson (1987) discussing the concept of 'Face Threatening Acts'.
  • Dunn, M., Foley, R., Levinson, S. C., Reesink, G., & Terrill, A. (2007). Statistical reasoning in the evaluation of typological diversity in Island Melanesia. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 388-403.

    Abstract

    This paper builds on a previous work in which we attempted to retrieve a phylogenetic signal using abstract structural features alone, as opposed to cognate sets, drawn from a sample of Island Melanesian languages, both Oceanic (Austronesian) and (non-Austronesian) Papuan (Science 2005[309]: 2072-75 ). Here we clarify a number of misunderstandings of this approach, referring particularly to the critique by Mark Donohue and Simon Musgrave (in this same issue of Oceanic Linguistics), in which they fail to appreciate the statistical principles underlying computational phylogenetic methods. We also present new analyses that provide stronger evidence supporting the hypotheses put forward in our original paper: a reanalysis using Bayesian phylogenetic inference demonstrates the robustness of the data and methods, and provides a substantial improvement over the parsimony method used in our earlier paper. We further demonstrate, using the technique of spatial autocorrelation, that neither proximity nor Oceanic contact can be a major determinant of the pattern of structural variation of the Papuan languages, and thus that the phylogenetic relatedness of the Papuan languages remains a serious hypothesis.
  • Enfield, N. J., Levinson, S. C., De Ruiter, J. P., & Stivers, T. (2007). Building a corpus of multimodal interaction in your field site. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 96-99). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.468728.

    Abstract

    Research on video- and audio-recordings of spontaneous naturally-occurring conversation in English has shown that conversation is a rule-guided, practice-oriented domain that can be investigated for its underlying mechanics or structure. Systematic study could yield something like a grammar for conversation. The goal of this task is to acquire a corpus of video-data, for investigating the underlying structure(s) of interaction cross-linguistically and cross-culturally.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2007). Imi no suitei [Japanese translation of 'Presumptive meanings', 2000]. Tokyo: Kenkyusha.

    Abstract

    When we speak, we mean more than we say. In this book, the author explains some general processes that underlie presumptions in communication. This is the first extended discussion of preferred interpretation in language understanding, integrating much of the best research in linguistic pragmatics from the last two decades. Levinson outlines a theory of presumptive meanings, or preferred interpretations, governing the use of language, building on the idea of implicature developed by the philosopher H. P. Grice. Some of the indirect information carried by speech is presumed by default because it is carried by general principles, rather than inferred from specific assumptions about intention and context. Levinson examines this class of general pragmatic inferences in detail, showing how they apply to a wide range of linguistic constructions. This approach has radical consequences for how we think about language and communication.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2007). Optimizing person reference - perspectives from usage on Rossel Island. In N. Enfield, & T. Stivers (Eds.), Person reference in interaction: Linguistic, cultural, and social perspectives (pp. 29-72). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    This chapter explicates the requirement in person–reference for balancing demands for recognition, minimalization, explicitness and indirection. This is illustrated with reference to data from repair of failures of person–reference within a particular linguistic/cultural context, namely casual interaction among Rossel Islanders. Rossel Island (PNG) offers a ‘natural experiment’ for studying aspects of person reference, because of a number of special properties: 1. It is a closed universe of 4000 souls, sharing one kinship network, so in principle anyone could be recognizable from a reference. As a result no (complex) descriptions (cf. ‘ the author of Waverly’) are employed. 2. Names, however, are never uniquely referring, since they are drawn from a fixed pool. They are only used for about 25% of initial references, another 25% of initial references being done by kinship triangulation (‘that man’s father–in–law’). Nearly 50% of initial references are semantically underspecified or vague (e.g. ‘that girl’). 3. There are systematic motivations for oblique reference, e.g. kinship–based taboos and other constraints, which partly account for the underspecified references. The ‘natural experiment’ thus reveals some gneral lessons about how person–reference requires optimizing multiple conflicting constraints. Comparison with Sacks and Schegloff’s (1979) treatment of English person reference suggests a way to tease apart the universal and the culturally–particular.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2007). Pragmática [Portugese translation of 'Pragmatics', 1983]. Sao Paulo: Martins Fontes Editora.

    Abstract

    The purpose of this book is to provide some indication of the scope of linguistic pragmatics. First the historical origin of the term pragmatics will be briefly summarized, in order to indicate some usages of the term that are divergent from the usage in this book. We will review some definitions of the field, which, while being less than fully statisfactory, will at least serve to indicate the rough scope of linguistic pragmatics. Thirdly, some reasons for the current interest in the field will be explained, while a final section illustrates some basic kinds of pragmatic phenomena. In passing, some analytical notions that are useful background will be introduced.
  • Levinson, S. C., Majid, A., & Enfield, N. J. (2007). Language of perception: The view from language and culture. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 10-21). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.468738.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2007). Cut and break verbs in Yélî Dnye, the Papuan language of Rossel Island. Cognitive Linguistics, 18(2), 207-218. doi:10.1515/COG.2007.009.

    Abstract

    The paper explores verbs of cutting and breaking (C&B, hereafter) in Yeli Dnye, the Papuan language of Rossel Island. The Yeli Dnye verbs covering the C&B domain do not divide it in the expected way, with verbs focusing on special instruments and manners of action on the one hand, and verbs focusing on the resultant state on the other. Instead, just three transitive verbs and their intransitive counterparts cover most of the domain, and they are all based on 'exotic' distinctions in mode of severance[--]coherent severance with the grain vs. against the grain, and incoherent severance (regardless of grain).
  • Levinson, S. C., Senft, G., & Majid, A. (2007). Emotion categories in language and thought. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 46-52). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492892.

    Supplementary material

    French_emotion_questionnaire.pdf
  • Levinson, S. C., & Majid, A. (2007). The language of sound. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 29-31). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.468735.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Majid, A. (2007). The language of vision II: Shape. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 26-28). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.468732.
  • Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). Language of perception: Overview of field tasks. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 8-9). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492898.
  • Majid, A., Senft, G., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). The language of olfaction. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 36-41). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492910.
  • Majid, A., Senft, G., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). The language of touch. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 32-35). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492907.
  • Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). The language of vision I: colour. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 22-25). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492901.
  • Senft, G., Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). The language of taste. In A. Majid (Ed.), Field Manual Volume 10 (pp. 42-45). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.492913.
  • Stivers, T., Enfield, N. J., & Levinson, S. C. (2007). Person reference in interaction. In N. J. Enfield, & T. Stivers (Eds.), Person reference in interaction: Linguistic, cultural, and social perspectives (pp. 1-20). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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