Stephen C. Levinson

Publications

Displaying 1 - 35 of 35
  • Burenhult, N., & Levinson, S. C. (2010). Semplates: A guide to identification and elicitation. In E. Norcliffe, & N. J. Enfield (Eds.), Field manual volume 13 (pp. 17-23). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
  • Enfield, N. J., Levinson, S. C., De Ruiter, J. P., & Stivers, T. (2010). Building a corpus of multimodal interaction in your field site. In E. Norcliffe, & N. J. Enfield (Eds.), Field manual volume 13 (pp. 30-33). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
  • Enfield, N. J., & Levinson, S. C. (2010). Metalanguage for speech acts. In Field manual volume 13 (pp. 34-36). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

    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.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2010). Advancing our grasp of constrained variation in a crucial cognitive domain [Comment on Doug Jones]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 391-392. doi:10.1017/S0140525X1000141X.

    Abstract

    Jones's system of constraints promises interesting insights into the typology of kin term systems. Three problems arise: (1) the conflation of categories with algorithms that assign them threatens to weaken the typological predictions; (2) OT-type constraints have little psychological plausibility; (3) the conflation of kin-term systems and kinship systems may underplay the "utility function" character of real kinship in action.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2010). Pragmatyka [Polish translation of Pragmatics 1983]. Warsaw: Polish Scientific Publishers PWN.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2010). Questions and responses in Yélî Dnye, the Papuan language of Rossel Island. Journal of Pragmatics, 42, 2741-2755. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2010.04.009.

    Abstract

    A corpus of 350 naturally-occurring questions in videotaped interaction shows that questions and their responses in Yélî Dnye (the Papuan language of Rossel Island) both conform to clear universal expectations but also have a number of language-specific peculiarities. They conform in that polar and wh-questions are unrelated in form, wh-questions have the usual sort of special forms, and responses show the same priorities as in other languages (for fast cooperative, adequate answers). But, less expected perhaps, Yélî Dnye polar questions (excepting tags) are unmarked in both morphosyntax and prosody, and the responses include conventional facial expressions, conforming to the propositional response system type (so that assent to ‘He didn’t come?’ means ‘no, he didn’t’). These visual signals are facilitated by high levels of mutual gaze making rapid early responses possible. Tags can occur with non-interrogative illocutionary forces, and could be held to perform speech acts of their own. Wh-questions utilize about a dozen wh-forms, which are only optionally fronted, and there are some interesting specializations of forms (e.g. ‘who’ for any named entities other than places). Most questions of all types are genuinely information seeking, with 27% (mostly tags) seeking confirmation, 19% requesting repair.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2010). Generalized conversational implicature. In L. Cummings (Ed.), The pragmatics encyclopedia (pp. 201-203). London: Routledge.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Evans, N. (2010). Time for a sea-change in linguistics: Response to comments on 'The myth of language universals'. Lingua, 120, 2733-2758. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2010.08.001.

    Abstract

    This paper argues that the language sciences are on the brink of major changes in primary data, methods and theory. Reactions to ‘The myth of language universals’ ([Evans and Levinson, 2009a] and [Evans and Levinson, 2009b]) divide in response to these new challenges. Chomskyan-inspired ‘C-linguists’ defend a status quo, based on intuitive data and disparate universalizing abstract frameworks, reflecting 30 years of changing models. Linguists driven by interests in richer data and linguistic diversity, ‘D-linguists’, though more responsive to the new developments, have tended to lack an integrating framework. Here we outline such an integrative framework of the kind we were presupposing in ‘Myth’, namely a coevolutionary model of the interaction between mind and cultural linguistic traditions which puts variation central at all levels – a model that offers the right kind of response to the new challenges. In doing so we traverse the fundamental questions raised by the commentary in this special issue: What constitutes the data, what is the place of formal representations, how should linguistic comparison be done, what counts as explanation, what is the source of design in language? Radical changes in data, methods and theory are upon us. The future of the discipline will depend on responses to these changes: either the field turns in on itself and atrophies, or it modernizes, and tries to capitalize on the way language lies at the intersection of all the disciplines interested in human nature.
  • Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2010). WEIRD languages have misled us, too [Comment on Henrich et al.]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2-3), 103. doi:10.1017/S0140525X1000018X.

    Abstract

    The linguistic and cognitive sciences have severely underestimated the degree of linguistic diversity in the world. Part of the reason for this is that we have projected assumptions based on English and familiar languages onto the rest. We focus on some distortions this has introduced, especially in the study of semantics.
  • Noordzij, M. L., Newman-Norlund, S. E., De Ruiter, J. P., Hagoort, P., Levinson, S. C., & Toni, I. (2010). Neural correlates of intentional communication. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 4, E188. doi:10.3389/fnins.2010.00188.

    Abstract

    We know a great deal about the neurophysiological mechanisms supporting instrumental actions, i.e. actions designed to alter the physical state of the environment. In contrast, little is known about our ability to select communicative actions, i.e. actions directly designed to modify the mental state of another agent. We have recently provided novel empirical evidence for a mechanism in which a communicator selects his actions on the basis of a prediction of the communicative intentions that an addressee is most likely to attribute to those actions. The main novelty of those finding was that this prediction of intention recognition is cerebrally implemented within the intention recognition system of the communicator, is modulated by the ambiguity in meaning of the communicative acts, and not by their sensorimotor complexity. The characteristics of this predictive mechanism support the notion that human communicative abilities are distinct from both sensorimotor and linguistic processes.
  • Norcliffe, E., Enfield, N. J., Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2010). The grammar of perception. In E. Norcliffe, & N. J. Enfield (Eds.), Field manual volume 13 (pp. 7-16). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
  • De Ruiter, J. P., Noordzij, M. L., Newman-Norlund, S., Hagoort, P., Levinson, S. C., & Toni, I. (2010). Exploring the cognitive infrastructure of communication. Interaction studies, 11, 51-77. doi:10.1075/is.11.1.05rui.

    Abstract

    Human communication is often thought about in terms of transmitted messages in a conventional code like a language. But communication requires a specialized interactive intelligence. Senders have to be able to perform recipient design, while receivers need to be able to do intention recognition, knowing that recipient design has taken place. To study this interactive intelligence in the lab, we developed a new task that taps directly into the underlying abilities to communicate in the absence of a conventional code. We show that subjects are remarkably successful communicators under these conditions, especially when senders get feedback from receivers. Signaling is accomplished by the manner in which an instrumental action is performed, such that instrumentally dysfunctional components of an action are used to convey communicative intentions. The findings have important implications for the nature of the human communicative infrastructure, and the task opens up a line of experimentation on human communication.
  • Sauter, D., & Levinson, S. C. (2010). What's embodied in a smile? [Comment on Niedenthal et al.]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33, 457-458. doi:10.1017/S0140525X10001597.

    Abstract

    Differentiation of the forms and functions of different smiles is needed, but they should be based on empirical data on distinctions that senders and receivers make, and the physical cues that are employed. Such data would allow for a test of whether smiles can be differentiated using perceptual cues alone or whether mimicry or simulation are necessary.
  • Stivers, T., Enfield, N. J., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (2010). Question-response sequences in conversation across ten languages [Special Issue]. Journal of Pragmatics, 42(10). doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2010.04.001.
  • Stivers, T., Enfield, N. J., & Levinson, S. C. (2010). Question-response sequences in conversation across ten languages: An introduction. Journal of Pragmatics, 42, 2615-2619. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2010.04.001.
  • 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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