Stephen C. Levinson

Publications

Displaying 1 - 26 of 26
  • Barthel, M., Sauppe, S., Levinson, S. C., & Meyer, A. S. (2016). The timing of utterance planning in task-oriented dialogue: Evidence from a novel list-completion paradigm. Frontiers in Psychology, 7: 1858. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01858.

    Abstract

    In conversation, interlocutors rarely leave long gaps between turns, suggesting that next speak- ers begin to plan their turns while listening to the previous speaker. The present experiment used analyses of speech onset latencies and eye-movements in a task-oriented dialogue paradigm to investigate when speakers start planning their response. Adult German participants heard a confederate describe sets of objects in utterances that either ended in a noun (e.g. Ich habe eine Tür und ein Fahrrad (‘I have a door and a bicycle’)) or a verb form (Ich habe eine Tür und ein Fahrrad besorgt (‘I have gotten a door and a bicycle’)), while the presence or absence of the final verb either was or was not predictable from the preceding sentence structure. In response, participants had to name any unnamed objects they could see in their own display in utterances such as Ich habe ein Ei (‘I have an egg’). The main question was when participants started to plan their response. The results are consistent with the view that speakers begin to plan their turn as soon as sufficient information is available to do so, irrespective of further incoming words.
  • Holler, J., Kendrick, K. H., Casillas, M., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (2016). Turn-Taking in Human Communicative Interaction. Lausanne: Frontiers Media. doi:10.3389/978-2-88919-825-2.

    Abstract

    The core use of language is in face-to-face conversation. This is characterized by rapid turn-taking. This turn-taking poses a number central puzzles for the psychology of language. Consider, for example, that in large corpora the gap between turns is on the order of 100 to 300 ms, but the latencies involved in language production require minimally between 600ms (for a single word) or 1500 ms (for as simple sentence). This implies that participants in conversation are predicting the ends of the incoming turn and preparing in advance. But how is this done? What aspects of this prediction are done when? What happens when the prediction is wrong? What stops participants coming in too early? If the system is running on prediction, why is there consistently a mode of 100 to 300 ms in response time? The timing puzzle raises further puzzles: it seems that comprehension must run parallel with the preparation for production, but it has been presumed that there are strict cognitive limitations on more than one central process running at a time. How is this bottleneck overcome? Far from being 'easy' as some psychologists have suggested, conversation may be one of the most demanding cognitive tasks in our everyday lives. Further questions naturally arise: how do children learn to master this demanding task, and what is the developmental trajectory in this domain? Research shows that aspects of turn-taking such as its timing are remarkably stable across languages and cultures, but the word order of languages varies enormously. How then does prediction of the incoming turn work when the verb (often the informational nugget in a clause) is at the end? Conversely, how can production work fast enough in languages that have the verb at the beginning, thereby requiring early planning of the whole clause? What happens when one changes modality, as in sign languages -- with the loss of channel constraints is turn-taking much freer? And what about face-to-face communication amongst hearing individuals -- do gestures, gaze, and other body behaviors facilitate turn-taking? One can also ask the phylogenetic question: how did such a system evolve? There seem to be parallels (analogies) in duetting bird species, and in a variety of monkey species, but there is little evidence of anything like this among the great apes. All this constitutes a neglected set of problems at the heart of the psychology of language and of the language sciences. This research topic welcomes contributions from right across the board, for example from psycholinguists, developmental psychologists, students of dialogue and conversation analysis, linguists interested in the use of language, phoneticians, corpus analysts and comparative ethologists or psychologists. We welcome contributions of all sorts, for example original research papers, opinion pieces, and reviews of work in subfields that may not be fully understood in other subfields.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2016). “Process and perish” or multiple buffers with push-down stacks? [Commentary on Christiansen & Slater]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 39: e81. doi:10.1017/S0140525X15000862.

    Abstract

    This commentary raises two issues: (1) Language processing is hastened not only by internal pressures but also externally by turntaking in language use; (2) the theory requires nested levels of processing, but linguistic levels do not fully nest; further, it would seem to require multiple memory buffers, otherwise there’s no obvious treatment for discontinuous structures, or for verbatim recall.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2016). Language and mind: Let's get the issues straight! In S. D. Blum (Ed.), Making sense of language: Readings in culture and communication [3rd ed.] (pp. 68-80). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2016). Turn-taking in human communication, origins, and implications for language processing. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20(1), 6-14. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2015.10.010.

    Abstract

    Most language usage is interactive, involving rapid turn-taking. The turn-taking system has a number of striking properties: turns are short and responses are remarkably rapid, but turns are of varying length and often of very complex construction such that the underlying cognitive processing is highly compressed. Although neglected in cognitive science, the system has deep implications for language processing and acquisition that are only now becoming clear. Appearing earlier in ontogeny than linguistic competence, it is also found across all the major primate clades. This suggests a possible phylogenetic continuity, which may provide key insights into language evolution.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2016). The countable singulare tantum. In A. Reuneker, R. Boogaart, & S. Lensink (Eds.), Aries netwerk: Een constructicon (pp. 145-146). Leiden: Leiden University.
  • 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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