Stephen C. Levinson

Publications

Displaying 1 - 12 of 12
  • 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.

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