Stephen C. Levinson

Publications

Displaying 1 - 15 of 15
  • 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.

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