Stephen C. Levinson

Publications

Displaying 1 - 23 of 23
  • Bohnemeyer, J., Burenhult, N., Enfield, N. J., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). Landscape terms and place names questionnaire. In K. Kendrick, & A. Majid (Eds.), Field manual volume 14 (pp. 19-23). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.1005606.
  • Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). [Politeness: Some universals in language usage, Japanese translation]. Tokyo: Kenkyusha Publishing.

    Abstract

    Japanese translation of Some universals in language usage, 1987, Cambridge University Press
  • Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). Politeness: Some universals in language use [Reprint]. In D. Archer, & P. Grundy (Eds.), The pragmatics reader (pp. 283-304). London: Routledge.

    Abstract

    Reprinted with permission of Cambridge University Press from: Brown, P. and Levinson, S. E. (1987) Politeness, (©) 1978, 1987, CUP.
  • Dunn, M., Greenhill, S. J., Levinson, S. C., & Gray, R. D. (2011). Evolved structure of language shows lineage-specific trends in word-order universals. Nature, 473, 79-82. doi:10.1038/nature09923.

    Abstract

    Languages vary widely but not without limit. The central goal of linguistics is to describe the diversity of human languages and explain the constraints on that diversity. Generative linguists following Chomsky have claimed that linguistic diversity must be constrained by innate parameters that are set as a child learns a language1, 2. In contrast, other linguists following Greenberg have claimed that there are statistical tendencies for co-occurrence of traits reflecting universal systems biases3, 4, 5, rather than absolute constraints or parametric variation. Here we use computational phylogenetic methods to address the nature of constraints on linguistic diversity in an evolutionary framework6. First, contrary to the generative account of parameter setting, we show that the evolution of only a few word-order features of languages are strongly correlated. Second, contrary to the Greenbergian generalizations, we show that most observed functional dependencies between traits are lineage-specific rather than universal tendencies. These findings support the view that—at least with respect to word order—cultural evolution is the primary factor that determines linguistic structure, with the current state of a linguistic system shaping and constraining future states.

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  • Enfield, N. J., Kendrick, K. H., De Ruiter, J. P., Stivers, T., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). Building a corpus of spontaneous interaction. In Field manual volume 14 (pp. 29-32). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.1005610.

    Abstract

    This revised version supersedes all previous versions (e.g., Field Manual 2010).
  • Enfield, N. J., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). Metalanguage for speech acts. In K. Kendrick, & A. Majid (Eds.), Field manual volume 14 (pp. 33-35). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.1005611.

    Abstract

    This version is reprinted from the 2010 Field Manual
  • Evans, N., Levinson, S. C., Gaby, A., & Majid, A. (2011). Introduction: Reciprocals and semantic typology. In N. Evans, A. Gaby, S. C. Levinson, & A. Majid (Eds.), Reciprocals and semantic typology (pp. 1-28). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Reciprocity lies at the heart of social cognition, and with it so does the encoding of reciprocity in language via reciprocal constructions. Despite the prominence of strong universal claims about the semantics of reciprocal constructions, there is considerable descriptive literature on the semantics of reciprocals that seems to indicate variable coding and subtle cross-linguistic differences in meaning of reciprocals, both of which would make it impossible to formulate a single, essentialising definition of reciprocal semantics. These problems make it vital for studies in the semantic typology of reciprocals to employ methodologies that allow the relevant categories to emerge objectively from cross-linguistic comparison of standardised stimulus materials. We situate the rationale for the 20-language study that forms the basis for this book within this empirical approach to semantic typology, and summarise some of the findings.

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  • Evans, N., Gaby, A., Levinson, S. C., & Majid, A. (Eds.). (2011). Reciprocals and semantic typology. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Reciprocals are an increasingly hot topic in linguistic research. This reflects the intersection of several factors: the semantic and syntactic complexity of reciprocal constructions, their centrality to some key points of linguistic theorizing (such as Binding Conditions on anaphors within Government and Binding Theory), and the centrality of reciprocity to theories of social structure, human evolution and social cognition. No existing work, however, tackles the question of exactly what reciprocal constructions mean cross-linguistically. Is there a single, Platonic ‘reciprocal’ meaning found in all languages, or is there a cluster of related concepts which are nonetheless impossible to characterize in any single way? That is the central goal of this volume, and it develops and explains new techniques for tackling this question. At the same time, it confronts a more general problem facing semantic typology: how to investigate a category cross-linguistically without pre-loading the definition of the phenomenon on the basis of what is found in more familiar languages.
  • Haun, D. B. M., Rapold, C. J., Janzen, G., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). Plasticity of human spatial memory: Spatial language and cognition covary across cultures. Cognition, 119, 70-80. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2010.12.009.

    Abstract

    The present paper explores cross-cultural variation in spatial cognition by comparing spatial reconstruction tasks by Dutch and Namibian elementary school children. These two communities differ in the way they predominantly express spatial relations in language. Four experiments investigate cognitive strategy preferences across different levels of task-complexity and instruction. Data show a correlation between dominant linguistic spatial frames of reference and performance patterns in non-linguistic spatial memory tasks. This correlation is shown to be stable across an increase of complexity in the spatial array. When instructed to use their respective non-habitual cognitive strategy, participants were not easily able to switch between strategies and their attempts to do so impaired their performance. These results indicate a difference not only in preference but also in competence and suggest that spatial language and non-linguistic preferences and competences in spatial cognition are systematically aligned across human populations.

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  • Levinson, S. C. (2011). Pojmowanie przestrzeni w różnych kulturach [Polish translation of Levinson, S. C. 1998. Studying spatial conceptualization across cultures]. Autoportret, 33, 16-23.

    Abstract

    Polish translation of Levinson, S. C. (1998). Studying spatial conceptualization across cultures: Anthropology and cognitive science. Ethos, 26(1), 7-24. doi:10.1525/eth.1998.26.1.7
  • Levinson, S. C. (2011). Presumptive meanings [Reprint]. In D. Archer, & P. Grundy (Eds.), The pragmatics reader (pp. 86-98). London: Routledge.

    Abstract

    Reprinted with permission of The MIT Press from Levinson (2000) Presumptive meanings: The theory of generalized conversational implicature, pp. 112-118, 116-167, 170-173, 177-180. MIT Press
  • Levinson, S. C. (2011). Deixis [Reprint]. In D. Archer, & P. Grundy (Eds.), The pragmatics reader (pp. 163-185). London: Routledge.

    Abstract

    Reproduced with permission of Blackwell Publishing from: Levinson, S. C. (2004) 'Deixis'. In: Horn, L.R. and Ward, G. (Eds.) The Handbook of Pragmatics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 100-121
  • Levinson, S. C. (2011). Foreword. In D. M. Mark, A. G. Turk, N. Burenhult, & D. Stea (Eds.), Landscape in language: Transdisciplinary perspectives (pp. ix-x). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2011). Three levels of meaning: Essays in honor of Sir John Lyons [Reprint]. In A. Kasher (Ed.), Pragmatics II. London: Routledge.

    Abstract

    Reprint from Stephen C. Levinson, ‘Three Levels of Meaning’, in Frank Palmer (ed.), Grammar and Meaning: Essays in Honor of Sir John Lyons (Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 90–115
  • Levinson, S. C., Greenhill, S. J., Gray, R. D., & Dunn, M. (2011). Universal typological dependencies should be detectable in the history of language families. Linguistic Typology, 15, 509-534. doi:10.1515/LITY.2011.034.

    Abstract

    1. Introduction We claim that making sense of the typological diversity of languages demands a historical/evolutionary approach.We are pleased that the target paper (Dunn et al. 2011a) has served to bring discussion of this claim into prominence, and are grateful that leading typologists have taken the time to respond (commentaries denoted by boldface). It is unfortunate though that a number of the commentaries in this issue of LT show significant misunderstandings of our paper. Donohue thinks we were out to show the stability of typological features, but that was not our target at all (although related methods can be used to do that: see, e.g., Greenhill et al. 2010a, Dediu 2011a). Plank seems to think we were arguing against universals of any type, but our target was in fact just the implicational universals of word order that have been the bread and butter of typology. He also seems to think we ignore diachrony, whereas in fact the method introduces diachrony centrally into typological reasoning, thereby potentially revolutionising typology (see Cysouw’s commentary). Levy & Daumé think we were testing for lineage-specificity, whereas that was in fact an outcome (the main finding) of our testing for correlated evolution. Dryer thinks we must account for the distribution of language types around the world, but that was not our aim: our aim was to test the causal connection between linguistic variables by taking the perspective of language evolution (diversification and change). Longobardi & Roberts seem to think we set out to extract family trees from syntactic features, but our goal was in fact to use trees based on lexical cognates and hang reconstructed syntactic states on each node of these trees, thereby reconstructing the processes of language change.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2011). Universals in pragmatics. In P. C. Hogan (Ed.), The Cambridge encyclopedia of the language sciences (pp. 654-657). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    Changing Prospects for Universals in Pragmatics The term PRAGMATICS has come to denote the study of general principles of language use. It is usually understood to contrast with SEMANTICS, the study of encoded meaning, and also, by some authors, to contrast with SOCIOLINGUISTICS and the ethnography of speaking, which are more concerned with local sociocultural practices. Given that pragmaticists come from disciplines as varied as philosophy, sociology, linguistics, communication studies, psychology, and anthropology, it is not surprising that definitions of pragmatics vary. Nevertheless, most authors agree on a list of topics that come under the rubric, including DEIXIS, PRESUPPOSITION, implicature (see CONVERSATIONAL IMPLICATURE), SPEECH-ACTS, and conversational organization (see CONVERSATIONAL ANALYSIS). Here, we can use this extensional definition as a starting point (Levinson 1988; Huang 2007).
  • Levinson, S. C. (2011). Reciprocals in Yélî Dnye, the Papuan language of Rossel Island. In N. Evans, A. Gaby, S. C. Levinson, & A. Majid (Eds.), Reciprocals and semantic typology (pp. 177-194). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Yélî Dnye has two discernable dedicated constructions for reciprocal marking. The first and main construction uses a dedicated reciprocal pronoun numo, somewhat like English each other. We can recognise two subconstructions. First, the ‘numo-construction’, where the reciprocal pronoun is a patient of the verb, and where the invariant pronoun numo is obligatorily incorporated, triggering intransitivisation (e.g. A-NPs become absolutive). This subconstruction has complexities, for example in the punctual aspect only, the verb is inflected like a transitive, but with enclitics mismatching actual person/number. In the second variant or subconstruction, the ‘noko-construction’, the same reciprocal pronoun (sometimes case-marked as noko) occurs but now in oblique positions with either transitive or intransitive verbs. The reciprocal element here has some peculiar binding properties. Finally, the second independent construction is a dedicated periphrastic (or woni…woni) construction, glossing ‘the one did X to the other, and the other did X to the one’. It is one of the rare cross-serial dependencies that show that natural languages cannot be modelled by context-free phrase-structure grammars. Finally, the usage of these two distinct constructions is discussed.
  • Majid, A., Evans, N., Gaby, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). The semantics of reciprocal constructions across languages: An extensional approach. In N. Evans, A. Gaby, S. C. Levinson, & A. Majid (Eds.), Reciprocals and semantic typology (pp. 29-60). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    Abstract

    How similar are reciprocal constructions in the semantic parameters they encode? We investigate this question by using an extensional approach, which examines similarity of meaning by examining how constructions are applied over a set of 64 videoclips depicting reciprocal events (Evans et al. 2004). We apply statistical modelling to descriptions from speakers of 20 languages elicited using the videoclips. We show that there are substantial differences in meaning between constructions of different languages.

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  • Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (2011). The senses in language and culture [Special Issue]. The Senses & Society, 6(1).
  • Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). The senses in language and culture. The Senses & Society, 6(1), 5-18. doi:10.2752/174589311X12893982233551.

    Abstract

    Multiple social science disciplines have converged on the senses in recent years, where formerly the domain of perception was the preserve of psychology. Linguistics, or Language, however, seems to have an ambivalent role in this undertaking. On the one hand, Language with a capital L (language as a general human capacity) is part of the problem. It was the prior focus on language (text) that led to the disregard of the senses. On the other hand, it is language (with a small "l", a particular tongue) that offers key insights into how other peoples onceptualize the senses. In this article, we argue that a systematic cross-cultural approach can reveal fundamental truths about the precise connections between language and the senses. Recurring failures to adequately describe the sensorium across specific languages reveal the intrinsic limits of Language. But the converse does not hold. Failures of expressibility in one language need not hold any implications for the Language faculty per se, and indeed can enlighten us about the possible experiential worlds available to human experience.
  • Majid, A., Evans, N., Gaby, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). The grammar of exchange: A comparative study of reciprocal constructions across languages. Frontiers in Psychology, 2: 34, pp. 34. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00034.

    Abstract

    Cultures are built on social exchange. Most languages have dedicated grammatical machinery for expressing this. To demonstrate that statistical methods can also be applied to grammatical meaning, we here ask whether the underlying meanings of these grammatical constructions are based on shared common concepts. To explore this, we designed video stimuli of reciprocated actions (e.g. ‘giving to each other’) and symmetrical states (e.g. ‘sitting next to each other’), and with the help of a team of linguists collected responses from 20 languages around the world. Statistical analyses revealed that many languages do, in fact, share a common conceptual core for reciprocal meanings but that this is not a universally expressed concept. The recurrent pattern of conceptual packaging found across languages is compatible with the view that there is a shared non-linguistic understanding of reciprocation. But, nevertheless, there are considerable differences between languages in the exact extensional patterns, highlighting that even in the domain of grammar semantics is highly language-specific.
  • Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). The language of perception across cultures [Abstract]. Abstracts of the XXth Congress of European Chemoreception Research Organization, ECRO-2010. Publ. in Chemical Senses, 36(1), E7-E8.

    Abstract

    How are the senses structured by the languages we speak, the cultures we inhabit? To what extent is the encoding of perceptual experiences in languages a matter of how the mind/brain is ―wired-up‖ and to what extent is it a question of local cultural preoccupation? The ―Language of Perception‖ project tests the hypothesis that some perceptual domains may be more ―ineffable‖ – i.e. difficult or impossible to put into words – than others. While cognitive scientists have assumed that proximate senses (olfaction, taste, touch) are more ineffable than distal senses (vision, hearing), anthropologists have illustrated the exquisite variation and elaboration the senses achieve in different cultural milieus. The project is designed to test whether the proximate senses are universally ineffable – suggesting an architectural constraint on cognition – or whether they are just accidentally so in Indo-European languages, so expanding the role of cultural interests and preoccupations. To address this question, a standardized set of stimuli of color patches, geometric shapes, simple sounds, tactile textures, smells and tastes have been used to elicit descriptions from speakers of more than twenty languages—including three sign languages. The languages are typologically, genetically and geographically diverse, representing a wide-range of cultures. The communities sampled vary in subsistence modes (hunter-gatherer to industrial), ecological zones (rainforest jungle to desert), dwelling types (rural and urban), and various other parameters. We examine how codable the different sensory modalities are by comparing how consistent speakers are in how they describe the materials in each modality. Our current analyses suggest that taste may, in fact, be the most codable sensorial domain across languages. Moreover, we have identified exquisite elaboration in the olfactory domains in some cultural settings, contrary to some contemporary predictions within the cognitive sciences. These results suggest that differential codability may be at least partly the result of cultural preoccupation. This shows that the senses are not just physiological phenomena but are constructed through linguistic, cultural and social practices.
  • Norcliffe, E., Enfield, N. J., Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (2011). The grammar of perception. In K. Kendrick, & A. Majid (Eds.), Field manual volume 14 (pp. 1-10). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

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