Stephen C. Levinson

Publications

Displaying 1 - 10 of 10
  • Dediu, D., & Levinson, S. C. (2014). Language and speech are old: A review of the evidence and consequences for modern linguistic diversity. In E. A. Cartmill, S. G. Roberts, H. Lyn, & H. Cornish (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (pp. 421-422). Singapore: World Scientific.
  • Dediu, D., & Levinson, S. C. (2014). The time frame of the emergence of modern language and its implications. In D. Dor, C. Knight, & J. Lewis (Eds.), The social origins of language (pp. 184-195). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hagoort, P., & Levinson, S. C. (2014). Neuropragmatics. In M. S. Gazzaniga, & G. R. Mangun (Eds.), The cognitive neurosciences (5th ed., pp. 667-674). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2014). Pragmatics as the origin of recursion. In F. Lowenthal, & L. Lefebvre (Eds.), Language and recursion (pp. 3-13). Berlin: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-9414-0_1.

    Abstract

    There has been a recent spate of work on recursion as a central design feature of language and specifically of syntax. This short report points out that there is little evidence that unlimited recursion, understood as centre embedding, is typical of natural language syntax. Nevertheless, embedded pragmatic construals seem available in every language. Further, much deeper centre embedding can be found in dialogue or conversation structure than can be found in syntax. Existing accounts for the ‘performance’ limitations on centre embedding are thus thrown in doubt. Dialogue materials suggest that centre embedding is perhaps a core part of the human interaction system and is for some reason much more highly restricted in syntax than in other aspects of cognition
  • Levinson, S. C. (2014). Language and Wallace's problem [Review of the books More than nature needs: Language, mind and evolution by D. Bickerton and A natural history of human thinking by M. Tomasello]. Science, 344, 1458-1459. doi:10.1126/science.1252988.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2014). Language evolution. In N. J. Enfield, P. Kockelman, & J. Sidnell (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of linguistic anthropology (pp. 309-324). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Majid, A. (2014). Differential ineffability and the senses. Mind & Language, 29, 407-427. doi:10.1111/mila.12057.

    Abstract

    neffability, the degree to which percepts or concepts resist linguistic coding, is a fairly unexplored nook of cognitive science. Although philosophical preoccupations with qualia or nonconceptual content certainly touch upon the area, there has been little systematic thought and hardly any empirical work in recent years on the subject. We argue that ineffability is an important domain for the cognitive sciences. For examining differential ineffability across the senses may be able to tell us important things about how the mind works, how different modalities talk to one another, and how language does, or does not, interact with other mental faculties.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Holler, J. (2014). The origin of human multi-modal communication. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 369(1651): 2013030. doi:10.1098/rstb.2013.0302.

    Abstract

    One reason for the apparent gulf between animal and human communication systems is that the focus has been on the presence or the absence of language as a complex expressive system built on speech. But language normally occurs embedded within an interactional exchange of multi-modal signals. If this larger perspective takes central focus, then it becomes apparent that human communication has a layered structure, where the layers may be plausibly assigned different phylogenetic and evolutionary origins—especially in the light of recent thoughts on the emergence of voluntary breathing and spoken language. This perspective helps us to appreciate the different roles that the different modalities play in human communication, as well as how they function as one integrated system despite their different roles and origins. It also offers possibilities for reconciling the ‘gesture-first hypothesis’ with that of gesture and speech having evolved together, hand in hand—or hand in mouth, rather—as one system.
  • Magyari, L., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., De Ruiter, J. P., & Levinson, S. C. (2014). Early anticipation lies behind the speed of response in conversation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26(11), 2530-2539. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00673.

    Abstract

    RTs in conversation, with average gaps of 200 msec and often less, beat standard RTs, despite the complexity of response and the lag in speech production (600 msec or more). This can only be achieved by anticipation of timing and content of turns in conversation, about which little is known. Using EEG and an experimental task with conversational stimuli, we show that estimation of turn durations are based on anticipating the way the turn would be completed. We found a neuronal correlate of turn-end anticipation localized in ACC and inferior parietal lobule, namely a beta-frequency desynchronization as early as 1250 msec, before the end of the turn. We suggest that anticipation of the other's utterance leads to accurately timed transitions in everyday conversations.
  • Roberts, S. G., Dediu, D., & Levinson, S. C. (2014). Detecting differences between the languages of Neandertals and modern humans. In E. A. Cartmill, S. G. Roberts, H. Lyn, & H. Cornish (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (pp. 501-502). Singapore: World Scientific.

    Abstract

    Dediu and Levinson (2013) argue that Neandertals had essentially modern language and speech, and that they were in genetic contact with the ancestors of modern humans during our dispersal out of Africa. This raises the possibility of cultural and linguistic contact between the two human lineages. If such contact did occur, then it might have influenced the cultural evolution of the languages. Since the genetic traces of contact with Neandertals are limited to the populations outside of Africa, Dediu & Levinson predict that there may be structural differences between the present-day languages derived from languages in contact with Neanderthals, and those derived from languages that were not influenced by such contact. Since the signature of such deep contact might reside in patterns of features, they suggested that machine learning methods may be able to detect these differences. This paper attempts to test this hypothesis and to estimate particular linguistic features that are potential candidates for carrying a signature of Neandertal languages.

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