Stephen C. Levinson

Publications

Displaying 1 - 31 of 31
  • Levinson, S. C., Cutfield, S., Dunn, M., Enfield, N. J., & Meira, S. (Eds.). (2018). Demonstratives in cross-linguistic perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    Demonstratives play a crucial role in the acquisition and use of language. Bringing together a team of leading scholars this detailed study, a first of its kind, explores meaning and use across fifteen typologically and geographically unrelated languages to find out what cross-linguistic comparisons and generalizations can be made, and how this might challenge current theory in linguistics, psychology, anthropology and philosophy. Using a shared experimental task, rounded out with studies of natural language use, specialists in each of the languages undertook extensive fieldwork for this comparative study of semantics and usage. An introduction summarizes the shared patterns and divergences in meaning and use that emerge.
  • 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.
  • Whorf, B. L. (2012). Language, thought, and reality: selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf [2nd ed.]: introduction by John B. Carroll; foreword by Stephen C. Levinson. (J. B. Carroll, S. C. Levinson, & P. Lee, Eds.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Abstract

    The pioneering linguist Benjamin Whorf (1897–1941) grasped the relationship between human language and human thinking: how language can shape our innermost thoughts. His basic thesis is that our perception of the world and our ways of thinking about it are deeply influenced by the structure of the languages we speak. The writings collected in this volume include important papers on the Maya, Hopi, and Shawnee languages, as well as more general reflections on language and meaning. Whorf’s ideas about the relation of language and thought have always appealed to a wide audience, but their reception in expert circles has alternated between dismissal and applause. Recently the language sciences have headed in directions that give Whorf’s thinking a renewed relevance. Hence this new edition of Whorf’s classic work is especially timely. The second edition includes all the writings from the first edition as well as John Carroll’s original introduction, a new foreword by Stephen Levinson of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics that puts Whorf’s work in historical and contemporary context, and new indexes. In addition, this edition offers Whorf’s “Yale Report,” an important work from Whorf’s mature oeuvre.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Majid, A., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (2011). The senses in language and culture [Special Issue]. The Senses & Society, 6(1).
  • Levinson, S. C. (2010). Pragmatyka [Polish translation of Pragmatics 1983]. Warsaw: Polish Scientific Publishers PWN.
  • 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.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2008). Space in language and cognition. Singapore: Word Publishing Company/CUP.

    Abstract

    Chinese translation of the 2003 publication.
  • 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.
  • 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). 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., & Wilkins, D. P. (Eds.). (2006). Grammars of space: Explorations in cognitive diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Jaisson, P. (Eds.). (2006). Evolution and culture: A Fyssen Foundation Symposium. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2004). Significados presumibles [Spanish translation of Presumptive meanings]. Madrid: Bibliotheca Románica Hispánica.
  • Dunn, M., Levinson, S. C., Lindström, E., Reesink, G., & Terrill, A. (2003). Island Melanesia elicitation materials. Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. doi:10.17617/2.885547.

    Abstract

    The Island Melanesia project was initiated to collect data on the little-known Papuan languages of Island Melanesia, and to explore the origins of and relationships between these languages. The project materials from the 2003 field season focus on language related to cultural domains (e.g., material culture) and on targeted grammatical description. Five tasks are included: Proto-Oceanic lexicon, Grammatical questionnaire and lexicon, Kinship questionnaire, Domains of likely pre-Austronesian terminology, and Botanical collection questionnaire.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2003). Space in language and cognition: Explorations in cognitive diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2002). Pragmatics [Chinese translation]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bowerman, M., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (2001). Language acquisition and conceptual development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    Recent years have seen a revolution in our knowledge of how children learn to think and speak. In this volume, leading scholars from these rapidly evolving fields of research examine the relationship between child language acquisition and cognitive development. At first sight, advances in the two areas seem to have moved in opposing directions: the study of language acquisition has been especially concerned with diversity, explaining how children learn languages of widely different types, while the study of cognitive development has focused on uniformity, clarifying how children build on fundamental, presumably universal concepts. This book brings these two vital strands of investigation into close dialogue, suggesting a synthesis in which the process of language acquisition may interact with early cognitive development. It provides empirical contributions based on a variety of languages, populations and ages, and theoretical discussions that cut across the disciplines of psychology, linguistics and anthropology.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Enfield, N. J. (Eds.). (2001). Manual for the field season 2001. Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
  • Levinson, S. C. (2000). Presumptive meanings: The theory of generalized conversational implicature. Cambridge: MIT press.
  • Gumperz, J. J., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (1996). Rethinking linguistic relativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Haviland, J. B. (Eds.). (1994). Space in Mayan languages [Special Issue]. Linguistics, 32(4/5).
  • Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (1993). Linguistic and nonlinguistic coding of spatial arrays: Explorations in Mayan cognition. Working Paper 24. Nijmegen, Netherlands: Cognitive Anthropology Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
  • Levinson, S. C. (1993). La Pragmatica [Italian translation of Pragmatics]. Bologna: Il Mulino.
  • De León, L., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (1992). Space in Mesoamerican languages [Special Issue]. Zeitschrift für Phonetik, Sprachwissenschaft und Kommunikationsforschung, 45(6).
  • Levinson, S. C. (1990). Pragmatics [Japanese translation]. Tokyo: Kenkyusha.
  • Levinson, S. C. (1990). Pragmatik [German translation of Pragmatics]. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

    Abstract

    This is the German translation of Stephen C. Levinson's »Pragmatics«.
  • Levinson, S. C. (1989). Pragmática [Spanish translation]. Barcelona: Teide.
  • Brown, P., & Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some universals in language usage. Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    This study is about the principles for constructing polite speech. The core of it was published as Brown and Levinson (1978); here it is reissued with a new introduction which surveys the now considerable literature in linguistics, psychology and the social sciences that the original extended essay stimulated, and suggests new directions for research. We describe and account for some remarkable parallelisms in the linguistic construction of utterances with which people express themselves in different languges and cultures. A motive for these parallels is isolated - politeness, broadly defined to include both polite friendliness and polite formality - and a universal model is constructed outlining the abstract principles underlying polite usages. This is based on the detailed study of three unrelated languages and cultures: the Tamil of south India, the Tzeltal spoken by Mayan Indians in Chiapas, Mexico, and the English of the USA and England, supplemented by examples from other cultures. Of general interest is the point that underneath the apparent diversity of polite behaviour in different societies lie some general pan-human principles of social interaction, and the model of politeness provides a tool for analysing the quality of social relations in any society.
  • Levinson, S. C. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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