LECTURE 1 - OCT 17 2011 - AACHEN
Grammar, and Interaction, and Signed Languages

WhereRm. ISK 213: 14h00-15h30
Prof. Leland McCleary 
Universidade de São Paulo in São Paulo, Brazil

Where should signed languages look for a model of grammar?  The grammar of oral languages has largely been studied on the basis of written (or imagined) texts, with the result that grammar's rootedness in the face-to-face interaction among interlocutors has not been a central concern of mainstream linguistics.  Even the study of unwritten languages has proceeded on the basis of well-behaved sentence equivalents rather than on language as it unfolds in use.  The linguistic study of signed languages faces these challenges and more.  In addition to having to deal with an unwritten language and one which makes explicit use of physical space and motion, some leading sign linguists aren't even sure how to answer "What is a sentence?".  One approach to answering this question is to look at how speakers themselves plan, evaluate and select turn-relevance places during an ongoing conversation, as described by conversation analysis, as the production of naturally-occurring linguistic segments.  Research on Brazilian sign language that takes this approach will be presented as a way of opening a discussion about the mutual relation between language form and social interaction.

LECTURE 2 - NOV 21 2011 - AACHEN
Beyond the individual mind: Interactive perspectives on speaking and gesturing 

Where: HumTec Rm. 303: 16h15-18h00

Dr. Anna Kuhlen 1,2
1. Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
2. Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Charité - Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, Germany

Social interactions are joint activities in which two (or more) individuals coordinate their mental states and behavior. For example, in face-to-face conversation, speakers adapt their speech and their speech-accompanying gestures to their conversational partner. To capture the dynamics of social interaction, one can consider how the individual mind (e.g., the speaker) represents and integrates information about the partner or the social context. One essential aspect of social interactions, however, are the ongoing interactive processes by which individual minds relate to and shape each other in a reciprocal fashion. In this talk I will present experiments that show how speech and gesture are shaped by global information about the conversational partner available to the speaker in advance, and by local information or feedback from the partner that emerges online as the conversation unfolds. I will then relate this approach to ongoing projects aimed at identifying neurophysiological markers of interpersonal coordination. 

Distributed agency

Where: IBPR (Cologne) Rm. Senaatssaal: 15h00-16h30

Dr. Nick Enfield
Max Planck Institute (Nijmegen)


This talk will focus on the nature of human agency in social interaction. The argument is that agency is fundamentally distributed, and is therefore an intrinsically interactional aspect of being human. I present a semiotic model that is needed for describing meaning, relevant both to language and gesture, and show how it provides the basic machinery for defining agency in human affairs. Then I present two case studies to illustrate: turn-taking in conversation and recruiting others' help in interaction.


Gesture use in social context: the influence of common ground on co-speech gesture production in dyadic interaction

Where: IBPR (Cologne) Rm. Senaatssaal: 15h30-17h00

Dr. Judith Holler
Max Planck Institute (Nijmegen)


I will be presenting three experimental studies (as well as an on-going project) focusing on speakers' production of co-speech hand gestures under different social context conditions. In particular, the studies focus on a core element of conversation, namely the knowledge we mutually share with our interlocutor(s) (i.e., common ground) and how it affects gesture use in talk. Study 1 explores how common ground that exists from the outset of a conversation affects speakers' gestures in a referential communication task. The results show what one might intuitively expect to happen, namely an increase in gestural ellipsis with an increase in common ground. Study 2 focuses on the effect of common ground on gesture in a narrative complex, and the results tell a somewhat different story - in this task, speakers used proportionally more gestures, and the gestures tended not to become elliptical, when interlocutors shared common ground as compared to when they did not. Study 3 focuses on the kind of common ground that accrues over the course of a conversation and shows that, instead of withering away with accumulating common ground, speakers continue to use gestures with repeated references to the same entities. Together, these studies suggest that the way in which common ground influences gestural communication is complex; while gestures tend to become elliptical in certain contexts, they retain their communicative importance in others. I will also be presenting on-going research which explores the role of common ground in conjunction with the degree of verbal interaction between interlocutors, with an emphasis on the role of addressee feedback. The findings from all studies presented will be discussed with respect to models of gesture production and the functions co-speech gestures fulfill in talk.