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Language as mechanisms for interaction

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Ruth Kempson
  • Ronnie Cann
  • Eleni Gregoromichelaki
  • Stergios Chatzikyriakidis

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-275
Number of pages72
JournalTheoretical Linguistics
Issue number3-4
Early online date6 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


Language use is full of subsentential shifts of context, a phenomenon dramatically illustrated in conversation where non-sentential utterances displaying seamless shifts between speaker/hearer roles appear regularly. The hurdle this poses for standard assumptions is that every local linguistic dependency can be distributed across speakers, with the content of what they are saying and the significance of each conversational move emerging incrementally. Accordingly, we argue that the modelling of a
psychologically-realistic grammar necessitates recasting the notion of natural language in terms of our ability for interaction with others and the environment, abandoning the competence-performance dichotomy as standardly envisaged. We sketch Dynamic Syntax, a model in which underspecification and
incremental time-relative update is central, showing how interactive effects of conversation follow directly. Finally, we note the changing cognitive-science horizons to be explored once a language-as-action view is adopted.

    Research areas

  • dialogue, linguistic interaction, dynamic syntax

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