Conférenciers invités

Dagmar DIVJAK (Université de Sheffield)
Something from nothing: can concepts be acquired distributionally?
The human capacity for acquiring and representing meaning has long puzzled philosophers, linguists, psychologists and cognitive scientists alike. Although three sources of information for concept formation are commonly acknowledged, i.e. direct sensory-motor experience, indirect sensory-motor experience gathered by witnessing others, and experience with language, the precise import made by each of these domains remains unknown. In order to estimate the contribution made by language, I turn to the way in which blind people acquire knowledge of vision terms without the visual input deemed crucial for normal conceptual development and use corpus data to estimate how far they can get by tracking frequency distributions in input.
In this talk, I will present corpus data 1) to explore to what extent Russian and English verbs of SEEING could be learned by generalising over typical lexico-constructional patterns, containing a wealth of information about concepts and 2) to estimate to what extent verbs of SEEING share a common constructional and lexical base with HEARING and TOUCHING that would facilitate drawing conceptual and experiential analogies. Given a large enough shared linguistic basis, analogies drawing on linguistic as well as sensory experiences involving cognate sensory domains can directly be accommodated. This transfer would fulfill an important role in enabling the blind to ground verbs of seeing to some extent in sensory reality.
This corpus study yields a first accurate estimate of the potential that our experience with language has for contributing to sensory concept formation in the absence of first-hand sensory experience, which by extension has implications for theories of conceptual acquisition and representation in general.
 
COLETTE GRINEVALD (UNIV. LYON & UMR DDL, LYON) :
Look alike noun classifiers in three modalities: spoken (Jakaltek Popti’ Mayan), signed (French Sign Language) and written (Egyptian Hieroglyphs)
The phenomenon of categorization is a universal of human language, whatever its modality. A proof of it is found in the existence in many languages of the world of a particular type of overt linguistic categorization system known as “classifier systems”.  A typological approach to the great variety of such systems (Craig 1986a, 1986b, 1992, 1994; Grinevald 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007) has established that there are in fact several subtypes of classifier systems around the world.  Most of them categorize nouns, such as the numeral classifier systems (well known, and widespread in the languages of SEA), less known possessive (genitival) classifier systems (but typical of languages of the Pacific region) and noun classifier systems (first described in languages of Meso-America and Australia), and rarer verbal classifier systems (from languages of North America for instance). Rarer yet are the verb classifier systems that categorize the verb itself (identified in languages of Australia, for instance).  
The talk will describe three classifier systems encountered in languages from three different modalities, to demonstrate their remarkable similarities and point to their language and modality specific differences.  The first two are the clearly noun classifier systems of Jakaltek Popti’ (spoken language of the Mayan family, Craig (1986b, c, 1990) and French Sign Language* (of the typological family of signed languages, Grinevald (2002). The third is the interesting written system of Hieroglyphic Egyptian** and its so-called ‘determinatives’ recently reanalyzed as classifiers, although interestingly of nouns and verbs at once (Goldwasser & Grinevald in print).  
*in collaboration with Annie Risler (Université de Lille)
**in collaboration with Orly Goldwasser (University of Jerusalem) 
 
Irene MITTELBERG (Université d'Aix-la-Chapelle [RWTH]) :
Multimodality from two perspectives: Gesture production and reception studies carried out in the Natural Media Lab
Investigating multimodal communicative behaviour empirically involves taking sides: one can either focus on production processes or on the reception and understanding of multimodal acts. This talk will give an overview of both gesture production and reception studies recently carried out in the Natural Media Lab. The focus will be on the ways in which cognitive-semiotic principles such as metonymy, metaphor and image schemas seem to motivate both the sign constitution and interpretation of integrated message consisting of speech and its accompanying gestures. Several empirical methods will be exemplified, ranging from semiotic analyses to user studies in the field of human-computer interaction and brain-imaging experiments in the clinical neurosciences.
 
Gary MORGAN (Université City de Londres) : 
The special nature of sign language acquisition
Most research on children's development of sign languages describes broadly similar patterns of progression from first signs to extended discourse, as occurs in spoken languages. However there are interesting domains of language which offer special challenges for signing children to overcome. This talk explores the role of cognitive abilities for the appreciation of iconicity in single signs and narratives.
 
Martin HILPERT (Université de Neuchâtel, Suisse) :
Cognition, corpora, and language change: How the study of diachronic variation fits into the cognitive linguistic enterprise
At first blush it may seem odd that reserchers in Cognitive Linguistics should have an interest in the historical development of language. After all, one cannot conduct a lexical decision task with speakers of Old English, nor is it possible to study the metaphorical underpinnings of gestures that accompanied conversations in Hittite. How can a cognitive approach to language history be anything but utter speculation? This talk will make the case that looking at language change is not only perfectly in line with the cognitive linguistic enterprise, but that furthermore an understanding of how language change works is a necessary prerequisite for an adequate theory of how language and cognition are related in synchrony. In order to give some substance to this claim, I will present case studies that apply the empirical, corpus-based methodologies of variationist sociolinguistics to phenomena of language change, specifically the change of grammatical constructions. These methods, in connection with diachronic corpus data, offer precise models of how the cognitive forces that shape language variation in synchrony have also been at work in diachrony.
 
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