Finding Common Ground

A call for papers and posters is out from Bert Hodges and Carol Fowler. They invite contributions for the conference Finding Common Ground: Social, Ecological, and Cognitive Perspectives on Language Use to be held at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, from June 12th to 14th 2014.

For the past 50 years the most prominent theories of language have taken it to be individual, innate, internal (i.e., private), and designed for thinking. Variations in linguistic practices across culture and time are considered trivial; a universal set of formal operations is all that really counts as language (Berwick & Chomsky, 2011). Against this view, a wide variety of usage-based, functionalist, ecological accounts of language as a public, cultural, communicative activity have arisen, offering the view that language is part of a broader human adaptation for culture in which linguistic norms and patterns serve to solve coordination problems and to assist in collaborative efforts (Clark, 1996; Tomasello, 2008; Everett, 2012; Givón, 2013). Laks (2013) makes a strong case that usage-based approaches are now in ascendancy among researchers, but Ibbotson (2013) suggests that the variation of views among such researchers is a weakness, as well as a strength: Better integration and more in-depth development are needed. The conference we have organized is designed to meet this deep and pressing need. The time is especially appropriate since the past few years have seen fresh energy and enthusiasm for developing new ways of studying linguistic activity in social interactions that are genuinely dialogical and interactive.

There is an impressive array of scientists and scholars calling for language to be viewed as more interactive, more cultural, and more embodied. They include, but are not limited to, people from the following research traditions:

  • Enactive approaches
  • Dynamical systems theory
  • Ecological approaches
  • Gesture studies
  • Interactive neuroscience
  • Cognitive linguistics
  • Dialogical cognitive psychology

We invite researchers to participate who are interested in how we can best understand conversing as embodied, ecological engagement. In coming together we will engage in conversation ourselves, with the hope that we can learn from each other. We certainly expect that the conference will help all of us develop our ability to understand the physical actions and social interactions entailed in conversing. We are also particularly interested in explorations of language addressing its social, embodied (e.g., gestural), pragmatic, and normative dimensions.

Talks will be approximately 25 minutes. Deadline for abstracts for papers or posters (400 word limit) is February 1, 2014. Please send them to Carol Fowler or Bert Hodges at the email addresses below. We would appreciate receiving an email at any time to let us know that you are considering making a submission to the conference.