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Language as Mechanisms for Interaction

Journal article
Authors Ruth Kempson
Ronnie Cann
Eleni Gregoromichelaki
Stergios Chatzikyriakidis
Published in Theoretical Linguistics
Volume 42
Issue 3-4
Pages 203-276
ISSN 0301-4428
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 203-276
Language en
Keywords Dynamic Syntax, Incrementality, Dialogue
Subject categories Languages and Literature


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.

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