Spring Term Seminars 2019
- 24/1. Johan Blomberg and Jordan Zlatev (Cognitive semiotics, Lund): Metalinguistic relativity: Does one’s ontology determine one’s view on linguistic relativity?
- Abstract: Linguistic relativity is a notion that has been met with both praise and scorn. We argue that there is correlation between theorists’ general conceptions of the nature of language, and their stance toward linguistic relativity. Starting with the proponents of the thesis, we distinguish between the relativists of the early days (Boas, Whorf) and modern neo-Whofians (Levinson, Slobin), showing that the first but not the latter are committed to a view of language as a monolithic semiotic system contrasting “arbitrarily” with other such systems. Critics of the thesis also come from two diametrically opposed views of language. While universalists (Pinker, Bloom & Kiel) see the most significant part of language as pan-human cognitive structure (insulated from thought in general), socio-cultural theorists (Berthele, Björk) emphasize the nature of language as contextually situated activity. In both cases the potential for locally sedimented linguistic structures to influence thought is excluded or at best marginalized. In response, we propose that a synthetic ontology of language as an experientially grounded semiotic system for meaning making in actual social contexts allows for the possibility for language to influence thought, though in different ways. These depend on whether we consider language as situated use, as sedimented conventions or as ultimately prelinguistic motivations for “universal” properties like predication. We argue that all three of these perspectives need to be considered. With the help of the Motivation and Sedimentation Model, which is based on such a linguistic ontology, and inspired by the integral linguistics of Eugenio Coseriu, we show how the deadlock in the debate over linguistic relativity can be resolved, and the possibility for discussion to proceed in less antagonistic manner.
- 31/1. David Dunér (History of ideas, Lund): Semiotics of Biosignatures
- Abstract: This article examines the interpretation of biosignatures, the signs of life that could be detected in outer space. In astrobiology biosignatures could be of various kinds, fossils, molecules, traces, artefacts, structures, electromagnetic waves, etc. The purpose of this article is to bring some semiotic order in this seemingly chaotic variation of signs. It turns out that the semiotic function of these signs varies a lot, and each has their own epistemological problems and semiotic peculiarities. The article put forward a semiotics of biosignatures, i.e., how we, as interpreters, establish connections between things, between the expression (the biosignature) and the content (the living organism) in various forms of semiosis, as icons, indices, and symbols of life. In all, it is about how we get access to the world, and how we interpret and understand it, for achieving a wellgrounded knowledge about the living Universe.
- 7/2. Seminar about street art (to be specified)
- 14/2. Mats Andrén (Linné University, Växjö) & Johan Blomberg (Cognitive semiotics, Lund): Children’s use of gesture and action with static and dynamic verbs
- Abstract: The present study investigates gestures and pratical actions that are produced in coordination with spoken verbs, in Swedish children at 18, 24 and 30 months. Previous research on connections between children’s verbs and gestures has mainly focused only on iconic gestures and action verbs. We expand the research foci in two ways: we look both at gestures and at practical actions, examining how the two are coordinated with static verbs (e.g. sleep) and dynamic verbs (e.g. fall). Thanks to these additional distinctions, we have found that iconic gestures and iconic actions (the latter in particular) most commonly occurred with dynamic verbs. Static verbs were most commonly accompanied by deictic actions and deictic gestures (the latter in particular). At 30 months, deictic gestures and actions increased, whereas iconic gestures and actions decreased. We suggest that this may reflect a transition to less redundant ways of using bodily expressions at 30 months, where bodily movement increasingly takes on the role of specifying verb arguments rather than expressing the semantics of the verb itself.
- 21/2. ?
- 28/1. ?
- 7/3. Lidia Federica Mazzitelli (University of Cologne) Landscape semantics in Nalik
- Abstract: In this talk, I present and analyse the lexical and the grammatical elements used to encode the semantic domain of landscape (the geophysical environment) in Nalik, an Austronesian language spoken in the New Ireland province of Papua New Guinea. The Nalik landscape lexicon is mostly formed by monomorphemic nouns; partonomies are usually derived from the semantic domain of the human body, as in vaat a daanim ‘head of the river’, ie. ‘spring’. The conformation of the New Ireland landscape is reflected in the Nalik directional particles, which encode the position of the speaker and of the object with respect to the sea (‘north-west up the coast’, ‘south-east down the coast’, ‘inland/out on the sea’). In the Nalik territory, toponyms related to human settlements are particularly dense and are often semantically transparent; toponyms referring to landscape features as hills or rivers are less dense and less prominent as reference points. I show that the primary categorisation forces that drive the categorisation of landscape in Nalik are the affordances (i.e. the benefits) of the landscape features and the socio-cultural practices of the community.
- 2/5. No seminar
- 3/5-5/5: 12th International Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature, hosted by the Division of Cognitive Semiotics at Lund University: see further konferens.ht.lu.se/ill-12/