Next seminar

  • Beginning with the seminar on April 2, subsequent seminars will be transmitted online using Zoom. Contact Jordan Zlatev to learn the Zoom number of each meeting.


Spring Term Seminars 2020


January 2020

  • 23/1.  Jordan Zlatev (Cognitive semiotics, Lund): Polysemiosis vs. multimodality: narration, pantomime and metaphor
    • Abstract: Language, gesture and depiction are three universal human semiotic systems, realized in various ways dependent on culture and technology. While each may be used independently, most spontaneous human communication involves the combination of two or more of these (and other) systems: polysemiosis. This allows complex interactions of sign use, where the different expressive potentials of the systems interplay with and balance one another in ways that remain to be explored in detail.
      Some research that is relevant for this topic is carried out under the banner of multimodality. “Modality”, however, remains a highly ambiguous notion. For some, it corresponds to the notion of semiotic system (e.g. Forceville 2017). In gesture studies, language itself is considered “multimodal” (Vigliocco, Perniss & Vinson, 2014) and in social semiotics one considers the combination of “modes” such as speech, text, picture, color, music, typography, design etc. (Kress, 2009). Finally, in psychology “modality” is used to refer to the different senses: vision, hearing, touch, smell and touch (and proprioception), and perception is known to be multimodal.
      In my cognitive semiotic approach, I restrict multimodality to the latter “sensory”, sense, and tease it apart from polysemiotic communication (Zlatev 2019). In my presentation, I will illustrate the usefulness of this distinction by reviewing three empirical studies: on unimodal vs. multimodal pantomime (Zlatev et al, 2017), on translating from monosemiotic to polysemiotic narratives (Louhema et al. in preparation) and on monosemiotic and polysemiotic metaphor in street art (Stampoulidis et al. in preparation).

      Forceville, C. 2017. Visual and multimodal metaphor in advertising: cultural perspectives. Styles of Communication 9(2). 26–41.
      Kress, G. 2009. Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. London: Routledge.
      Vigliocco, G., Perniss, P., & Vinson, D. (2014). Language as a multimodal phenomenon: implications for language learning, processing and evolution. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 369(1651), 20130292.
      Zlatev, J. 2019. Mimesis theory, learning and polysemiotic communication. Encylcopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. Springer.


  • 30/1. Tapani Möttönen (Aalto University). An outline for cognititive-interactional semantics: Theory and practice
    • Abstract: Cognitive Linguistics (CL) and Interactional linguistics (IL) have often been portrayed as antithetical relative to their philosophical underpinnings, notion of language and analytical practice. In particular, the notion of cognition as mind and its contents has served as a demarcation line: accessible and, indeed, invaluably central for semantically-driven analysis by CL, mind and mental constructs have been considered opaque and marginal for analysis of linguistics interaction at least by much of more traditional IL that is inspired by the methodological purism of Conversation Analysis (CA). Recent developments both within CL and IL suggest, however, that the strict demarcation between the two types of linguistics is neither conceptually well-founded or methodologically constructive. Indeed, much of linguistics in both camps has been inspired by relatively simplistic and solipsistic notions of cognition and concepts. In fact, the very notion put forward by classical CL – that mental constructs are central for linguistics meaning and thus accessible to linguistic analysis – implies a social notion of cognition, whereby linguistic units are simultaneously analyzable as socially transmitted (i.e. socio-normative) and internalized and thus inherently perspectival constructs. This ontologically complex notion of language, in turn, suggests a methodology, whereby linguistic interaction is analyzed in terms of conventional semantic units. In this talk, I will put forward a notion of cognitive-interactional semantics. In practice, this will require a closer analysis of the philosophical premises of both CL and IL. I will argue, that any linguistic analysis is inherently dependent on phenomenological analysis, and an intentional notion of, meaning. Methodologically, application of the notion of construal to interactional data will be considered.

February 2020

  • 6/2. Josef Mörnerud (Furuboda Folkhögskola). A Phenomenological Analysis of Formal and Informal Discourse on Education and Research at Universities in Sweden and China
    • Abstract: In this research, science and its political appearance are studied through an empirical exploration of their representations in narrative expressions. The field of investigation is allocated to formal and informal discourse on education and research at universities in Sweden and China. The analysed expressions were taken from 202 written reports, as students and personnel in both countries answered an open ended-question, and four formal documents: the Chinese and Swedish laws on higher education and documents on research, science, and technology. The narratives were processed through a Meaning-Constitution-Analysis (MCA), a tool used to perform a deep study of a text based on a phenomenological approach that aims at making the implied assumptions and worldviews explicit. The analysis revealed a common representation of the university as an intermediary between the government and the student in the Swedish narratives and as a meta-character differentiated from the government in the Chinese narratives. Further, the meaning of science appeared as an adjective that characterizes a certain sphere of life in the informal narratives and as a dynamic behind a desired development in the formal narratives. The meaning of politics emerged in the Swedish narratives as the formation of an environment, mainly for activities in an institutional balance between input and outcomes. In the Chinese narratives, politics appeared as a competition for status, in which both academia and the government claim the recognition awarded for successful development. These representations of politics can guide the interpretation of the otherwise quite general understanding of education as a structure to be filled with activities in the Swedish narratives and an object for a discussion based on values in the Chinese narratives as well as the representation of research as an asset in the Swedish narratives and a source of legitimacy in the Chinese narratives.

  • 13/2. Room SOL Absalon A339. Linea Brink Andersen (masteruppsats at Cognitive Semiotics); Opponent: Sigrid Svensson. Examinator: Maria Graziano. Non-actual Motion Expressions in Language and Gesture
    • Abstract: This thesis studies the phenomenon of non-actual motion (NAM) (Blomberg, 2014; Blomberg & Zlatev 2014), and its expression in language and gestures. It has been documented that many languages employ expressions of motion in descriptions of static scenarios (Amagawa, 1997; Blomberg, 2014; Matsumoto, 1996; Rojo & Valenzuela, 2003, 2009; Stosic & Sarda, 2009), here called NAM-expressions (NAM-Es). It has been proposed that NAM-Es have different experiential motivations (Blomberg 2014; Blomberg & Zlatev, 2014; Langacker, 1987; Matsumoto, 1996; Talmy, 2000a), which may, collectively, be called NAM-motivations. This thesis discusses four possible NAM-motivations: visual scanning, imagination, affordance of motion, and enactive self-motion, the latter for the first time. An empirical study was conducted to distinguish between the influence of three of these NAM-motivations, visual scanning, affordance of motion, and enactive self-motion, on expressions of non-actual motion in language and gesture. Thirty-nine native speakers of Swedish described 20 drawings depicting spatially extended objects, which were varied systematically to favor the different NAM-motivations. It was tested how frequently NAM-Es occurred in description of different stimuli-types, and a semantic framework for the analysis of motion expressions in gestures was developed to test whether different NAM-motivations were reflected in gestural NAM-Es. It was found that all the NAM-motivations that were investigated appear to function as motivations for NAM-expressions, but to varying extents. It was found that affordance of motion was relevant for both narrow and (what is here called) extended linguistic NAM-Es, but not for gestures. Enactive self-motion was relevant for extended linguistic NAM-Es, and visual scanning for narrow linguistic NAM-Es. The influence of visual scanning and enactive self-motion on gestural expression of NAM is complex, and needs further research.

  • 20/2. No seminar
  • 27/2. Michael Anderson (magisteruppsats at Cognitive Semiotics); Opponent: Linea Andersen. Does Familiarity Affect Gestural Rates?
    • Abstract: Face-to-face dialogue can be regarded as a direct and visible way to establish a close connection, between two people facing each other communicate proactively and without barriers. It also plays a key role in the study of verbal and nonverbal communication. A number of studies provide an overview of how gesture rates in face-to-face conditions have registered high rates compared with other social settings. These settings included monologue conversation, using intercom devices or using partitioned walls to separate speakers from seeing each other (Alibali & Heath, 2001; Bavelas, 1992; Bavelas & Chovil, 2006; Hostetter & Potthoff, 2012). Although research on gesture rates is limited and restricted to a few aspects such as visibility and gesture functions, this study focuses on the effects of different degrees of familiarity (friend, acquaintance and stranger), in face-to-face interaction. The collected data was based on video recording sessions and visual interaction. The results show that each level of familiarity has different gestural rates. For example, higher gestural rates were registered when the speaker talks with an acquaintance and lower gestural rates registered when the speaker interacts with a friend and with a stranger. The study highlights the influence of the speaker's knowledge, the use of English as a second language and social behavior which are also discussed.

March 2020

  • 5/3. No seminar

  • 12/3.  Jordan Zlatev & Przemek Zywiczynski(Cognitive semiotics, Lund and Experimental linguistics, Torun) Pantomime as the original human-specific semiotic.
    • Abstract: We propose reframing one of the key questions in the field of language evolution in terms of what was the original human-specific semiotic system. We clarify the difference between signals, which characterize animal communication, and signs, which do not replace but complement signals in human communication. The evolution of mimesis was what allowed for signs to emerge in hominin evolution, as well as the social-cognitive skills needed to support them. As neither signs nor signals operate single-handedly, we define the notion of a *semiotic system* as a communicative system with a set of semiotic vehicles (either signals or signs) of a particular type. Semiotic systems can be polysemiotic, and we propose that this is how pantomime should be characterised: as dominated by gesture but as also including vocalization, facial expression, and possibly the rudiments of depiction. Finally, we explicate features of *pantomimic gesture*, along six different dimensions, (a) dominant semiotic ground, (b) primary/secondary iconicity, (c) how much of the body is involved in expression, (d) perspective, (e) peripersonal/extrapersonal space and (f) mode of representation, understood as gradient.

      Note: This is will be a text-based seminar, so please contact Jordan Zlatev for a copy of the paper if you plan to attend.


  • 19/3. No seminar
  • CANCELLED. 24/3, H435 (Note changed weekday and room). Mike Franjieh (School of Literature and Languages, University of Surrey): The emergence of gender from classifiers: psycholinguistic investigations in Oceania
    • Abstract: The possessive classifier systems of Oceanic languages can provide a unique insight into the origin and nature of gender. Typically, a noun can occur with different classifiers, depending on how the possessed item is used by the possessor (Lichtenberk, 1983). For example, wi 'water' in Lewo (Vanuatu) occurs with either the drinkable or the general classifier. 1a. ma-na wi b. sa-na wi CL.DR-3SG water CL.GEN-3SG water 'her (drinking) water' 'her (washing) water' (Early, 1994:216)

      In marked contrast, North Ambrym's (Vanuatu) cognate for water – we – occurs only with the drinkable classifier (2a), not the general classifier (2b): 2a. ma-n we b. *mwena-n we CL.DR-3SG water CL.GEN-3SG water 'her water (for any purpose)' intended: 'her water' (Franjieh, 2016:95)

      We argue that North Ambrym's innovative system resembles a gender system: a noun occurs with a particular classifier regardless of contextual interactions. We ask whether gender systems can indeed emerge from possessive classifiers in this way. If so, we must then uncover how and why languages would relinquish a useful, meaningful classificatory system, and adopt a rigid, apparently unmotivated gender system. We have designed a suite of novel experiments to compare possessive classifier systems. We chose these six Oceanic languages: Merei, Lewo, Vatlongos, North Ambrym (Vanuatu), Nêlêmwa and Iaai (New Caledonia), for two main reasons: (i) each has a different inventory size of classifiers, from a two-way distinction to a more complex inventory of twenty-three; and (ii) these classifier systems represent varying degrees of informativeness: some have transparent semantic motivation, whereas others have opaque assignment. Effective categorisation needs to be simple, to minimise cognitive load, and informative, to maximise communicative efficiency (Hawkins, 2004).

      Our sample languages enable us to investigate the trade-off between the two principles of simplicity and informativeness. We discuss initial results from three recently run experiments, involving data from 122 speakers across our sample languages: (i) free listing. Participants are asked to list the members of each classifier. This establishes central members of a classifier's semantic domains. (ii) video vignettes. These depict typical and atypical interactions with different items. These determine whether speakers are free to use different classifiers (as generally believed) or whether assignment of nouns to classifiers is rigid. (iii) Card sorting. participants are asked to group pictures of entities in both a free sort and a sort based on the language's classifier inventory. These two sorting tasks reveal the extent to which speakers' categorical conceptualisations of relevant entities map on to linguistic classifiers.

      Data from the free listing experiment were analysed using a number of salience measures including Smith's Salience (Smith & Borgatti, 1997), which integrates noun frequency and mean list position to provide a meaningful measure of salience. Initial results indicate that maximum salience is greater for languages with smaller classifier inventories, and that mean salience differs significantly across classifiers within languages. Additionally, a noun is less likely to be a member of two or more different classifier categories in North Ambrym and Merei than in Vatlongos or Lewo. But, interestingly, the results of the video vignettes indicate that assignment of nouns to classifiers is far more rigid in North Ambrym than in Merei, Lewo and Vatlongos. These results point to North Ambrym's system being the most gender-like, followed by Merei, with Lewo and Vatlongos functioning more like typical classifier systems. Together our results suggest that the classifier systems tested do indeed represent different stages of grammaticalization, from classifier to gender marker.

      References: ⧫ Early, Robert. 1994. A Grammar of Lewo, Vanuatu. Ph.D. thesis, Australian National University, Canberra. ⧫ Franjieh, Michael. 2016. Indirect Possessive Hosts in North Ambrym: Evidence for Gender. Oceanic Linguistics 55:87-115. ⧫ Hawkins, John. A. 2004. Efficiency and Complexity in Grammars. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ⧫ Lichtenberk, Frantisek. 1983. Relational Classifiers. Lingua 60(2-3):147–176.


April 2020

  • 2/4. Göran Sonesson (Cognitive semiotics, Lund): The models of metaphoricity revisited and a preparations for a discovery procedure. CHANGED INTO A ZOOM-SEMINAR
    • Abstract: During this talk, I want to broach two questions which have occurred to me after writing my recent paper "Two models of metaphoricity and three dilemmas of metaphor research" (Cognitive semiotics, 1, 2019). In In the paper, I suggested that there were two models of metaphoricity which has not been properly distinguished in the literature: one, which I called the tension model, which I discovered in the theories from Aristotle to Black and Ricœur, and another one, which I called the overlap model, in which something which is really an intersection of semantic features is interpreted as a union. I pointed out, however, that while pictorial metaphors allow for a full overlap, if they are not somehow constraints by language or genre, verbal metaphors normally present an overlap only in one direction. I would now argue that the overlap model, in both its guises, is a specific variant of the projection model, in which a scheme of interpretation stemming from some context is projected to another context. If we except primary metaphors, which are not metaphors at all, CMT is clearly makes use of projection models, whether or not it allows for overlap. As I observed already in my paper, however, the so-called domains of CMT are most of the time ad hoc, that is, created by the metaphor itself. To take a familiar example, a voyage, if anything, is part of life, not another "domain". The models, therefore, must be taken to describe the experience of the metaphor user, that is, phenomenology even in the psychological sense. Another issue I would like to take up is the possibility of characterizing a discovery procedure for metaphors, somewhat on the lines of what is proposed by Zlatev-Devylder-Torstesson, but with further attention to the relationship between the two (or more) possible interpretations, and how these related to what I have earlier defined as primary and secondary iconization.


  • 9/4. Sara Lenninger (Kristianstad University) Metaphor and the iconic attitude. CHANGED INTO A ZOOM-SEMINAR
    • Abstract: Following my recent paper (see attached) this talk discusses visual metaphors and aspects of similarity in relation to metaphors. The concept of metaphor is understood as a semiotic unit that is also a sign, as suggested by Ricoeur (1986. The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-Disciplinary Studies of the Creation of Meaning in Language). Not all semiotic units are signs, and not all signs are typical metaphors. Metaphor is a particular kind of sign because of its making use of the openness present in similarity relations. Metaphorical meaning making is related to a quality of vagueness in iconic sign relations. Furthermore, a notion of "iconic attitude" is proposed as a designation of subjective and intersubjective perspectives that might be taken on meanings founded on similarity. The iconic attitude mirrors the flexibility of thought and responds to the potentiality of vagueness in iconic sign relations; but, at the same time, the iconic attitude works as a stabilizing factor for meaning. Moreover, this attitude is crucial for the specification of the similarity relation in an actual sign experience with an iconic ground.


  • 16/4. Anderas Widoff (Nordic languages, Lund University): System, Norm, and Meaning.
    • I introduce some ideas outlined in an article manuscript that has been submitted to an anthology on Coseriu’s contributions to linguistics and philosophy of language. The article presents his distinction between system and norm and discusses its application in semantics. I propose that the distinction entails that there are deviant uses of roots that are in accordance with the system, a view that contradicts basic assumptions in much of contemporary lexical semantics. Most importantly, it means that semantic accounts of the system are not to be equated with semantic accounts of normal language use, and as a consequence, that the meanings of linguistic items do not predict exactly how they are used. Some further consequences of this view are demonstrated on a small set of prepositions. I will present the main points made in the article, but participants are also invited to read the article itself. It has been sent out on the mailing list or will be provided on request.

  • 23/4. Jordan Zlatev (Cognitive semiotics, Lund). Jakobson, iconicity and cognitive semiotics
    • Abstract: Roman Jakobson was not only one the greatest linguists of the 20th century, but the one who introduced ideas from Peircian semiotics to linguistics, and as a champion of iconicity, can be seen as a forerunner of cognitive semiotics. In this talk I will mostly review some central ideas of his classical 1965 paper "Quest for the Essence of Language", and his critique of "Saussure's dogma" of arbitrariness. This will give us occasions to discuss sign concepts, kinds of iconicity, diagrams and metaphor, "sound symbolism" and other such interesting things.
  • 30/4.No seminar


May 2020

  • 7/5.No seminar

  • 14/5. Wenjing Li (Visiting scholar, Lund Cognitive semiotics) & Jordan Zlatev (Lund Cognitive semiotics): Intersemiotic Translation from Fairy Tale to Sculpture: An Exploration of Secondary Narrativity
    • Abstract: Eriksen's statue "Den lille havfrue" ('The little mermaid') from 1913, in Copenhagen's harbour is world famous. It is of course inspired by H.C. Andersen's equally famous fairy tale. But it was also inspired by a ballet and probably by various illustrations of this fictive character. And there have been many different "adaptations" of the story, including a Disney movie. So what story does Eriksen's statue "tell" to modern visitors, if any? And would the narrative interpretation of visitors from different cultural backgrounds differ? We address such questions conceptually with an adapted version of Jakobson's notion of intersemiotic translation, and the difference between primary and secondary narrativity, as defined by Stampoulidis (2019). Empirically, we carried out a survey with 40 participants, from China and from Western countries. Thus, we address the questions with the help of the conceptual-empirical loop of cognitive semiotics.
  •  21/5. Simon Devylder (Cognitive Semiotics/UiT The Arctic University of Norway): Polysemiotic metaphors of intertribal exchange in Paamese culture

    • Abstract: Paamese social structure is a tightly woven fabric of kinship relations interlaced by rules of intertribal exchanges. The ca. 2000 people of this small South‑Pacific island are all connected to each other, by intertribal marital unions. What communicative strategies Paamese speakers use to talk about this conceptually complex architecture of intertribal exchange? I will present the preliminary results of a study, where we analysed the polysemiotic descriptions of intertribal exchanges in speech, gesture, and depiction provided by 40 Paamese islanders, who talked about their extended family in the form of kinship interviews.
  •  28/5. Juan Carlos Mendoza Collazos (Lund Cognitive Semiotics): Design and manufacturing of artefacts with pre-Columbian techniques in the Ticuna people.

    • Abstract:  This seminar will present an advance in the ongoing fieldwork of the research entitled "The role of artefacts in relation to agency: implications for semiotics of design". After a theoretical approach to the notion of agency, this fieldwork constitutes the empirical part of the study. I visited the Amazonian rainforest during three weeks, exploring artefacts made with endangered pre-Columbian techniques by indigenous peoples. I intend to observe what types of cognitive resources are involved in the process of design and manufacturing, and to identify the use of different communicative systems (signals, mimesis, speech, drawing, and polysemiotic communication). Amazonian studies have a long tradition, which can be traced back to the conquest period. There is an abundance of easily accessible literature on Amazon basin and native peoples, documentaries, and many dedicated rooms in museums around the world. However, academics are just beginning to understand the complexity of the Amazonian world. This research intends to contribute to such understanding from the perspective of cognitive semiotics, which in turn helps to understand the role of artefacts in the constitution of human agency.

June 2020

  • 4/6.Marta Sibierska & Monika Feba Boruta (NCU Torun Developing a classification for annotating pantomime
    • Abstract: This study is a part of a research project on pantomime (OPUS14-2017/27/B/HS2/00642), and a follow-up to a cross-cultural experiment in which we investigated the differences in pantomime production and understanding in Polish and Italian populations. We have presented 16 Polish and 16 Italian participants with a series of images showing transitive actions and asked them to re-enact these actions in front of a camera. Adopting insights from gesture and semiotic studies (e.g. McNeill 1992; Zlatev and Andrén 2009; Müller 2013; Żywiczyński et al. 2018; Brown et al. 2019), we are now analysing the recordings and annotating them for the presence of characteristics such as: compositionality, continuity/segmentation, repetition and redundancy of movement, character viewpoint, productivity, modes of representation, emotional valency, added information (with respect to the input images), semantic roles (agent/patient), strategies for marking semantic role change, and image mapping (copying the orientation of the input image). Our aim is to offer a comprehensive analysis of pantomime as well as to develop a classification for annotating pantomime that could be of use to other researchers.


  • End of Spring term.


Seminars are held 13:15-15:00 every Thursday at SOL:H428b, unless otherwise indicated.

Please note that, after an experiment a year ago with moving the seminar to Fridays, we have now returned to having it on Thursdays.