A language is a set of conventional coordination devices: cultural tools available for members of a community to coordinate their actions in joint projects with other members (possibly vaguely defined ones, like bonding, sharing the latest rumors, etc.). Linguistic tools work especially by allowing participants in a joint project to efficiently coordinate their mental states: understanding each other’s perspective on some situation of shared relevance in such a way that they can coordinate their actions and thus achieve their joint goals. Thus, language use is naturally viewed as a process of providing and using cues for making relevant inferences. The so-called argumentative approach to language takes this view into the realm of conventional linguistic meaning itself (cf. Verhagen, Grammar and cooperative communication, 2015). In this seminar I explore the basic concepts of this approach, surveying its relation to and relative advantages over some others, and the linguistic evidence for it.
Elementary intersubjectivity is naturally thought of as taking place in purely dyadic interactions, defining the fundamental roles of Speaker and Addressee and thereby, among other things, the linguistic notion of deixis. However, with language being basically a public and collective tool for communication (‘wide broadcasting’), the default condition for natural conversations is to also involve more participants than the (present) speaker and addressee −side-participants, bystanders, and even eavesdroppers (Clark, Using Language, 1996)− and the boundaries between these roles and their distribution over individuals are flexible. Moreover, speakers in all cultures regularly simulate interactions (create dialogues, embedded in their own turns) as a tool for achieving communicative goals in their interactions with their addressees (cf. Pascual on ‘fictive interaction’). This is especially crucial in story-telling and writing, i.e. commonly public, community-wide communicative activities. This importance and pervasiveness of the roles of other minds in much of human communication calls for incorporation in an updated, extended model of intersubjectivity, that connects its most elementary lexical and grammatical manifestations to research on global viewpoint management in narratives (cf. the volume by Dancygier, Lu & Verhagen (eds.), 2016). I will outline such a model, and show how it supports an improved understanding of certain linguistic and narrative phenomena, both within and across languages.
Iconicity −structural analogies between domains of meaning and the domain of linguistic form− has been a central concern of cognitive linguistic research from the beginning, and has recently been witnessing a much wider renewed interest (cf. Dingemanse et al., in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2016). In this talk, I adopt a view of iconicity as a process (viz. simulation), and apply it to the representation of the speech and thoughts of characters in narratives (“STR”, short for “Speech and Thought Representation”), i.e. as the depiction, in this case: ‘staging’, of verbal actions, in the sense of Clark (in Psychological Review, 2016). Dialogue, including inner dialogue, in a narrative is straightforwardly analyzed as a depiction of a verbal act in order to convey a message that is relevant at that point in the story. Since the mechanism of staging is universally available as a non-conventional tool for communication among humans, so-called Direct Discourse (DD, the staging of an utterance) is universally available to story-tellers in any language. In this perspective, a fundamental question arises about the status of so-called Indirect Discourse (ID, in languages that have a recognizably distinct way of expressing it, cf. Evans, on a canonical approach to quotation, 2013): Is it the opposite of depiction (as the terminology may suggest), i.e. the description, symbolically rather than iconically, of what is on a character’s mind, or is it something else? I will argue that in fact, it is definitely not ‘pure’ description, and that it only differs to some degree from other forms of STR that have traditionally been recognized, in narratology and discourse studies, as ‘mixed’ (involving both character and narrator responsibility). As a consequence, it is not theoretically meaningful to subdivide languages into those with and those without ID. In all linguistic communities, the depiction of verbal acts, i.e. DD, is possible, and all other ways of construing what is on a character’s mind involve combinations of depictive (iconic) and descriptive (symbolic) components, so-called ID being one of them in some languages.