Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF)
My research explores the fundamental building blocks of human language, how languages differ in their realization, as well as how these building blocks relate to more general cognitive capacities. My empirical emphasis has been the language found exclusively in interaction: i.e., aspects of language that serve to regulate the construction of common ground among interlocutors on the one hand and the dialogical interaction itself (e.g., turn-taking). I explore how interactional language compares with propositional language (i.e., the language of reference which allows for the construction of thought). My research clearly reveals that interactional language is as much part of our human-specific capacity for language as propositional language is. This suggests that language is equally important for the configration of thought as it is for the configuration of conversational interaction. Significantly, this finding helps to answer a classic question that has divided linguists for centuries: language is an instrument for thought AND for communication. As such, interactional language is a unique and ideal window into the tacit and human-specific knowledge which defines our capacity for language both as an instrument for thought and a tool for communication. To this end, I now explore interactional language from a variety of different angles. i) its acquisition and how it relates to the acquisition of propositional language; ii) its use in populations with neuro-diverse profiles (aphasia, autism, etc.); iii) its relation and place in the architecture of the human mind (relation to theory of mind, construction of emotions, etc.); iv) its role in human-machine interaction. Thus, my research links to neighboring fields, including philosophy (referential semantics, pragmatics), sociology (conversation analysis), and psychology (theory of mind), and artificial intelligence.