[xmca] Announcement: Course on Distributed Language and Cognition

From: Lois Holzman <lholzman who-is-at eastsideinstitute.org>
Date: Thu Jul 12 2007 - 17:27:36 PDT

HI All,
I received this announcement from Stephen Crowley and Paul Thibault of the
Distributed Language Group to pass along to possible interested parties. No
doubt some reside here.
Grounding Language in Action and Perception: A distributed view of cognitive
dynamics and language
The PhD course "Grounding Language in Action and Perception: A distributed
view of cognitive dynamics and language" is above all intended for doctoral
students in linguistics and the cognitive
sciences. Places are available for 20-25 participants. Applications from
candidates from institutions belonging to the National Research School in
linguistics and philology (Den Nasjonale forskarskolen i språkvitskap og
filologi, http://nafs.uib.no) have priority, but the course is also open to
other candidates.
This course is for PhD students who are interested in the cognitive dynamics
of language. We treat cognition as connecting events in the brain and body
with causal processes using both historically rooted practices and
artefacts. The course will develop perspectives on the following question:
given that language is distributed between brain, body and world, how can it
be grounded in action and perception?
To answer this question, we will examine the ways in which embodied semiotic
modalities such as gesture, gaze, posture, movement, facial expressions,
touch, and so on directly participate in and are intrinsically part of the
processes of higher order cognition and linguistic semiosis. Early versions
of cognitive science have assumed that human cognitive processes can be
modelled in terms of manipulations of encoded symbols and later
connectionist networks. In this view, mental representations are taken to be
internal codings of experience. A further point of departure is the move
away from the widely held assumption in most versions of modern linguistics
and discourse-analysis that language activity can be descriptively reduced
to the presumed regularities of units and combinations of units in
disembodied texts, sometimes seen as the outputs of abstract linguistic
systems or codes. The same problem also occurs in more recent Œmultimodal¹
forms of discourse analysis.
Descriptions of diverse semiotic modalities and their combinations in
text-like entities are reified as purported explanations of why
inter/individual interaction manifests the multimodal properties ascribed to
it. Thus, the discourse-analytical descriptions and analyses of semiotic
modalities and their combinations in texts are often also invoked as
explanations of why and how people enact embodied multimodal events. The
presumption in these approaches is that abstract lexicogrammatical,
discourse-semantic and other semiotic regularities are the basis of
(linguistic) communication. However, description cannot replace explanation.
The view just referred to in fact obscures the ways in which
perception-action systems, embodied forms of sense-making, and external
environments mesh in time-locked activity to yield solutions to cognitive
tasks and problems and learning. The relevant questions to be investigated
then become: (1) what is the nature of these cognitive tasks?; (2) how are
they distributed across diverse space-time scales involving brain, body and
world?; (3) how do embodied multimodal forms of interaction organise the
cognitive landscape and in so doing integrate processes on a diversity of
timescales?; and (4) how does the emergence of distributed language both
within and across settings serve to highlight both intra- and inter-cultural
variability in relation to the semiotic modalities used and the diverse
space-time scales involved?
The work of Clark, Gibson, Hutchins is our point of departure for developing
a new view of language as being grounded in and emergent from perception and
action. The work of these researchers has highlighted the importance of the
external environment ­ the world beyond the body ­ including language, now
seen as an externally grounded cognitive-semiotic resource rather than an
internal encoding of mental representations. The proposed research seeks to
extend and further develop this idea. It will seek to investigate how
language and other embodied semiotic resources and perceptual modalities
both enact and develop higher cognitive processes in and though forms of
inter-individual, interpersonally coordinated meaning-making activity that
are grounded in embodied perception-action systems in multi-agent multimodal
interaction in the course of prelinguistic and early linguistic development
rather than being confined within the head of the individual. The centrality
of emotion displays, feeling states of the body and value-systems will also
be highlighted.
Paul J. Thibault is professor at Høgskolen i Agder, and Honorary Professor,
Beijing Normal University, Beijing, Kina;
Dr. Stephen Cowley is Senior Lecturer in linguistics and developmental
psychology, Department of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, UK.

Both lecturers are founding members of the Distributed Language Group (DLG),
which was constituted at a conference held at Sidney Sussex College,
Cambridge, England from 9th to 11th September 2005
(http://www.psy.herts.ac.uk/dlg/conf.html). A second conference of the DLG
was held at University of Plymouth, England on 3-4 July 2006.
For Paul J. Thibault¹s personal web site click on the following link:
For an introduction to Distributed Language and Cognition visit the link
below and read the article by Paul J. Thibault published in the online
journal Semiotix8 (Click on Guest Column in the main menu):
For more information on the Distributed Language Group and its activities
past, present and future visit the following site administered by Stephen

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Received on Thu Jul 12 17:29 PDT 2007

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