Sune Vork Steffensen

"Ecological language / Interactive cognition"

Sune Vork Steffensen
20/02 2019
12:15-13:15, Danish IAS conference room (Ø18-509-1)

Ecological language // Interactive cognition

By Professor Sune Vork Steffensen, Associate Chair in D-IAS, Centre for Human Interactivity, Department of Language and Communication (SDU)


For half a century, the main dividing line in the language sciences has been whether language is a formal system for translating thoughts into a public medium, or rather a tool for communication. However, over the past 10-15 years a new distributed-ecological perspective has emerged, which traces language to the coordinative and cognitive dynamics of human behaviour.

Thus, rather than assuming the uniqueness of the-thing-called-language by tracing it to communicative or mental regularities, proponents of this perspective see language as a complex behavioural phenomenon that constrains how we interact with the world. The presupposition of that view on language is a reconsideration of cognition: rather than treating it as an inner, mental machinery of symbolic computations, cognition is seen as grounded in the embodied, situated being of living beings in constant interaction with their environment.

This lecture introduces and unfolds this research program. Seeing cognition as interactive, it argues for an ecological perspective on language and interaction. And vice versa: seeing language as intertwined with life, it shows how the study of language and interaction can be developed into an investigation of real-time interactive cognition in the wild. I demonstrate the value of detailed scrutiny of cognition by analysing the temporal dynamics and the embodied contingencies of problem-solving and decision-making in three different contexts.

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