Third Middlesex Roundtable on Signs, Language and Communication: 9 and 10 February 2021

The Middlesex Roundtable on Signs, Language and Communication is an annual workshop launched in January 2019 to encourage discussion between three paradigms of language and communication theory: the integrationism of Roy Harris and his followers, biosemiotics and philosophy of communication. These areas of thought and scholarship share assumptions regarding the fundamental role played by communicative interaction in the emergence of signification, meaning and relationality. They also share views of communication and language that are not limited to the understanding of language as a code-based domain.

The Roundtable is an initiative of Paul Cobley (Professor of Language and Media, Middlesex), Adrian Pablé (Associate Professor, Department of English, Hong Kong University) and Johan Siebers (Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Middlesex). It aims to create fruitful interactions between these approaches in an informal context of invited papers, “flipped” conference style (short talks, long conversations) and, each year, a focus on a different topic.

The first Roundtable in 2019 provided participants with the opportunity to discuss basic features of the three approaches. A special issue of Sign Systems Studies based on the papers presented there was published in June 2020.

The Second Roundtable on Signs, Language and Communication on the theme of intersubjectivity, took place in January 2020 on the campus of Middlesex University London.

Due to the ongoing Coronovirus pandemic, The Third Roundtable will take place virtually, with four sessions over two days. As participants are based in widely different time zones it may not be possible for everyone to attend each session. Therefore, sessions will be recorded and transcribed and made available to participants afterwards.

The focus of the Third Roundtable will be on ontologies of language and communication

Following the ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology, the linguists Pennycook and Makoni recently suggested that the Whorfian relativity hypothesis implies “a problematic universality of both humanity and the world” (2019: 72), i.e. the assumption that nature is one and cultures/languages are many might be ethnocentric. As the authors further argue, “it is not just world views but worlds that may in themselves vary”. Hence we might ask the question whether language (mass), languages (count) and human communication more generally possess different ontologies in different worlds, as recently suggested by Hauck and Heurich (2018), and whether there are any universal linguistic or communicational phenomena at all that human beings share, one such candidate possibly being the ‘sign’? But then which kind of sign? The Saussurean sign? The Peircean sign? The Harrisian (i.e. integrated) sign?

The third Middlesex Roundtable on Signs, Language and Communication invites scholars from different fields, in particular from biosemiotics, communication studies, anthropological linguistics, applied linguistics and integrationism, to meet and exchange their views on the ‘multiple ontologies’ thesis and discuss whether the notion of a unified theory of language and/or communication (of whatever kind) is Eurocentric and therefore based on what linguist Roy Harris has called the Language Myth (Harris 1981).


Talks will be limited to 10 minutes at the most and are intended to stimulate conversation, dialogue and discussion. If presenters or discussants would like to share a paper, handout or slides with the participants in advance, please send your document to Johan Siebers (, who will then distribute it before the Roundtable (there is no expectation or need for this, just a possibility).

9 February

Session 1: 10:00-12:00 GMT (11:00 CET; 18:00 Hong Kong; 05:00 Philadelphia; 03:00 Boulder; 02:00 West Coast)

Zoom link:

Kalevi Kull (University of Tartu): On Arbitrariness

Sarah Bro Trasmundi (University of Southern Denmark): The Troublemaker of Linguistic Meaning

Charlotte Conrad (Dubai): Towards an Integrationist Understanding of Communication

Nathaniel Barron (Birmingham University): Something’s missing with Amerindian Perspectivism: Ernst Bloch and the question of the One of the Many

Session 2: 15:00-17:00 GMT (16:00 CET; 23:00 Hong Kong; 10:00 Philadelphia; 08:00 Boulder; 06:00 West Coast)

Zoom link:

Elena Fell (Tomsk Polytechnic Research University): Confusing Monologues with Dialogical Engagement as a Cross-Cultural Communication Problem between Russians and Westerners

Bob Craig (University of Colorado, Boulder): What is an Ontology?

Per Linell (Gothenburg University): Epistemologies, Not Ontologies

Adrian Pablé (Hong Kong University): The Ontology of the Linguistic Sign

10 February

Session 3: 10:00-12:00 GMT (11:00 CET; 18:00 Hong Kong; 05:00 Philadelphia; 03:00 Boulder; 02:00 West Coast)

Zoom link:

Chris Barnham (Chris Barnham Research and Strategy Ltd.): The Ontology of the Peircean Sign: Is it a Synthetic Identity?   

Sinead Kwok (Hong Kong University): Is Translation a Universal? A discussion between a Hermeneutician, a Semiotician and an Integrationist

Joana Bicacro (Lusófona University Lisbon): (No Title)

Johan Siebers  (Middlesex University): Communication Ontology and Forms of Life

Session 4: 15:00-17:00 GMT (16:00 CET; 23:00 Hong Kong; 10:00 Philadelphia; 08:00 Boulder; 06:00 West Coast)

Zoom link:

Chris Hutton (Hong Kong University): McLuhan and Harris on Writing and Thought: Shades of Korzybski?

Peter Simonson (University of Colorado, Boulder): Peircean Speculative Rhetoric, Biosemiotics, and ‘the Ontological Turn’

Jan David Hauck/Guilherme Heurich (LSE, UCL ): Linguistic Natures: Towards an Ethnographic Theory of Language

Dorthe Duncker (Copenhagen University): What is There to Talk About? Language Ontologies in a Harrisean Perspective

Presenters and Discussants (as of 1 February)

  • Chris Barnham (Chris Barnham Research and Strategy Ltd.)
  • Nathaniel Barron (Birmingham University)
  • Mats Bergman (Helsinki University)
  • Joana Bicacro (Lusófona University Lisbon)
  • Sarah Bro Trasmundi (University of Southern Denmark)
  • Paul Cobley (Middlesex University)
  • Charlotte Conrad  (Dubai)
  • Stephen Cowley (University of Southern Denmark)
  • Bob Craig (University of Colorado, Boulder)
  • Dorthe Duncker (Copenhagen University)
  • Elena Fell (Tomsk Polytechnic Research University)
  • Federico Filauri (University of London)
  • José Gomes Pinto (Lusófona University Lisbon)
  • Jan David Hauck (London School  of Economics)
  • Guilherme Heurich (University College London)
  • Chris Hutton (Hong Kong University)
  • Artemis Ignatidou (University of London)
  • Sinfree Makoni (Penn State)
  • Kęstas Kirtiklis (Vilnius University)
  • Kalevi Kull (University of Tartu)
  • Sinead Kwok (Hong Kong University)
  • Per Linell (Gothenburg University)
  • Nigel Love (University of Cape Town)
  • Adrian Pablé (Hong Kong University)
  • Andrea Peloumbi (Middlesex University)
  • Lydia Sanchez (University of Barcelona)
  • Vic Seidler (Goldsmiths)
  • Johan Siebers  (Middlesex University)
  • Peter Simonson (University of Colorado, Boulder)
  • Sune Steffensen (University of Southern Denmark)
  • Lars Taxen (Linköping University)
  • Francesca Vidal (University of Landau)
  • Nicholas White (University of Portsmouth)

Fairtrade at Middlesex: 2021 Poetry / Spoken word competition, supported by CreativityUnleashed

CreativityUnleashed is the new not for profit organisation that has developed out of its original legacy project, Haringey Unchained. What started out first as a small writing group for teenagers at Haringey Sixth Form College has organically shifted through the leadership of its young people, to integrate a wider community of youth voices. We offer many opportunities to young people, ultimately aiming to provide a unified platform for publication alongside opportunities to develop new skills and contacts in the culture and art sectors both nationally and internationally. We produce blogs and print magazines for a wide range of young people, including some in Britain, China and the United States, and have successfully linked young people to internships in publishing, art and film.

This year’s Fairtrade fortnight celebration is supporting the awareness of Climate Change. Through various activities across schools, universities, colleges, places of worship and organisations around the world, we’ll be raising awareness of how everyone can play a part in “Choosing the World you want.”

Middlesex university are organising a poetry or spoken word competition to hear your thoughts on the topic of ‘Your vision of the world you want for farmers and workers worldwide, and the planet we share

Take inspiration from the Fairtrade Foundation website and this video.

Following a review and critique from our expert judging panel, 5 shortlist entries will be chosen. The Shortlist entries will have their entry displayed on Fairtrade Foundation’s Climate, Fairtrade and You Festival – an exhibition to showcase poetry, artwork and film. And a spot on a page dedicated to the shortlist and linked to Middlesex and Fairtrade platforms in Haringey Unchained.

A full page feature on with a link from the homepage; a spot in their print magazine that will be published in America and the UK and your piece will feature on a spot on the Russell Sage college website following a quick Winner’s interview.
Finally, your piece will also be recorded and played through Barnet TV online as well as their social media channels.

Completion opens – 1st February
Closes – 15th February
Shortlisted entries announced – 19th February
Shortlisted entries displayed on Fairtrade Foundation Exhibition from – 22nd Feb
Winner announced: Friday 5th March


  • Your entry can be either Rhyming Poetry or Free Verse.
  • Your spoken word recording must be a landscape video via YouTube or Vimeo submitted via a link
  • If recording your piece, please introduce yourself at the beginning.
  • Please ensure your name is on your work
  • Please title your poem
  • 1 A4 side maximum
  • Your written piece entry must be typed and submitted via PDF
  • Your piece MUST be around the topic of ‘Your vision of the world you want for farmers and workers worldwide, and the planet we share ’Which supports the Fairtrade Fortnight theme
  • You must submit your entry to by 10am, Monday 15th February, ensuring the email is submitted with your contact details –  if you experience technical difficulties, contact prior to the closing date.
  • Please ensure the title of your poem is the Subject of your email when sending your finalised piece.
  • All entries must be submitted / written in English.
  • Entrants can only enter their own work or are responsible for seeking relevant permissions from the copyright owner if entries are translations or another’s work.
  • Entries will be used ONLY for the purpose of this competition.
  • Shortlisted entries will be notified by email after the closing date but before 22nd February.

Research Students Summer Conference 2021: Call for papers

Research Student Conference Banner
Middlesex University – 23 June 2021

The Middlesex University Research Students Summer Conference (RSSC) is an annual event for research students here at Middlesex. This year it will be a virtual conference to showcase the research being carried out by research students across the Faculties and our Collaborative Partner Institutions. It is an opportunity to share ideas, create fruitful collaborations and celebrate research.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Research in a Changing World’. We invite students from any discipline to submit abstracts which consider this theme and how it interacts with your research area. Students at any stage of their research are encouraged to submit, and prizes are awarded for the best presentations!

The conference will include the following types of participation. Please indicate in your abstract the method of presentation:

  • Presentation
  • Poster
  • Performance
  • Video screening with commentary

Submission guidelines:

Submission is now open and will close at 5pm on Tuesday 6th April 2021.

Key dates

  • Submission of abstract opens: now!
  • Submission of abstract closes: 5pm Tuesday 6th April 2021
  • Confirmation of presentation: May 2021
  • Conference: 23 June 2021

Additional information and updates will be posted on the ‘MDX Research Students’ Facebook page and the Twitter Handle @MUResearchStudy. Tweet about the conference using the hashtag #MDXsummerconf21.

Research Students’ Summer Conference Organising Committee

Creative Writing Mini Lectures by Adam Dalton

Our BA English lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing, Dr Adam Dalton has prepared a series of mini-lectures on how to become a famous writer, aimed at aspiring writers of all ages.

1. Plot:

2. Character:

3. Publishing:

Enjoy watching!

Also, check Adam’s free creative writing mini-lessons

Finally, if you are interested in studying Creative Writing at university, check our BA English course at Middlesex University: