The Middlesex Annual Roundtable on Signs, Language and Communication

The Language and Communication research cluster is pleased to announce the Second Roundtable on Signs, Language and Communication that will take place on 7 and 8 January 2020 on the campus of Middlesex University London.

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 is in preparation.

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The theme of the second Roundtable will be intersubjectivity. A program and further details about the 2020 Roundtable will be published on London English and our cluster’s website and in due course.

If you have any questions and/or would like to participate, please contact Johan Siebers.

Languaging: Just another description of semiosis?

The Language and Communication Research cluster is delighted to welcome Professor Stephen Cowley (University of Southern Denmark) for a presentation on language and semiosis.

When? Wednesday 15 November 2017, 16.00 – 17.30

Where? W147 (Williams building), Middlesex University, London, NW4 4BT

Contemporary humans carry the mark of Cain or, alternatively, bear responsibility for (most) earthly life.  Should we shoulder this burden?  In striving to understand the question, Stephen Cowley turns to what the folk call ‘language’ and, in so doing, contrast views that begin with semiosis and languaging respectively.

Leaving metaphysics aside, language is seen as both human and semiotic (see, Cowley, 2011; 2017; Love, 2017). Pursuing parallels/contrasts between semiotic and radical ecolinguistic views, Cowley turns to language-activity. Using canonical examples, he shows how the fields differentiate between humans and other social mammals. Specifically, while humans can be seen as a symbolic species (e.g. Deacon, 1997), they can also be seen as ecologically constituted (e.g. Ross, 2007). On the latter view, far from being symbolic, languaging enacts embodied cultural activity.  On this deflationary view, the symbolic is, above all, a mode of description.

Humanness draws on nothing fancy but is, rather, rooted in coming to hear utterance-acts as repeatables (den Herik, 2017). Later, using mimesis (Donald, 1991), collectives make up new kinds of understanding and responsibility. Just as people come to take a stance to languaging, they learn to see pictures or marks as signs.  It is concluded that earthly responsibilities are, as Ross suggests, ecologically constituted.

 

Stephen Cowley

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Stephen Cowley is Professor of Organisational Cognition at the University of Southern Denmark (Slagelse Campus). Having completed a PhD entitled “The Place of Prosody in Conversations”, he moved from the UK to post-liberation South Africa and shifted his academic focus to Cognitive Science. In empirical work, he has examined prosodic, kinematic and verbal interactions within families, between mothers and infants, with robots, in medical simulations and in the practice of peer-review. Tracing intelligent activity to agent-environment interactions gives new insight on language, problem finding, decision making and how temporal ranging serves people, groups and organisations. He coordinates the Distributed Language Group, a community that aim to refocus the language sciences on the directed, dialogical activity that grants human life a collective dimension. His papers span many areas and, recently, he has edited or co-edited volumes entitled: Distributed Language (2011, Benjamins) Cognition Beyond the Brain: Computation, Interactivity and Human Artifice (2017, Springer, 2nd Edn) and Biosemiotic Perspectives on Language and Linguistics (2015, Springer).

References

Cowley , S.J. (2011) Distributed Language. Benjamins: Amsterdam.

Cowley, S.J: (2017). Changing the idea of language: Nigel Love’s perspective. Language Sciences, 61: 43-55.

Deacon, T. (1997). The Symbolic Species; Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Donald, M. (1991). Origins of the modern mind: Three stages in the evolution of culture and cognition. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Herik, J. C. van den (2017). Linguistic know-how and the orders of language. Language Sciences, 61, 17-27.

Love, N. (2017). On languaging and languages. Language Sciences, 61: 113-147.

Ross, D. (2007). H. sapiens as ecologically special: what does language contribute? Language Sciences, 29: 710-731.

The Language and Communication Research Seminars are free and open to all staff, students and guests. For any questions or if you would like to lead a session, contact Anna Charalambidou.