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Neil Cohn (Tilburg University) is the guest speaker at this ACLC seminar. The title of the talk is 'Reimagining the language faculty: A multimodal model of language'.

Event details of ACLC Seminar | Neil Cohn
23 September 2022
16:15 -17:30
P.C. Hoofthuis
PCH 5.56


Reimagining the language faculty: A multimodal model of language


Natural human communication is multimodal. We pair speech with gestures and combine writing with pictures in contexts from doodles to emoji to comics to advertising. These integrated expressions raise questions as to whether the bodily or graphic modalities become “part of language” or are merely auxiliary but related systems. I will argue that accounting for this complexity warrants a reimagining of the architecture of language and communication itself. Rather than viewing these as indivisible modalities that combine, each of our modalities are merely parts of a single, holistic communicative architecture.  I will thus outline a reimagining of the language faculty that can account for both unimodal and multimodal behaviors, embedded within Jackendoff’s (2002) model of a Parallel Architecture. I will break down the primary modalities of spoken, bodily, and graphic communication into their constituent parts, and then show that the resulting interactions have systematic characterizations and profiles. Altogether, different human expressions — speech, gesture, drawings, and their multimodal interactions — arise as emergent activation states out of this holistic cognitive architecture. This model directly contests the traditional thinking of language as an “amodal” system, and necessitates a multimodal paradigm with consequences for all aspects of the linguistic system and its study.

About the ACLC seminar series

The ACLC seminar series is a two weekly lecture series organized by the ACLC, the Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication.

P.C. Hoofthuis

Room PCH 5.56

Spuistraat 134
1012 VB Amsterdam