Formal Approaches to the Dynamics of Linguistic Interaction: Workshop at ESSLLI 2017

Country: France

City: Toulouse

Abstr. due: 24.02.2017

Dates: 17.07.17 — 21.07.17

Area Of Sciences: Humanities;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: University of Gothenburg, Bielefeld University


Natural language use involves drawing information from different sources, often in different modalities, and fitting it together. For example, to understand the utterance ''Take this and that and put it there'' one has to be able to track the pointing device and be clear about the different referents of the deictic expressions. Similarly, for questions, syntactic structure and intonation contour must be aligned. In conversation, phenomena such as split utterances and other-repairs show that several speakers co-produce single dialogue acts - even using non-standard phonetic, morphological and syntactic components. Language is a key component of interaction, and, as work in a variety of fields such as psycholinguistics and conversation analysis has emphasised, an account of interaction is also crucial in the analysis of language. This poses challenges for formal approaches to language, which have traditionally abstracted away from the problems presented by the dynamic nature of linguistic interaction. Some researchers have therefore concluded that formalisation is inappropriate as a tool for the analysis of natural language. However, formal approaches are not just desirable but necessary, both for a precise understanding of language phenomena and for the development of language technologies. Taking interaction seriously means acknowledging the importance of the dynamics in accounts of language. Languages can no longer be conceived of as static systems of individual processes with modules operating independently. This has consequences for the way we think about language at all levels - including phonological, lexical, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic components. Not only must we consider the interaction between modules within an individual, but we must also take into account the changes brought about by the interactions between speakers and communities. Dynamic approaches are therefore crucial for explaining diverse phenomena such as multiparty interaction, language change and language acquisition. Formal approaches must model both the different types of information to be individuated and their interactions, setting up the structures algorithmically in a principled manner. The validity of formal mechanisms to relate the different types of information and compute the interactions can be evaluated against corpus data, experimental data or intuitions. Here, simple mappings will not do. Instead we need dynamic tools such as update rules, joint building of incremental structure or shifting of information to structurally relevant places. Recent work is beginning to tackle these issues from a formal perspective in a number of disciplines, for example, models of diachronic change; speaker-hearer coordination; semantic update; language acquisition; syntax for dialogue; information state models of dialogue; embodied interaction; human-agent interaction; reasoning; the speech-gesture interface and the semantics of gesture and prosody. This workshop aims to bring together researchers working on different formal approaches to the dynamics of interaction to foster cross-disciplinary collaboration around these issues. We encourage contributions dealing with material from typologically different languages and with different contexts of language use, to address a linguistic public with a variety of interests and working within different paradigms. Due to its formal orientation the workshop will also be relevant to participants with a focus on logic and computation. The organisers have extensive experience in working on dialogue theories, HCI, multimodal corpora and speech-gesture integration.

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