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Meaning, language, communication: interdisciplinary perspectives

To understand interacting minds we need to understand how they communicate, share meaning and develop common ground. This workshop discusses how to think of language and communication and how to investigate them computationally, experimentally and with neuro-imaging techniques.

Info about event


Monday 5 May 2014,  at 14:00 - 16:45


Aarhus-DK, Nobelparken, building 1483-3, IMC


Interacting Minds Centre

14.00 - 14.45 How signals mean - Mark Blokpoel & Ivan Toni (Donders, Radbound)?
Humans frequently invent new communicative signals that others can immediately understand, as evidenced by our ability to play Charades or to communicate using “hands and feet” in a foreign country. Cognitive science is only just beginning to expose the computational principles and mechanisms that enable this remarkable ability, which is hallmarked by its creative and flexible nature. To understand the meaning of a signal, humans first have to segment the signal into communicative and instrumental parts, and then they have to infer the best meaning for the communicative parts. This second ability, which is often considered a form of abduction, requires two steps, viz., setting up the space of possible meanings and then inferring the best meaning. Whereas many computational models of abduction have the space 'build in', we argue that to fully explain how people can communicate using novel signals one needs to explain how this space can be constructed. We have developed a computational model of how humans can construct such a meaning-space for novel signals invented by players of an experimental semiotic game called “Tacit Communication Game”. The model captures the conjecture that this ability is enabled through analogical processing: “drawing a circle in the air and then grasping” is analogous to “circle around and then catch the target” in a game of catch. In this talk I will illustrate how our model explains how humans can make analogical inferences that allow them to understand the meaning of novel signals.?
15.00 - 15.45 Investigating dialogical communication: alignment and synergies - R. Fusaroli & K. Tylén (IMC, AU)?
Dialogue constitutes a huge challenge to psycholinguistics since linguistic structure and behaviours often appear to be distributed between interlocutors. While psycholinguistics has tended to favour inherently individualist models, increasing evidence points to the importance of interpersonal processes. We will present a series of studies comparing two models of dialogue - interactive alignment and interpersonal synergy – in assessing the structure and efficacy of experimentally elicited linguistic exchanges. First we will investigate how important aspects of communication, such as conflict, deception and social impairment can be characterised by patterns of linguistic coordination, sometimes in non-intuitive ways. Second we will show that i) effective interactive alignment is task-oriented and ii) patterns at the level of the interaction such as complementary dynamics and routines play a crucial and irreducible role in coordination. ?
16.00 - 16.45 Neural dynamics of morphosyntax - Alina Leminen (CFIN, AU)

?Language is one of the key elements in inter-individual communication. A unique feature of human language as a communication system is a complex set of syntactic rules that link words together in order to optimize verbal information transmission. In experiments presented here, we examined neural dymanics of morphosyntactic processing. In particular, we studied spatiotemporal dynamics of morphosyntactic parsing and the effect of attention on these processes. We found that early parsing stages reflect automatic mapping of incoming acoustic information onto stored representations, whereas later compositional processes at the morphosyntactic-semantic level may require focused attention. We also showed strong unified cortical memory circuits for morphologically complex words, which are activated automatically, without participants’ focused attention on the stimuli. Analysis of cortical sources suggest the predominant role of left perysilvian cortices, which exhibit activation dynamics approximately 150 ms after the information is available at the sensory input. We also asked whether neural mechanisms underlying word- and phrase-level combinatorial linguistic processing same or different. We observed different hemispheric organization of neural networks involved in word vs. phrase analyses. Thus, according to our results, word-level and phrase-level parsing processes are governed by near-simultaneously activated but distinct fronto-temporal cortical networks. Overall, our findings demonstrate the involvement of perisylvian cortices in

morphosyntactic processing and the presence of automatically activated memory circuits for complex linguistic structures.