Scandinavian Studies

Northern Scholars Lecture: Dr Maria Esipova

About the lecture

By Dr Maria Esipova...

As human beings, we don't only use language to communicate and negotiate our beliefs about the world (i.e., to convey "truth-conditional meaning"), but also, among other things, to performatively express our immediate emotions ("expressive meaning"). An example of a purely expressive utterance would be you exclaiming 'Ouch!' or 'Damn!' when you stub your toe against a piece of furniture, which is intuitively very different from you conveying truth-conditional meaning by asserting 'I am in pain' or 'I don't like this'.

In my talk, I will show that the empirical differences between truth-conditional and expressive meaning have important consequences for our understanding of the architecture of grammar, and, thus, should be properly captured in our linguistic theories. However, there have been two trends in formal linguistics that I have been trying to counteract in my research. On the one hand, when analyzing conventionalized spoken words or their parts that carry expressive meaning, there have been persistent attempts to reduce their contribution to truth-conditional meaning, thus, erasing that crucial distinction between the two. On the other hand, any instances of affect-related meaning conveyed through some "secondary" channel, such as prosody, facial expressions, or gestures, are typically labeled  "paralinguistic" and, thus, presumed unworthy of our attention as formal linguists. However, as I will show in my talk, in these "secondary" channels, we, too, have both instances of performative expression of immediate affect, i.e., expressive meaning, as well as instances of less performative, more regularized, and more linguistically integrated expression of non-immediate affect, i.e., truth-conditional meaning. In other words, we observe the same typology of affective content across channels, and we should be aiming to analyze it in a uniform way.

Find out more about Dr Maria Esipova's talk on Youtube 

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About the speaker

Dr Maria (Masha) Esipova is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Oslo, working on semantics and its interfaces. Much of her research focuses on how meaning is expressed through various channels in spoken and written communication (words and their parts, gestures, facial expressions, prosody, text modifications, etc.). Some of her recent and ongoing projects concern affective meaning, high-level modification, structure of event and situation descriptions, and semantics and sociopragmatics of pronouns. Lately, she has also been applying her linguistics toolkit to meaning and meaning-form mapping beyond language, in particular, in pictorial representations and in athletic movement. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from New York University.

About the Northern Scholars 

The Northern Scholars Scheme was established at the University of Edinburgh in 1956.

Its role is to foster co-operation between scholars of Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and colleagues in the University of Edinburgh.

Mutual areas of interest include aspects of linguistics, and historical and other cultural studies which are common to these countries and to Scotland. 

Each year, the Northern Scholars Scheme Committee sponsors visits by scholars of the member countries to Edinburgh, during which time they give departmental seminars and public lectures.

Find out more about the Northern Scholars

Are you interested in Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh?

We are the only university in Scotland, and one of only two in the UK, to offer undergraduate honours programmes in Scandinavian Studies, enabling you to learn modern Danish, Swedish or Norwegian in the context of Scandinavian culture, past and present. We also welcome candidates for postgraduate research degrees (MSc by Research and PhD) in various aspects of Nordic languages, literature, history, culture and society.

Find out more about Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh 

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Mar 24 2021 -

Northern Scholars Lecture: Dr Maria Esipova

'Facts and Feelings: A Cross-Channel Typology of Affective Content'. A free public lecture by Dr Maria Esipova (University of Oslo). 

Online via Zoom