Speaker: Martina Wiltschko (ICREA Research Professor, Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Barcelona)
Title: Language as an instrument of thought and communication. Evidence from interactional language.
Abstract: There is an ancient debate about whether language is an instrument for thought or for communication. In this squib, I argue that the distinction is misleading and that human-specific thought and human-specific communication are both configured by language. The argument is based on the growing consensus that syntactic structure governed by universal grammar (UG) encompasses not only the propositional content of an utterance but also its communicative content including the regulation of common ground and turn-taking. If communicative content is part of UG, then it follows that communication is as much a function of language as thought is. I develop this argument based on in-depth case-studies of confirmationals (sentence-final particles such as 'eh', 'huh') and response markers (yeah, no).