Linguistics and English Language

The art of conversation

Dr Marieke Schouwstra from the Centre for Language Evolution will share her work at the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s event on conversation

The Art of Conversation is a free day-long event exploring how we talk to each other, the role of conversation in culture, and how our conversations have been shaped by technology and wider changes in society.

The event will take place on Saturday 16 February, at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (George Street). More information and booking link below:

Art of Conversation

Speaking without words

Marieke will discuss her work on visual-manual communication (e.g. sign languages or improvised gesture in lab experiments) to better understand how and why languages have developed certain structures (e.g. word order, or the way that we show that something happened in the past).

Marieke conducts experiments in which people have to communicate using only their hands (without speech), to see how people build communication systems ‘from the ground up’. Her work shows that conversation can be a powerful force in establishing a new language when there is none: languages are not born in isolation, but are the result of individuals learning from and interacting with each other.

Postgraduate students will also be showcasing an exhibit including a 3D camera used for capturing digital data about the hand movements used in the field, in recently emerged signed languages like Nicaraguan Sign Language.

Centre for Language Evolution

Marieke is part of the Centre for Language Evolution, based in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences. The group uses a combination of laboratory techniques, computational simulation, and mathematical modelling to study questions such as:

  • Is human language special?
  • Why are there so many different languages?
  • Where does grammar come from?

A Year of Conversation

A Year of Conversation 2019 is a collaborative project designed to celebrate, initiate and explore conversation through the creativity of those who live in Scotland. The Art of Conversation is the first event in a year-long series of discussions, performances, and workshops celebrating the role of conversation in our lives.

Related links