SEDSU at Lund University

Symposium

Comparison and Interaction between Semiotic Resources
in Evolution and Development


at the Centre for languages and litterature,
Lund University

Symposium of the SEDSU project,
organized by Göran Sonesson, Jordan Zlatev,
Sara Lenninger and Mats Andrén.

Friday 29 September 2006
9.00-17.00 Stora Hörsalen
17.15-19.30 Absalon 129B

Saturday 30 September 2006
9.00-18.30 Stora Hörsalen

Public talks will be held by members of the SEDSU project. In addition to this two plenary speakers are invited:

Jean M. Mandler (abstract) and Terrence Deacon (abstract).


Participation is free, and if you are planning to participate we would appreciate if you register by sending a mail to Mats Andrén (mats.andren@ling.lu.se). If you also want to join us for the dinner on the evening of the 29th of september (not for free, price not set yet) please mention this in the registration mail.

The talks addresses issues relevant to the SEDSU project, with reference to the theme indicated in the title; Comparison and Interaction between Semiotic Resources in Evolution and Development. Specifically, the term comparison will be taken to involve the assessment of similarities and differences in one or several of the following senses:

    

Click on the image to view the poster (PDF).
1. From the point of view of type and scale of semiotic and cognitive resources involved:
 -
comparing different semiotic systems, such as language, gestures and pictures (i.e. (inter)semiotic comparison)
 -
comparing relevant aspects (such as spatial expressions) of different languages (i.e. cross-linguistic or intrasemiotic comparison)
 -
comparing human cognitive and semiotic behaviour in different cultures (i.e. it is cross-or inter-cultural)

2. From the point of view of time span:
 -
comparing the cognitive and semiotic capacities of human beings across different ages (i.e. developmental or ontogenetic comparison)
 -
comparing the cognitive and semiotic capacities of human beings and nonhuman primates (i.e. comparative psychological comparison)
 -
comparing different stages of evolution, from the hypothetical ancestors of human beings to present day human beings (i.e. evolutionary or phylogenetic comparison)
 -
comparing, on a macro-level, developmental/evolutionary processes in ontogeny and phylogeny, on the basis of their respective stages, defined by types of semiotic and/or cognitive structures and learning processes.

Similarly, interaction can be understood in one or several senses, involving, for instance:

1. The point of view of type and scale of semiotic and cognitive resources involved:
 -
interaction between different semiotic systems, such as language, gestures and pictures (i.e. (inter)semiotic interaction)
 -
interaction within particular semiotic systems (.e.g. language, gesture, etc.; intrasemiotic interaction)
 -
interaction between different cultures (intercultural interaction)

2. The point of view of time span:
 -
relations of presuppositions between semiotic systems, in ontogeny or phylogeny or on a metalevel, all difficult to distinguish from the corresponding comparisons mentioned above
 -
presuppositional precedence relations between iconicity, indexicality, and symbolicity
 -
presuppositional precedence relations between systemicity and the sign function, etc.


Program

September 29 (Friday)

Time   Lecturer Lecture title
9.00
Eva Wiberg
(Marseille)
Opening address from the president of the Centre for language and literature, Lund University (SOL)
9.05
Göran Sonesson
(Lund)
Introduction: On “semiotic resources”
9.10
Jordan Zlatev
(Lund)
Introduction: Organization of the symposium
9.15-12.30
Session 1
Stora Hörsalen, SOL
Moderator: Peter Gärdenfors (Lund)
9.15
Carole Parron
(Marseille)
Processing of 2-dimensional representations of real objects by baboons (Papio papio)
[abstract]
10.00
Josep Call & Federica Amici
(Leipzig)
Social contagion in the great apes
[abstract]
10.45
 
pause
11.00
Giovanna Spinozzi,
Valentina Truppa,
Carlo De Lillo
(Rome)
Grouping by similarity, proximity and orientation in the visual processing of letters and abstract shapes in human and non-human primates (Cebus apella)
[abstract]
11.45
Elisabetta Visalberghi,
Elsa Addessi
(Rome)
Do Capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) use tokens as symbols?
[abstract]
12.30
 
lunch
13.45-15.15
First Plenary
Moderator: Jordan Zlatev (Lund)
13.45
Plenary:
Jean M. Mandler
The spatial foundations of the conceptual system
[abstract]
15.15
 
pause
15.15-17.00
Session 2
Stora Hörsalen, SOL
Moderator: Chris Sinha
15.30
Tomas Persson
(Lund)
Is referential understanding of pictures in non-enculturated great apes possible?
[abstract]
16.15
Peter Gärdenfors
(Lund)
The cognitive and communicative requirements of cooperation
[abstract]
17.00
 
pause
15.15-17.00
Session 3
Absalon 129B, SOL
Moderator: Göran Sonesson (Lund)
17.15
Mats Andrén
(Lund)
Gesture and two word utterance timing in 18 to 28 months old children
[abstract]
18.00
Sven Strömqvist
(Lund)
Make-believe – a window on language, cognition and communication
[abstract]
18.45
Daniel B.M. Haun & Josep Call
(Leipzig)
Tolerance and cooperation in great ape mother-infant dyads
[abstract]
19.30
 
End of lecture program


September 30 (Saturday)

Time   Lecturer Lecture title
9.00-12.15
Session 4
Stora Hörsalen, SOL
Moderator: Jordan Zlatev
9.00
Pam Heaton
(London)
Perceptual processing in autism
[abstract]
9.45
Jules Davidoff
(London)
Evolution of sign use in perception
[abstract]
10.30
 
pause
10.45
Chris Sinha
(Portsmouth)
Language as a biocultural niche
[abstract]
11.30
Vera da Silva
(Portsmouth)
Time in Amodowan language and culture
[abstract]
12.15
 
lunch
13.30-15.00
Second Plenary
Moderator: Göran Sonesson (Lund)
13.30
Plenary:
Terrence Deacon
Real Language Universals: Neither nature nor nurture
[abstract]
15.00
 
pause
15.15-18.30
Session 5
Stora Hörsalen, SOL
Moderator: Jules Davidoff
15.15
Jordan Zlatev & Johan Blomberg
(Lund)
Motion (translocation) in language and cognition
[abstract]
16.00
Göran Sonesson
(Lund)
From imitation to pictures by way of tool-use and gesture. Reflections on dyads and triads
[abstract]
16.45
 
pause
17.00
Ingar Brinck
(Lund)
The referential claim: Comparing referential behaviour to verbal reference
[abstract]
17.45
Sara Lenninger
(Lund)
Representational strategies in picture comprehension
[abstract]
18.30
 
End of lecture program

Abstracts

Processing of 2-dimensional representations of real objects by baboons (Papio papio)

Carole Parron (Marseille), Christine Deruelle (Marseille),
Josep Call (Leipzig) & Joël Fagot (Marseille)

Studies on the perception of two dimensional visual stimuli in non-human primates have not yet well established how animals process two-dimensional (2D) representations of realistic objects (Fagot, 2000). This issue was assessed using two different kinds displays, one (colour photographs) sharing a large spectrum of dimensions with the realistic objects, the other (biological motion point-light displays) being much more degraded. Seventy baboons had to choose a real slice of banana versus a real pebble. They had then to transfer discrimination to photographs of banana slices and pebbles. More than 70% of the baboons chose the picture of banana and further ate it. Baboons can thus discriminate two objects on the 2D stimuli, but the photographs and the natural objects are not immediately distinguished from each other. Apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans) showed a similar, but less pronounced, profile of results. The second experiment tested the capacity of baboons to derive conceptual information and to extract biological information from point-light displays. Four baboons were trained to discriminate biological from non biological point-light displays. Results of several experiments revealed that our subjects did not process the biological content of the stimuli and rather discriminated the stimuli considering their dynamic configural structure. In sum, these experiments provided no evidence of sign use in non-human primates In our research, monkeys either confused the object and its 2D-depiction (Experiment 1) or treated the real objects and their 2D-depiction as unrelated and different (Experiment 2).


Social contagion in the great apes

Josep Call & Federica Amici (Leipzig)

In recent years, social learning has attracted substantial research attention. One of the areas that has generated more controversy is whether apes (and other animals) copy actions (imitation) or they tend to copy results (emulation) when they are learning from others. Although some studies have shown that apes can be trained to imitate actions on command, it is still unclear how much action copying they produce spontaneously. Anderson et al. (2004) reported that some chimpanzees presented with movies of other chimpanzees yawning responded by yawning. The aim of the present study was to attempt to replicate and extend these results. We presented the four great apes with videotapes of their own species performing three types of actions: yawning, nose-wiping and scratching. We found that chimpanzees increased their yawning behavior upon observing films of other chimpanzees yawning, thus replicating Anderson's et al results. In contrast, none of the other apes produced yawning responses contingent on observing movies of conspecifics yawning. None of the species increased their nose-wiping or scratching behavior upon seeing movies of conspecifics producing those behaviors. These preliminary results suggest that social contagion may be restricted to particular actions and that the mechanism involved is different from that responsible for copying actions. Furthermore, if contagious yawning is linked with some aspects of social cognition, as some authors have suggested, these results suggest important differences between the four great apes.


Grouping by similarity, proximity and orientation in the visual processing of letters and abstract shapes in human and non-human primates (Cebus apella)

C. De Lillo (Leicester), V. Truppa (Rome)
& G. Spinozzi (Rome)

Recent experimental results suggest that human and non human primates differ in how they process visual information in order to assemble component parts into global shapes. Moreover, the literature on human visual cognition has started to suggest that different grouping principles may operate at different stages of processing and require a different amount of attention and cognitive resources. To date, no attempts have been made at assessing whether some of the observed interspecies differences in perceptual grouping could be accounted for by the prevalence of different grouping cues in different species.

We present the results of three experiments designed to assess the relative ease of processing of similarity, proximity and orientation grouping cues in humans and capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) using a visual matching to sample task. The experiments also featured the manipulation of the verbalizability of the stimuli to evaluate the possibility that verbal coding could mediate some of the differences observed in human and non-human grouping processes.

The results of the first two experiments, carried out on capuchin monkeys, indicate that in this species, the identification of shapes that required grouping by orientation generated the highest frequency of errors compared to conditions requiring grouping by similarity and proximity. A third experiment, carried out with humans elicited a different pattern of results. Grouping by proximity in humans generated the highest level of performance. Overall, similar results where obtained in both species with abstract shapes and letters, indicating that the ability to attach a verbal code to the stimuli does not play a significant role in these tasks and it is unlikely to account for interspecies differences. Instead, our results are discussed in relation with the possible role played by visual acuity, sensitivity to different spatial frequencies and attentional control in determining the interspecies differences observed in this domain.


Do capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) use tokens as symbols?

E. Addessi (Rome), L. Crescimbene (Rome)
& E. Visalberghi (Rome)

In the last decade several studies on the use of tokens (i.e., inherently non-valuable objects that acquire an associated value upon exchange for a food reward with an experimenter) have been carried out in non-human primates. However, it is still unclear whether non-human primates employ tokens as symbols. To assess if this were the case, two experiments were designed in capuchin monkeys. Experiment 1 investigated whether capuchins assign a relative value to different tokens when exchanged for different quantities of the same food, and Experiment 2 (still in progress) examines whether the relative value assigned to the different tokens combines according to transitivity, as reported by Padoa-Schioppa et al. (2006) for real food.

In Experiment 1, capuchins (N = 10) learned the association between two different tokens and the corresponding number of rewards returned by the experimenter when the tokens are exchanged (token A values one reward, and token B values three rewards). All the subjects also preferred token B over token A. Moreover, whereas most of the subjects discriminated between different amount of the same type of token (by choosing the largest amount), the performance when facing different numbers of different tokens was less robust.

These preliminary results will be discussed in relation to the present literature on token exchange and to the evidence for the use of symbols in non-human primates.


The spatial foundations of the conceptual system

Plenary: Jean M. Mandler

In this talk I outline the way that the conceptual system begins in infancy, describing how concepts are created by redescribing perceptual information. I have hypothesized that this redescription is accomplished by a mechanism called Perceptual Meaning Analysis (PMA). In this talk I concentrate on two aspects of the redescriptions that PMA produces. First, I describe why it is most likely that the perceptual information made use of is exclusively spatial in nature. Second, I discuss the innate spatial primitives required to get PMA started. The number of spatial primitives needed to account for concept formation in the first year of life appears to be surprisingly small, but the conceptual base it forms is sufficient to enable language to get started. Finally, I briefly discuss how language becomes associated with bodily feelings and other nonspatial information, thereby amplifying the initial spatial descriptions and bringing the conceptual system closer to that of adults.


Is referential understanding of pictures in non-enculturated great apes possible?

Tomas Persson (Lund)

A survey of the primate literature shows that pictorial stimuli has been used successfully in various perceptual and conceptual experimental tasks. However, with few exceptions, these studies do not address the question of picture comprehension as a referential competence in which the picture points to, but has to be differentiated from, its referent. Two alternatives to a referential basis for subjects' performance are proposed. Firstly, pictures can be associated to referents without any aprehension of likeness. Secondly, tests using highly realistic pictures (i.e. photos) can be solved without differentiation, meaning that the depiction is seen as just another, albeit weird, instance of an object category. If animals are able to regard pictures as referential they should be able to interpret novel depictions that are impossible to confuse with reality. Some results from captive gorillas on tasks aimed at adressing this issue will be presented.


The cognitive and communicative requirements of cooperation

Peter Gärdenfors (Lund)

This paper is part of a more encompassing research program on the evolution of cooperation, cognition and communication, in particular focussing on the emergence of Homo sapiens. Here, I argue that the analysis of different kinds of cooperation will benefit from an account of the cognitive and communicative functions required for the cooperation. I investigate different models of cooperation in game theory – reciprocal altruism, indirect reciprocity, cooperation about future goals and conventions – with respect to their cognitive and communicative prerequisites. The cognitive factors considered include recognition of individuals, memory capacity, temporal discounting, anticipatory cognition and theory of mind. The communication considered ranges from simple signalling to full symbolic communication.


Gesture and two word utterance timing in 18 to 28 months old children

Mats Andrén (Lund)

Much of the characteristics of multimodal utterances during the second and third year of children remain to be described, for example timing between speech and gesture; the temporal details of gesture performance in relation to simultaneously delivered speech. Timing in this sense is dependent both on (a) sequential and semantic aspects of language and (b) interactional and physical contingencies of particular situations. The issue of timing becomes increasingly more complex when the first verbal predicates, or multi word utterances, emerge around the age of 18 months. This is because of the “choice” which is now possible of where in the verbal utterance to perform a gesture and where not to, whereas earlier in the child’s life utterances mainly consist of one word, with or without gesture, or gesture alone. In this study typical and deviant cases are analysed in relation to both (a) and (b) above. The analysis is based on a longitudinal corpus consisting of video recorded interactions between child and parent.


Make-believe – a window on language, cognition and communication

Sven Strömqvist

Language mirrors thought, which, in its turn, mirrors reality. This medieval doctrine of Grammatica speculativa (Mirror grammar) no doubt holds in many respects, but it is in need of several qualifications. The present paper focuses on make-believe and the role of language to support games of make-believe. From an ontogenetic, developmental point of view, infants clearly need to ground their cognition and language in the perceptually tangible environment. But it is remarkable how early children start to engage in make-believe and use language to support communication about counterfactual events.

It is argued that make-believe offers a window on the nature of human language, cognition and communication and that it presents a hitherto underexplored phenomenon in research. Our ability to view and interpret a situation in a variety of ways and to accept for a moment a counterfactual scenario is at the core of linguistic communication. This ability can also be seen as underlying the stunningly large cultural diversity in the human species – a diversity which is poorly understood with reference to genetic factors, since the human species shows a very limited genetic variation.


Tolerance and cooperation in great ape mother-infant dyads

Daniel B.M. Haun & Josep Call

The cross-generational maintenance of a complex semiotic system would be greatly aided by a cooperative attitude between mothers and their offspring. In three controlled observational studies (still in progress) we compare six mother-infant dyads including animals from four species of non-human great apes. In study 1 we make desirable food available either to (a) mother and infant alike, (b) the mother but not the infant and (c) vice versa. We recorded whether animals would share the food available to them and if animals would encourage the other to do so. In study 2 we make use of the fact that all six mothers know how to use a stick to 'fish' for food, but their infants do not. We present the dyads with 'fishable' food but on some trials place the fishing-stick in an adjacent cage, only accessible to the infant. We record whether the infant will fetch the required tool for his/her mother and if the mothers will encourage their infants to do so. Furthermore we observe whether mothers' will share more in cases where their infants helped acquire the tool in comparison to cases where she could access it herself.


Perceptual processing in autism

Pam Heaton (London)

Whilst Autism is diagnosed according to standardised clinical criteria, wide variations in phenotypical profiles are observed. For example, whilst delayed language onset is a diagnostic criteria for autism, there is considerable variability in the extent to which language subsequently develops. Similarly, whilst autism is associated with intellectual impairment, IQ scores may be in the normal range. Current theoretical accounts of autism propose that cognition is characterised by a local or perceptual information processing bias and the extent to which such a tendency is influenced by or interacts with intellectual and language levels has been little discussed. This will be explored within the context of work carried out for the SEDSU project.


Evolution of sign use in perception

Jules Davidoff (London)

In the EU project for "What it means to be human", Stages in the Evolution and Development of Sign Use (SEDSU) has examined two aspects of perception with respect to their semiotic status. The aspects are first the global vs local processing of grouped stimuli and second the similarity of colours as observed from matching and memory tasks. Both of these aspects have been argued to show processing unique to normal adult humans (Fagot & Deruelle, 1997; Davidoff, 2001). It has been held that, while there may be groups of humans (e.g., autistic children) who process grouped stimuli in a local fashion, normal adult humans, unlike monkeys, invariably show global processing. Our recent cross cultural studies provide counter evidence and cast doubt on whether global processing is invariably seen in all cultures. However, colour similarity judgements do appear to be different across these species (Fagot et al, in press) but similar cross culturally. The critical difference between these two aspects of perception is in the types of alternative procedures available to the observer. Differences in global vs local processing are due to attentional and/or capacity variation; differences in processing colour contrast perceptual vs taxonomic (linguistic) similarity.


Language as a biocultural niche

Chris Sinha (Portsmouth)

How can culture be conceptualized from an evolutionary and ecological point of view, what are the relations between biology and culture, and how do theories of biology and culture bear upon theories of language? Culture can minimally be defined as the existence of intra-species group differences in behavioural patterns and repertoires, which are not directly determined by ecological circumstances (such as the availability of particular resources employed in the differing behavioural repertoires), and which are learned and transmitted across generations. On this definition, there is ample evidence of cultural differences in foraging strategies, tool use and social behaviours in chimpanzees. Such a definition will also qualify, for example, epigenetically learned intra-species dialect differences between songbird communities as cultural and culturally transmitted behaviour.

Some biologists have argued on this basis for the reduction of culture to the mere expression of biology. Other biologists, however, increasingly acknowledge the role of culture in shaping the evolutionary process at the genetic level, by the construction of new selective environments (Laland, Odling-Smee and Feldman, 2000). Laland et al. (2000: 132) criticize the “human-centred” perspective of many accounts of gene-culture co-evolution, pointing out that many non-human species behaviourally co-direct genetic evolution through niche construction. This perspective situates the role of culture in human evolution within a wider class of processes involving adaptation to behaviourally induced changes in selective environments (niches or “artifacts” such as nests, dams, mounds and burrows). A particular role is played in the theory advanced by Laland et al. (2000:144) by genotype/niche combinations labeled by “phenogenotypes”, which they propose as replicators functionally equivalent to organisms: a phenogenotype is a class of organisms in a bound (though not genetically determined) relationship with some aspect of a self constructed (including culturally constructed) environmental niche.

Although Laland et al.’s model is a general one, not confined to human culture and evolution, they acknowledge that humans are “unique in their extraordinary capacity for culture” (p. 133). I interpret this to mean primarily that human cultures are unique in some fundamental respect, that is they are different (perhaps discontinuously) from the cultures of other species; and secondarily that the capacity for creating, acquiring and transmitting cultural forms is uniquely developed (though clearly not unique) in humans. Cultural acquisition and transmission is mediated in humans by the human language capacity. The nativist modular account of this capacity proposes its inscription in the human genotype. An alternative account, along the lines of the co-evolutionary theory of Laland et al. (2000), would view the human language capacity as phenogenotypic. Language, in this account, is an artifact/niche, and the capacity to acquire and use it involves the evolution and replication of a phenogenotypic “biocultural complex” (Laland et al. 2000: 144).

Such an account does not require the organism to possess an internal model of the grammar of a language to account for language acquisition and use, any more than the building of a nest requires an internal model of the nest. The grammar of the language is in the language, just as the structure of the nest is in the nest. The capacity for language is thus a cognitive-behavioural relationship between language user and the constituents of language, just as the capacity for building a nest is a cognitive-behavioural relationship between the builder and the constituents of the nest; and it is this relationship that, in each case, has been selected for in evolution. This account is thus compatible with usage-based, cognitive functional theories of language.

The language artifact/niche is culturally situated, that is, dynamically embedded within a semiotic network which includes other symbolic and non-symbolic artifacts. The class of organisms with the language capacity (normally developing humans) is thus a phenogenotypic replicator systemically associated with a wider biocultural complex of symbolic and constructive cognitive capacities, also of a phenogenotypic nature; and individual language acquisition and use is situated in the contexts of actuation of these inter-related capacities. This account accords with the view what makes humans unique is not an innate language acquisition device plus a variety of other species-specific innate cognitive modules, but a generalized semiotic or symbolic capacity, epigenetically developed from a suite of cognitive capacities largely shared with other species, but attaining higher levels of organization in humans (Zlatev et al. 2006). It is my contention, then, that contemporary developments in evolutionary biological science can be adduced in support of a semiotically and socio-culturally situated approach to language and mind (see also Sinha, 1988).


Time in the Amondawa language and culture

Vera da Silva Sinha (Portsmouth), Jörg Zinken (Portsmouth),
Wany Sampaio (Rondônia) & Chris Sinha (Portsmouth)

The conceptualization of time in the Tupi languages of Brazil has been little researched and analyzed, although what research there is has a long history. Father José de Anchieta, in his 1595 grammar of Old Tupi (A arte de grammatica da lingoa mais usada na costa do Brasil), claimed that past and future were not expressed in verbal morphology, but by morphological modification indicating things and events which have either already occurred or are yet to occur (cited in Leite, 2000). We present an initial analysis of temporal expressions in the Amondawa (Tupi Kawahib) language and of their cultural motivation.

In Amondawa, future time is expressed by the dependent morphemes (or particles) nehe, poti…nehe; and past by the morphemes ki…ko, ki…i'i, emo, ramo. It should be noted that these morphemes also express modal, aspectual and evidential notions (intention, desire, perfectivity, continuous action, event witnessed by speaker etc.). This list is not exhaustive: notions of time are also assimilated to other adverbial terms corresponding to English yesterday, today, tomorrow, now and so forth.

For the Amondawa, time is not divided into years, but into two seasons: the dry season Kuaripe (time of the sun) and the rainy season Amana. Each of these seasons is subdivided in three (see Table 1)

Table 1: The Amondawa seasons

AMONDAWA
ENGLISH
AMANA
Rain / Time of the rain ("WINTER")
AKYN AMANA
Falling rain (Beginning of the time of rain)
AKYRIMBA'U AMANA
or
AMANA EHÃI
Very heavy rain
or
Great rain
AMANA TUIN
Small rain (ending of the time of rain)
KUARIPE
Time of the sun ("SUMMER")
O'AN KUARA
The sun is coming (beginning of the time of the sun)
ITYWYRAHIM KUARA
Very hot sun; strong sun.
KUARA TUIN
or
AKYRIRIN AMANA
Small sun (ending of the time of the sun)
or
The time of falling rain is close

The day is divided into Ko'ema (morning), karoete (afternoon) and iputunahim (night). Night is marked by the disappearance of the sun and the appearance of the moon. Further subdivisions are based upon daily activities: times of waking, working, eating, relaxing and sleeping (see Figure 1).

Fig 1. Chronogram of Amondawa day/night cycle


(Click on the image to see a larger version)

The Amondawa language and culture does not employ cardinal chronologies such as ages of individuals, or ordinal chronologies such as yearly or monthly calendars, other than the four phases of the moon, since the Amondawa numerical system has only two numerals with a maximum combinatorial value of four (mokongaturaipeimeme: two and twice one).

An abstract term for TIME does not exist in Amondawa. The passage of time is expressed by the use of the verbs of motion meaning COME and GO. Our data indicate that it is the events or temporal periods which metaphorically or analogically "come" and "go", and not the speaker or other experiencing subject. The word kuara (sun) is preferentially used to denote time intervals in general, since it the movement of the sun which governs the passage of both the time of day and the season.

This yields expressions such as:

(1)
Oha
kuara
tiro
 
Go
sun
now
 
The sun/dry season goes (by)
(2)
akuam
kuara
 
 
Gone
sun
 
 
The sun/dry season has gone
(3)
uhum
kuara
 
 
Coming
sun
 
 
The sun/dry season is coming

In the examples above, the Amondawa expressions were offered by a native language consultant as translations of Portuguese expressions employing the word "time" with the verbs "come" and "go", e.g. o tempo vai.


Real Language Universals: Neither nature nor nurture

Plenary: Terrence Deacon

Universal constraints and universal grammar:

Agent-independent universals (semiotic constraints derived from the indexical infrastructure of symbolic reference):
 1. 
Recursive structure (is only possible via symbols)
 2. 
Predication structure (symbols must be index-bound)
 3. 
Predication embedding constraints (indexicality can be transitive but only across one hierarchic embedding level)

Species-independent quasi universals (constraints on neural processing of symbol combinations in real time):
 4. 
Chunking-branching architecture (mnemonic constraint)
 5. 
Computational composition structure (allows motoric automatization)

Language-independent regularities (influence of cognitive biases of human physiognomic origin):
 6. 
Standard schema/frame units (via cognitive borrowing from sensorimotor schemas)
 7. 
Optimal medium for replicability (e.g. aural-vocal takeover and linearization)


Motion (translocation) in language and cognition

Jordan Zlatev & Johan Blomberg (Lund)

Motion is a central characteristic of both human experience and human language, but how do the two interrelate? How do various languages express motion, and do linguistic differences imply differences in conceptualization? Such questions have been explored extensively in recent years (e.g. Pourcel 2005), but empirical studies have given quite different results, due to different concepts and methodologies.

In our presentation we offer a phenomenologically-based classification of motion situations, and in particular those involving translocation: the continuous change of an object’s average location relative to a reference frame. Subsequently, we describe results using a modified version of the Event Triads elicitation tool (Bohnemeyer, Eisenbeiss and Narasimhan 2001), in which 24 Swedish subjects performed a similarity judgement task and a linguistic description task, on the basis of short cartoon videos displaying translocative situations varying in the features Manner and Path/Direction. The results showed that whereas the group that performed the linguistic description after the similarity judgement predominantly displayed a Manner bias as expected, the group who performed the tasks in the reverse order (surprisingly) displayed the opposite bias, preferring similarity on Path. Our preliminary interpretation is in terms of a “Vygotskyan” rather than a “Whorfian” effect: language was used a mediating tool that focused attention of more abstract features of the situation. We intend to apply the experiment to speakers of other languages (and possibly children with low and high functioning autism) in order to investigate this further.


From imitation to pictures by way of tool-use and gesture. Reflections on dyads and triads

Göran Sonesson (Lund)

The long-term aim of SEDSU, it was said in our application, is to develop a ”new, empirically founded, semiotic theory of evolution and development”. The first question to ask is whether we should expect a semiotical theory of evolution and development to rely heavily on the classical theoretical heritage of the semiotic tradition, or instead only to retain the general point (made more clearly by Piaget than by semioticians in the strict sense) that the sign function, involving a subjective differentiation between expression and content, is an important stage in the evolution and development of human beings. Tentatively, I will go beyond the latter alternative, without losing touch with the results emerging from other traditions.

Piaget tried to give a wider empirical import to the Saussurean sign concept, with its clear distinction between the two sides of the sign, signifier and signified. Within semiotics proper, the followers of Peirce have long claimed that their concept of sign, being triadic, is more adequate than the Saussurean concept, which they describe as being dyadic. The trouble is, this opposition has no sense, as long as you do not specify which two or three entities are involved, and which are your criteria for dividing the sign in such as way.

In a quite different tradition, child development, there has long been a habit of referring to dyadic and triadic relationships, and this terminology was generalized to evolution by Zlatev, Persson, & Gärdenfors. At first, it may appear that this usage of the term has nothing to do with the former one, but it seems to me to be susceptible to the same critique. However, when closely scrutinized, the Peircean definition of the sign turns out to concern the situation of communication (or perhaps, more exactly, of interpretation) in the widest sense, and thus it does not englobe the dyadic relationship characterized by Saussure and Piaget. Therefore, it seems to be rather close to the dyads and triads of developmental psychology. Indeed, Peirce himself, in his later worked, observed that his terms were too narrow, and that instead of sign he ought to have talked about mediation.

The idea here is to employ mediation as the general term, and to look at the dyads and triads of developmental psychology, using mediation to distinguish, within the stage called mimesis by Donald, tool use (identified with the sign by thinkers form Vygotsky to Prieto and Eco), imitation (which has an unclear relation to mimesis in Donald’s work, but seems to initiate the semiotic function in the conception of Piaget), and signs in the strict sense, such as instantiated by gesture, language, and pictures. This may help us, not only to understand better the way in which the sign function, amidst other kinds of meaningful interaction, starts out during the mimetic stage, but also to develop more adeauate constructs that may be put to empirical tests.


The referential claim: Comparing referential behaviour to verbal reference

Ingar Brinck (Lund)

The transition from preverbal, or intentional, communication to language use is central to human development and evolution. A distinguishing mark of preverbal communication is its referential property, which it apparently shares with language. It is frequently claimed that behaviours that are typical of intentional communication such as pointing, joint attention, and gaze alternation are referential. The referential claim, as it will be called, suggests a deep similarity between these behaviours and verbal (linguistic) reference.

Yet, although the research on infant communication is vast, the exact relation between verbal and preverbal reference remains unclear. This matter should be the cause of some concern. First, any claim about an essential similarity between behaviours that superficially seem distinct must be substantiated by an explicit account of the basis of the similarity, or else its significance cannot be assessed. Second, treating behaviours as identical although their similarity may prove to be merely approximate is especially damaging for research that, as in the present case, aspires to explain transition periods and takes an evolutionary perspective.

The scope of the referential claim will be evaluated by a comparative analysis of the principal elements of preverbal and verbal reference with regard to experimental and observational data about mainly gaze-related behaviour. Visual attention contact, gaze following, and focused gaze are pivotal to preverbal communication, and developmental psychologists often interpret them as expressions of the agents’ communicative intentions. However, gaze does not have a purely communicative function, but also is fundamental to individual behaviour in supporting attention and guiding action. This double function motivates the central position of gaze in the present inquiry, because it will serve to illuminate the tension as well as the correspondence between preverbal and linguistic behaviour.


Representational strategies in picture comprehension

Sara Lenninger (Lund)

Understanding a picture as a sign, i.e. as a picture, involves several sign-related processes. Some of them may have a distinct relation to pictorality. One characteristic of semiotic theory is to consider relations between different kinds of signs and, specifically, within the Vygotskian framework, the means as structural resources of thought. This opens up for investigations of different sign resources affording different structures for streams of thought, although Vygotsky himself only elaborated on verbal thought.

In the ”embedded model”, proposed by Lynn S. Liben in order to characterize the child’s evolving understanding of external spatial representations (as for examples pictures), the author takes into account three major external constructs with which the child is concerned. One of these is of special interest here. “Representational strategies” is a construct that is constrained as to the means of representation. Within a semiotic perspective, representation strategies could be studied as a place for construction of sign relations in the child. According to the Peircean tradition, three types of sign relations are elaborated, that is, signs grounded on indexical, iconic and symbolic relations.

The question I want to investigate is whether this constructive perspective involving different cognitive strategies grounded on a relation between an expression and its content helps us in understanding the development of the semiotic function in the child.


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