Plenary Talks

Rolf Zwaan

Erasmus University Rotterdam (link)

Situation models, mental simulations, and abstract concepts in discourse comprehension

I will discuss the role of symbolic and sensorimotor representations in discourse comprehension. It starts out with a review of the literature on situation models, showing how mental representations are constrained by linguistic and situational factors. These ideas are then extended to more explicitly include sensorimotor representations. I will argue that sensorimotor and symbolic representations mutually constrain each other in discourse comprehension. These ideas are then developed further to propose two roles for abstract concepts in discourse comprehension.

Bernd Heine

University of Cologne (link)

How to account for directionality in grammatical change?

Grammaticalization is commonly understood as a regular and essentially directional process. This generalization appears to be agreed upon in some form or other across many different schools of linguistics, even if it has not gone unchallenged. But there are different views on what exactly is regular. Taking the development from movement-based verbs to future tenses as an example, the present paper argues that neither contextual features nor inferential mechanisms, analogy, or constructional form seem to provide a sufficient basis for explaining the evolution of grammatical categories. The present findings show that there exist phenomena which do go in one direction and we offer an account of these phenomena in terms of a "macro-shift" in semantics. The paper is based on the one hand on findings made in !Xun, a southwest African language of the Kx'a family, formerly classified as "Northern Khoisan", and on the other hand on a comparison of this language with observations made in the Germanic languages English, Dutch, and Swedish.