Explorations at the discourse level

Date: 6 June 2016

Venue: UAntwerp, Stadscampus, Room R.012, building R - Rodestraat - 2000 Antwerpen

Time: 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: Department of Linguistics

Short description: The first Language in Use seminar, by Liesbeth Degand (Institute for Language and Communication (IL&C), Université Catholique de Louvain): basic discourse units, discourse markers and more

Explorations at the discourse level: Basic Discourse Units, Discourse Markers, and more

Semniar to discuss recent trends by leading experts. On June 6, Liesbeth Degand will present her work on spoken discourse segmentation and discourse markers. It will be an amazing opportunity to come into contact with cutting-edge research at the interface between discourse analysis, communication and its cognitive aspects.

In this talk Liesbeth Degand will give an overview of my work on spoken discourse segmentation and on discourse markers (DMs) order to explore further research avenues about what is so specific about the discourse level, i.e. to make progress in investigating why discourse is a crucial notion for understanding human communication (Sanders & Spooren, 2007). On the basis of my (mainly) functionally oriented corpus-based work on DMs (both onomasiological and semasiological) (see e.g. Bolly et al., in press; Degand, Cornillie & Pietrandrea, 2013; Degand & Fagard, 2011; Pander Maat & Degand, 2001) I would like to develop the idea of 'the paradox of discourse markers': On the level of the sentence (syntax and semantics), DMs are optional, they are not even considered as a (morpho-)syntactic category; on the pragmatic level however, they are communicatively obligatory (in the sense of Diewald, 2011). It follows that the study of discourse markers should learn us more about the underlying cognitive and functional principles of human communication, i.e. as indices of fundamental cognitive processing during (spoken) language production. 

Uncovering cognitive principles of (spoken) language production also underlies my plans regarding further work in the area of discourse segmentation. Discourse segmentation in units is a crucial process in order to understand discourse production and comprehension. We developed a method for segmenting spoken discourse in Basic Discourse Units (BDUs), based on the interaction between syntactic units (dependency clauses) and prosodic units (major intonation units). BDUs result from the coincidence of syntactic and prosodic boundaries, corresponding to distinct but complementary linguistic encodings. This mapping gives rise to different types of discourse units (congruent, syntax-bound, intonation-bound, regulatory) (Degand & Simon 2009a, Simon & Degand, 2011). Thus, our claim is that the prosody-syntax interface gives rise to a distinctive discursive level of analysis contributing to the unfolding (linear) discourse, e.g. in the form of different discursive strategies (Degand & Simon, 2009b; Martin, Degand, & Simon 2014). The BDU segmentation has been applied to a corpus of spoken French, LOCAS-F (Degand, Martin & Simon, 2014; Degand & Simon, in prep.) comprising 14 different speech situations (political debate, interview, spontaneous conversation, conference, ...). The data is now available to explore whether these BDUs have cognitive validity in production and/or comprehension.

BIO - Prof Liesbeth Degand
Liesbeth Degand is professor of general and Dutch Linguistics at the Université Catholique de Louvain. Since 2009, she is the head of the Institute for Language and Communication (IL&C) and she also works with the VALIBEL Research Center on Discourse and Variation. Her main research interests include the study of discourse structure, coherence and cohesion, contrastive linguistics, discourse markers and their semantics as well as their grammaticalization and intersubjectification processes.

She has also been working on the relations between discourse analysis and cognitive processes, taking this linguistic analysis as a privileged vantage point from which to look at how people interact with language. She is also very active in the Belgian linguistic community, performing as the vice-president of the Belgian Association of Applied Linguistics and being a member of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO) in Flanders. Among her many publications, she is general editor of the book series "Corpora & Language in use" published by the Presses Universitaires de Louvain and she is involved in the TextLink COST action on Structuring Discourse in Multilingual Europe.

Registration: We kindly ask you to confirm your participation by sending and e-mail to  ben.verhoeven@uantwerpen.be

Contact email: ben.verhoeven@uantwerpen.be