Words in Worlds (Trondheim/Turku)

This Individual Project investigates the nature and preconditions of successful communicative behavior, with focus on two levels: words and discourses. The issues will be approached both from a theoretical and from an empirical viewpoint, taking full advantage of the range of expertise available in the joint project.

  • On the level of words, the theoretical objective of the project will be to reach a better understanding of when two agents can use a word successfully in their mutual communication. Traditionally, this issue has been framed as the question of when two agents use a word to express a shared concept. One leading idea of this CRP is to examine whether the question would more fruitfully be framed as concerning sufficient overlap between the concepts expressed by the parties engaged in communicative behaviour. If we accept the sufficient overlap view, we need to give an account of when the overlap is sufficient for communication and when it is not. On the traditional view the answer to this question was simply that communication fails when the concepts involved are not shared. On the alternative view to be developed in this CRP, the answer is more complex since it allows that some conceptual differences do not hinder communication, while others do (this, after all, is implied by the notion of sufficient overlap).
  • The other main focus of this individual project will be on the pragmatics of speech acts, in particular the acts of assertion and of asking questions. In this part of the  project we will look at how context – social relations in particular – affects the appropriateness of speech acts. Communication does not take place in a social vacuum: communicative actions are performed in varying  social contexts. Our research will look at how conversational participants correct each other with regard to, not just their use of words, but also the appropriateness of performing particular speech acts, i.e. the norms for performing the speech acts of assertion and question-asking.

For further information, please contact Jussi Haukioja (project leader): jussi.haukioja [at] ntnu.no