New article from ESR Roberta Rocca

Roberta Rocca , Kristian Tylén, and Mikkel Wallentin have a new journal article out in Plos One: This shoe, that tiger: Semantic properties reflecting manual affordances of the referent modulate demonstrative use


Demonstrative reference is central to human communication. But what influences our choice of demonstrative forms such as “this” and “that” in discourse? Previous literature has mapped the use of such “proximal” and “distal” demonstratives onto spatial properties of referents, such as their distance from the speaker. We investigated whether object semantics, and specifically functional properties of referents, also influence speakers’ choices of either demonstrative form. Over two experiments, we presented English, Danish and Italian speakers with words denoting animate and inanimate objects, differing in size and harmfulness, and asked them to match them with a proximal or a distal demonstrative. Objects that offer more affordances for manipulation (smaller and harmless) elicited significantly more proximal demonstratives. These effects were stronger for inanimate referents, in line with the predictions of sensory-functional views on object semantics. These results suggest that demonstrative use may be partly grounded on manual affordances, and hints at the possibility of using demonstratives as a proxy to investigate the organization of semantic knowledge.

Training Course 2: Dissemination and academic skills

On the this training course, hosted by  Friedrich Schiller University Jena, researchers participated in a full day video workshop to learn how to make, shoot, cut and present videos particularly to enable ESRs to showcase their research.  On the second day, following linguistics lectures from Karsten Schmidtke-Bode and Christoph Rzymski, ESRs discussed academic skills and possible research collaborations.

Training School 3: Individual differences in Deictic Communication

For the third Training School, Researchers and PIs were welcomed by the Head of the Department of Language and Literature at NTNU, Professor Annlaug I. Bjørsnøs There was then an opportunity to consider individual variation in predictive language process and to further consider developmental systems and developmental language disorders.  On the second day ESRs received a talk about Research Ethics and career prospects.

ESLP 2018

At the forthcoming ESLP 2018 event, Researcher Michela Caldano will give a talk on Spatial demonstratives and perceptual space: To reach or not to reach in the sagittal and lateral planes? There is much debate regarding the relationship between spatial demonstratives (‘this’ or ‘that’)  and perceptual space. While some have argued for a close mapping between the use of demonstratives and the peripersonal/extrapersonal space distinction (Coventry et al., 2008, 2014; Diessel, 2005, 2014), others have argued that distance from a speaker does not affect demonstrative choice (e.g. Kemmerer, 1999; Peeters et al., 2015).

Michela will highlight her recent experiments investigating the mapping between the use of demonstratives and perceptual space across sagittal and lateral planes using a variant of the ‘memory game’ method (Coventry et al., 2008; Gudde et al., 2018) where participants were instructed to use language to memorise object location to elicit the production of demonstratives (without being aware about the real purpose of the study).