Why are languages the way they are? What makes complex communication possible? How does technology augment and constrain human agency? My research formulates new answers to these questions by studying how language is shaped by and for social interaction.

I am Associate Professor in Language and Communication at Radboud University Nijmegen. I’m also PI of Elementary Particles of Conversation, a collaborative and transdisciplinary research programme on the small words that streamline everyday language use. The research in my group is funded by a Vidi talent grant from the Dutch Research Council NWO (2018-2024) and by a number of national and international collaborations. Find out more about my research and publications. Or look at papers by figures.

Three key papers

  • Dingemanse, M., & Enfield, N. J. (2024). Interactive repair and the foundations of language. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 28(1), 30–42. (doi, pdf) — the resilience and flexibility of language is underpinned by a machinery of interactive repair
  • Dingemanse, M., Liesenfeld, A., Rasenberg, M., Albert, S., Ameka, F. K., Birhane, A., Bolis, D., Cassell, J., Clift, R., Cuffari, E., De Jaegher, H., Dutilh Novaes, C., Enfield, N. J., Fusaroli, R., Gregoromichelaki, E., Hutchins, E., Konvalinka, I., Milton, D., Rączaszek-Leonardi, J., Reddy, V., Rossano, F., Schlangen, D., Seibt, J., Stokoe, E., Suchman, L. A., Vesper, C., Wheatley, T., & Wiltschko, M. (2023). Beyond single-mindedness: A figure-ground reversal for the cognitive sciences. Cognitive Science, 47(1): e13230. (doipdf, website) — a transdisciplinary manifesto for putting interaction at the heart of cognition
  • Dingemanse, M. & Liesenfeld, A. (2022). From text to talk: Harnessing conversational corpora for humane and diversity-aware language technology. Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers), (doi, pdf, repo) — now is the time to pivot from text to talk

About me

I am a linguist based in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. My research focuses on how language is shaped by and for social interaction. I’m also interested in how language technology can augment and constrain human agency. My views on language are informed by fieldwork in eastern Ghana, comparative research on a diverse range of languages, and a strong interdisciplinary orientation that includes anthropology, sociology, and cognitive science.

I greatly enjoy reading, writing, and finding out new things. A combination of privilege, opportunity, and talent has so far allowed me to do this in academia. As a first generation PhD in my family, I do not take any of this for granted.

Here are three books that are important to me, in the order in which I discovered them:

  • Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, for providing a taste of cognitive science at its best: playful, curious, and without limits in terms of topic or method.
  • Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, for capturing the complexities and ambiguities that are part of the story of humans through place and time.
  • Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle, for combining a deep anthropological sensitivity with an awe-inspiring cosmic perspective on human diversity.

(Oh, despite what Wikipedia might say, I am not an “Africanist”. My training is in general linguistics and African languages & linguistics, my PhD is in Linguistics, and my subsequent work focuses on comparative linguistics, typology, and social interaction.)

Three niche papers

These are papers I’m proud of even if they have managed to remain a bit obscure (so far).

  • Dingemanse, M. (2020). Recruiting assistance and collaboration: a West-African corpus study. In S. Floyd, G. Rossi, & N. J. Enfield (Eds.), Getting others to do things: A pragmatic typology of recruitments (pp. 369–421). Language Science Press. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.4018388   pdf
    (how to get others to do things, with some potential universals to boot)
  • Dingemanse, M. (2015). Folk definitions in linguistic fieldwork. In J. Essegbey, B. Henderson, & F. Mc Laughlin (Eds.), Language documentation and endangerment in Africa (pp. 215-238). Amsterdam: Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/clu.17.09din ► pdf
    (on a procedure that is part of many field work routines, but seldomly appreciated as a method of its own)
  • Dingemanse, Mark. 2017. Brain-to-brain interfaces and the role of language in distributing agency. In Enfield, N. J. & Kockelman, Paul (eds.), Distributed Agency, 59–66. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190457204.003.0007) ► pdf
    (what the science of human interaction tells us about brain bridges)

For a broader view, see my papers by figures and open science resources, or learn more about my research or my students and mentees.