Why are languages the way they are? What makes complex communication possible? 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 (2018-2023) and by collaborations with the Language in Interaction consortium. Find out more about my research and publications, or see my CV.
Three key papers
- Dingemanse, M. (2020). Between Sound and Speech: Liminal Signs in Interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 53, 188–196, doi: 10.1080/08351813.2020.1712967 ► pdf
(how liminal signs help streamline social interaction)
- Dingemanse, M., & Akita, K. (2017). An inverse relation between expressiveness and grammatical integration: on the morphosyntactic typology of ideophones, with special reference to Japanese. Journal of Linguistics, 53(3), 501–532. doi: 10.1017/S002222671600030X ► pdf
(when syntax depends on semiotics; with open data and code)
- Dingemanse, M., Roberts, S. G., Baranova, J., Blythe, J., Drew, P., Floyd, S., Gisladottir, R. S., Kendrick, K. H., Levinson, S. C., Manrique, E., Rossi, G., & Enfield, N. J. (2015). Universal Principles in the Repair of Communication Problems. PLOS ONE, 10(9): e0136100, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136100 ► pdf
(pragmatic universals of repair; with open data and code)
Three niche papers
- 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., & Thompson, B. (2020). Playful iconicity: structural markedness underlies the relation between funniness and iconicity. Language and Cognition, 12(1), 203–224. doi: 10.1017/langcog.2019.49 ► pdf
(why some words playfully sound like what they mean)
- 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)
See also the full publication list and open science resources.
I am a linguist based in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. My research focuses on how language is shaped by and for social interaction. My views on language are informed by long-term 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 thinking, writing, finding out new things, and working with diverse people. 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 sensititivity with an awe-inspiring cosmic perspective on human diversity.