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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

6 Issues per year

CiteScore 2016: 0.32

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.240
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.819

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Volume 2013, Issue 194 (Apr 2013)


Making sense together: A dynamical account of linguistic meaning-making

Kristian Tylén
  • Corresponding author
  • Email:
/ Riccardo Fusaroli
  • Aarhus University
  • Email:
/ Peer F. Bundgaard
  • Aarhus University
  • Email:
/ Svend Østergaard
  • University of Aarhus
  • Email:
Published Online: 2013-04-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0021


How is linguistic communication possible? How do we come to share the same meanings of words and utterances? One classical position holds that human beings share a transcendental “platonic” ideality independent of individual cognition and language use (Frege 1948). Another stresses immanent linguistic relations (Saussure 1959), and yet another basic embodied structures as the ground for invariant aspects of meaning (Lakoff and Johnson 1999). Here we propose an alternative account in which the possibility for sharing meaning is motivated by four sources of structural stability: 1) the physical constraints and affordances of our surrounding material environment, 2) biological constraints of our human bodies, 3) social normative constraints of culture and society, and 4) the local history of social interactions. These structures and constraints interact in dynamical ways in actual language usage situations: local dialogical and social dynamics motivate and stabilize the profiling of a conceptual space already highly structured by our shared biology, culture, and environment. We will substantiate this perspective with reference to recent studies in experimental pragmatics and semiotics in which participants interact linguistically to solve cooperative tasks. Three main cases will be considered: The dynamic grounding of linguistic categories, the construction of conceptual models to relate entities in a scene, and the construction of shared conceptual scales for assessing and appraising subjective experiences.

Keywords: meaning-making; categorization; conceptual models; affordances; social dynamics

About the article

Kristian Tylén

Kristian Tylén (b. 1974) is a postdoctoral researcher at Aarhus University 〈Kristian@cfin.dk〉. His research interests include dynamical approaches to language and cognition, cognitive aesthetics, and experimental semiotics. His publications include “Language as a tool for interacting minds” (with E. Weed et al., 2010); and “Coming to terms: Quantifying the benefits of linguistic coordination” (with R. Fusaroli et al., 2012).

Riccardo Fusaroli

Riccardo Fusaroli (b. 1981) is a postdoctoral researcher at Aarhus University 〈fusaroli@gmail.com〉. His research interests include linguistic coordination, experimental semiotics/pragmatics, and complex systems approaches to social interactions. His publications include “Coming to terms” (with B. Bahrami et al. 2012); “The self-organization of human interaction” (with R. Dale et al., in press); and “Dialogue as interpersonal synergy” (with J. Raczaszek-Leonardi & K. Tylén, in press).

Peer F. Bundgaard

Peer F. Bundgaard (b. 1967) is an associate professor at Aarhus University 〈sempb@hum.au.dk〉. His research interests include aesthetic semiotics and the crossovers between cognitive linguistics and phenomenology of language. His publications include “Towards a cognitive semiotics of the visual artwork” (2009); “Husserl and language” (2010); and “The grammar of aesthetic intuition – on Ernst Cassirer's concept of symbolic forms in the visual arts” (2011).

Svend Østergaard

Svend Ostergaard (b. 1949) is an associate professor at the University of Aarhus 〈semsvend@hum.au.dk〉. His research interests include cognitive linguistics and cognitive neuroscience. His publications include The mathematics of meaning (1997).

Aarhus University

Published Online: 2013-04-06

Published in Print: 2013-04-05

Citation Information: Semiotica, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0021.

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©[2013] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

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