Change is inevitable. This is as true for linguistics as it is for any other field. Bringing the old and the new together in a productive way can have a positive effect, but it does require targeted effort. That is what Gerard Steen argues in his inaugural lecture.
What is the relationship between language and communication? Are Dutch conversations different to Chinese or English ones? Are Dutch novels different to Chinese ones? And what about advertisements, meetings or lectures? Steen explains that, regardless of the language difference, there is a constant factor here, which is that, as a Dutch person speaking English and Chinese, the one thing you do not have to learn again is what it means to have a conversation, read a novel or take part in a meeting. We see many examples of such communication situations in other languages on a daily basis on TV, in films and on the internet, and we immediately understand the way in which they work. However, if the subtitles aren’t working most of us have a problem. Steen explains that communication (conversations, novels, etc.) and language (Dutch, English, Chinese, etc.) are two very different things, and that communication is fairly independent of language.
This perspective on language and communication differs from the more commonly accepted view in areas of linguistics including structural-functional grammar, cognitive linguistics and pragmatics, where language and communication are closely linked. Steen ask what this alternative perspective implies and how it could be used in research into linguistics and communication.
Steen describes a new language and communications model and applies this to two aspects, metaphorics and argumentation. What does his model have to say about the way people speak, think and communicate metaphorically? What can it tell us about the way people in science, politics, the media, healthcare and organisational management formulate arguments and try to persuade each other? An how can the model be used to generate practical insights for language and communications advice? A new focus for the Chair in Language and Communication, on genre, genre events, genre knowledge and repertoire should help us find answers to these questions.
G.J. Steen, professor of Language and Communication: Changing perspectives in linguistics.
This event is open to the public.