University of Fribourg, Switzerland 8-10 February 2017

While language is used every day to allow communication between a speaker and an addressee, these communicative efforts are subject to false starts, glitches, derailments, and sometimes complete crashes. In that perspective, scholars who have been interested in accounting for the systems and principles that govern communicative processes have also tried to capture those situations in which communication between two individuals accidentally or intentionally goes wrong. Incidentally, one way to improve our understanding of these systems and principles consists in focusing specifically on situations or data in which communication fails; when the processes go amiss; when a mismatch occurs between the speaker’s intended message and the information retrieved by the addressee.

ComCog 2017 will bring together scholars who work on theories and descriptions of such instances of miscommunication, and scholars who use evidence from communicative mismatch to build a theory of human communication.

ComCog 2017 seeks to attract original contributions from various areas of linguistics, psychology, argumentation theory, corpus analysis and discourse analysis that bring together the findings and insights of cognitive science and language studies to further our understanding of phenomena pertaining to communicative failures and mismatches, and using this particular type of data to advance our comprehension of human communicative processes.

This includes but is not limited to the following phenomena:

  • miscommunication in disambiguation tasks: several current research strands within the field of pragmatics and psycholinguistics have studied the processes at work in the disambiguation of reference (Arnold & Tanenhaus 2011), in determining implicit content, in working out the meaning of figurative language (metaphors (Glucksberg 2001), irony (Spotorno et al. 2013)). A common denominator of this line of research has been to identify the cognitive parameters that bear on language processes affecting performance by triggering alternate derivations, disambiguation and interpretative paths.
  • miscommunication and cross-linguistic differences: scholars working in the field of second language acquisition and bilingualism have looked at the type of cross-linguistic influence which can give rise to misconstrued utterances in a target language on the part of L2 learners (De Angelis & Dewaele 2011), or the way the semantic or conceptual profile of a bilingual’s languages interfere with each other during production and comprehension processes (Athanasopoulos & Bylund 2013). Other researchers haveĀ investigated intercultural and cross-linguistic discrepancies in specific aspects of language use (politeness, indirectness (Schneider), hedges, discourse markers (Stukker & Sanders 2012); see also Trueswell & Papafragou 2010).
  • miscommunication and argumentation/reasoning: within the domains of argumentation theory, reasoning (Mercier & Sperber 2009, 2011) and more generally cognitive communication science (Oh & Sundar 2015), recent efforts have shown how cognitive biases, as well as heuristics (Pohl 2004; Gigerenzer 2008), can be responsible for deviations from a certain norm and give rise to miscommunication, both in persuasive and manipulative settings.
  • miscommunication and pathological uses of language: scholars have also worked with atypical populations in order to advance our understanding of the cognitive underpinnings of communicative processes, for instance working with autistic patients to investigate the impact that a deficient theory of mind has on interpretative processes (Cummings 2014a, 2014b), or with Williams syndrome patients (Musolino & Landau 2012).

In line with the ComCog tradition, interdisciplinary research is welcome. Moreover, from a methodological point of view, we seek to attract work that combines theoretical proposals with empirical/experimental testing of the proposed models and hypotheses.