Speaking across the gap: Language as a communication technology Event as iCalendar

(School of Humanities)

18 September 2017

6:30 - 8pm

Venue: Fale Pasifika (Building 275), 20 Wynyard Street

Dr Daniel Dor | Hood Lecture

For the last sixty years, we have thought about language as a cognitive capacity universally shared by individual human minds. In this lecture, I will propose that we have to go beyond this individualistic perspective, and think about language as a property of the social network: language resides between individuals, not simply in them.

Each of us experiences the world in unique ways, and we are thus separated from each other by experiential gaps. Language works to bridge the gaps, to allow speakers to instruct the imagination of their listeners, who have to call on their own different experiences to try to reconstruct something adequate to what the speaker has said.

Our ancestors collectively invented language for this purpose, and over many generations continued to develop it - up to the point where language actually began to influence our minds, our experiences, our bodies and our ways of relating to one another.

First we invented language, then language changed us.

Professor Nicholas Evans, head of Linguistics at ANU, predicts that Daniel Dor’s The Instruction of Imagination: Language as a Social Communication Technology (Oxford, 2015) “will change the face of the discipline—not just of linguistics, but of the language sciences more generally.” Distinguished Professor Brian Boyd (English, University of Auckland) begins a review: “If you want to think about language and evolution, about language and experience, about language and almost anything, or about almost anything in language, then start, or start all over again, with Daniel Dor’s The Instruction of Imagination.”

Register to attend the lecture