Leading linguist to rethink language in public lecture

13 September 2017
Dr Daniel Dor

"First we invented language, then language changed us," says one of the world's most original linguists, who will give the annual Hood Lecture on Monday 18 September 2017.

Dr Daniel Dor of Tel Aviv University is the author of the ground-breaking The Instruction of Imagination: Language as a Social Communication Technology (Oxford, 2015), which has been hailed as "changing the face of the discipline — not just of linguistics, but of the language sciences more generally".

Distinguished Professor Brian Boyd says that "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."

Dr Dor’s Hood Lecture 'Speaking across the gap: Language as a communication technology' will propose that we have to think about language as a property of the social network.

"Language resides between individuals, not simply in them," he says.

"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."

Dr Dor received his PhD in Linguistics from Stanford University 1996. He has been teaching in the Department of Communication at Tel Aviv University since 1998.

Dor is also a political activist. He is co-founder of the Social Guard, a civic organization that monitors the activities in Israel's parliament (the Knesset) and fights for social justice, democracy and equality. He has written extensively on the role of the media in the construction of political hegemony — especially in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One of his books, Intifada Hits the Headlines: How the Israeli Press Misreported the Outbreak of the Second Palestinian Uprising was elected as Book of the Year in Communication (2004) by Choice magazine.

Between 2004 and 2007, Dr Dor served as Chairman and Academic Supervisor of Keshev, the Center for the Protection of Democracy in Israel. Under Dor's supervision, Keshev published a series of reports on the Israeli media's coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a report on the coverage of the second Lebanon war, and a series of interactive, educational CDs on critical news consumption.

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