Language in Use seminar - Liesbeth Degand


####  6 JUNE 2016 - ROOM R.012  #####


The next Language in Use seminar will be held on Monday, June 6, by prof. dr. Liesbeth Degand, professor of general and Dutch Linguistics and head of the Institute for Language and Communication (IL&C) at the Université Catholique de Louvain. She will present her work on spoken discourse segmentation and discourse markers, analyzed from a point of view that integrates discourse analysis with broader communication research and is also interested in the cognitive aspects of the issue.


TOPIC - In this talk she will give an overview of her work on spoken discourse segmentation and on discourse markers (DMs) order to explore further research avenues about what is so specific about the discourse level, i.e. to make progress in investigating why discourse is a crucial notion for understanding human communication (Sanders & Spooren, 2007). On the basis of her (mainly) functionally oriented corpus-based work on DMs (both onomasiological and semasiological) (see e.g. Bolly et al., in press; Degand, Cornillie & Pietrandrea, 2013; Degand & Fagard, 2011; Pander Maat & Degand, 2001) she will develop the idea of “the paradox of discourse markers”: On the level of the sentence (syntax and semantics), DMs are optional, they are not even considered as a (morpho-)syntactic category; on the pragmatic level however, they are communicatively obligatory (in the sense of Diewald, 2011). It follows that the study of discourse markers should learn us more about the underlying cognitive and functional principles of human communication, i.e. as indices of fundamental cognitive processing during (spoken) language production. 

Uncovering cognitive principles of (spoken) language production also underlies her plans regarding further work in the area of discourse segmentation. Discourse segmentation in units is a crucial process in order to understand discourse production and comprehension. Together with her team, she developed a method for segmenting spoken discourse in Basic Discourse Units (BDUs), based on the interaction between syntactic units (dependency clauses) and prosodic units (major intonation units). BDUs result from the coincidence of syntactic and prosodic boundaries, corresponding to distinct but complementary linguistic encodings. This mapping gives rise to different types of discourse units (congruent, syntax-bound, intonation-bound, regulatory) (Degand & Simon 2009a, Simon & Degand, 2011). Thus, their claim is that the prosody-syntax interface gives rise to a distinctive discursive level of analysis contributing to the unfolding (linear) discourse, e.g. in the form of different discursive strategies (Degand & Simon, 2009b; Martin, Degand, & Simon 2014). The BDU segmentation has been applied to a corpus of spoken French, LOCAS-F (Degand, Martin & Simon, 2014; Degand & Simon, in prep.) comprising 14 different speech situations (political debate, interview, spontaneous conversation, conference, ...). The data is now available to explore whether these BDUs have cognitive validity in production and/or comprehension.


You can find further information about our guest speaker at the following link:


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