Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
 by Gunter Senft

The authors

Many people have contributed to the L&C Field Manuals and Stimulus Materials in a variety of roles. Here we want to acknowledge the authors of the field manual entries over the years. The Language of Cognition Department has closed down with the retirement of Stephen C. Levinson, its director. You can read more about the former department on this page.

Looking for entries by one or more of these authors? Try searching for their name in the search box in the right pane.

Felix K. Ameka is an expert in the description and documentation of languages, the cultural, cognitive and human social interactional motivations of grammar and how speakers use grammar. He has conducted field-based research and published extensively on the grammar, semantics, and pragmatics of Ewe, his mother tongue, and on other West African languages like Akan.

Jürgen Bohnemeyer studies formal and conceptual semantics (in particular, temporal and spatial reference), the syntax-semantics interface, semantic typology, linguistic anthropology and Native American (in particular, Mesoamerican) languages.

Lera Boroditsky is a cognitive psychologist who studies the relationship between language and cognition and the cross-linguistic similarities and differences in thought. Her research interests include mental representation, metaphoric structuring, conceptual development and conceptual change.

Melissa Bowerman is an expert on language acquisition, specialising in the relationship between language and cognition, spatial representation, and event representation. She uses cross-linguistic comparison to disentangle aspects of language that are universal, and possibly innate, from those which are learned. Her research has informed theoretical approaches to language structure.

Penelope Brown’s research broadly addresses the relationship between language, culture and cognition. As a linguistic anthropologist, she has worked for many years in the Tzeltal Maya community of Tenejapa, in southern Mexico, focussing on the study of language use in its sociocultural context.

Niclas Burenhult’s research interests include the relationship between language, culture and cognition, semantic typology, language documentation and description, and linguistic prehistory, with particular focus on Southeast Asia. He is a leading expert on the Aslian languages (Austroasiatic, Malay Peninsula).

Eve Danziger has been doing ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork with the Mopan Maya people of Central America since 1986. The theoretical focus of her research is on the role cultural meaning-systems play in individual psychology. She has a strong interest in the linguistic structures of subjectivity, such as deictic demonstratives, and also lexical shifter terms like those that encode kinship and spatial relations.

Mark Dingemanse’s research focuses on Siwu, a language spoken by approximately ten thousand Mawu people in Akpafu and Lolobi in Ghana’s Volta Region. His research interests include the study of meaning as it emerges in situated interaction, the relation between everyday language and verbal art, and the interplay of language, culture, and cognition.

Michael Dunn is an evolutionary linguist, with a background in language description, linguistic typology, and phylogenetics. He has a long term research interest in linguistic isolates: the Papuan languages of Melanesia and the Paleosiberian languages of the Russian Arctic, but now spends more time thinking about language families, especially Austronesian, Indo-European and Aslian/Austroasiatic.

Sonja Eissenbeiss’s research focuses on language acquisition, language processing, and cognition. In particular, she studies morphological and syntactic development in first language acquisition, the role of morphology in the mental lexicon, word order, case or agreement marking and their relation to argument/event structure, the acquisition of possessive constructions, and the relationship between language and cognition.

Nick Enfield’s research addresses the intersection of language, cognition, social interaction, and culture. His empirical specialization is in the languages of mainland Southeast Asia, especially Lao and Kri.

Pattie Epps’ fieldwork involves the documentation of a nearly undescribed indigenous Amazonian language, Hupda Maku, spoken in northwest Brazil. She is also interested in language ideology and linguistic insecurity, and in the relation between language and thought.

Nicholas Evans’ research interests include Australian languages, Papuan languages, linguistic typology, historical and contact linguistics, semantics, the mutual influence of language and culture. His major research endeavour currently is the way in which diverse grammars underpin social cognition.

Martina Faller’s general theoretical research areas are (formal) semantics and pragmatics, and she is particularly interested in cross-linguistic variation. She contributes to the field of cross-linguistic semantics/pragmatics by studying a number of issues in Quechua, a language spoken in the Andes, including evidentiality, modality, and quantification. She regularly carries out fieldwork in and around Cusco, Peru.

Alice Gaby’s research interests lie in three intersecting domains: the documentation and analysis of endangered languages, especially those of the Australian continent; semantic and structural typology; and the relationship between language, culture and cognition. Much of her research focuses on the Paman languages spoken in and around the community of Pormpuraaw (Cape York Peninsula, Australia).

Suzanne Gaskins’ research interests revolve around child development as cultural process. Her ethnographic research is on Yucatec Mayan child development, socialisation and everyday activity. She also studies how parental ethnotheories influence children’s play and work, including informal learning at home and in museums. She uses ethnographic evidence in critique of universal claims by developmental psychologists.

Olivier le Guen is an ethnographer primarily working among the Yucatec Mayas of Quintana Roo in Mexico. His research lies in the field of linguistic anthropology. His research is multidisciplinary, exploring the way culture and language can influence or constrain human cognition, specifically through the forms of social interaction.

Marianne Gulberg’s research is multidisciplinary and multimodal. She studies adult second language (L2) acquisition and use, L2/bilingual processing, and gesture production and comprehension in acquisition.

Daniel Haun is interested in the cross-cultural variability of cognition, comparative and developmental social psychology and comparative great ape cognition. Ongoing projects include research on space and time, emotions, analogy, the social role of imitation, sharing, prosociality and conformity to peer pressure.

Birgit Hellwig has been working on Chadic languages since 1998. Her main interests include lexical semantics, the relationship between language and cognition, and various aspects of language documentation, in particular field methodology, the integration of semantics into grammar writing, and the technological side of documentation.

Clair Hill’s research focuses on referential formulation, in particular person reference, and uses this empirical domain to explore the interface between grammar, discourse and culture. Her research interests include: language documentation and description, Australian Aboriginal languages, semantics and pragmatics, morphosyntax discourse interface, lexicography, toponymy.

Deborah Hill’s current research focuses on grammar in language teaching. She has published in the areas of pragmatics and Austronesian linguistics. Hill has teaching and research experience at universities in Australia and Holland and has taught in Vietnam and China since 2003.

Elizabeth Keating has conducted fieldwork in Pohnpei (Micronesia), Germany, Romania, India, Brazil, and in the Austin Deaf community. Her research addresses impacts of technology on society, particularly the role of technology in shaping innovation. She also researches the emergence and maintenance of systems of social inequality.

Sotaro Kita’s primary research interest is the relationship between language, cognition and action. More specifically, he investigates gestures that people spontaneously produce during speaking and thinking and language development in children.

Tessa van Leeuwen conducts research on the neural mechanisms of synaesthesia. Other research interests include crossmodal processing, colour processing, the visual system, and connectivity and networks in the brain. She currently studies brain dynamics during bottom-up and top-down visual information processing in synaesthetes and schizophrenia patients.

Stephen C. Levinson is Director of the Language and Cognition group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Professor of Comparative Linguistics at the Radboud University Nijmegen. His research focusses on language diversity and its implications for theories of human cognition. The work attempts both to grasp what this diversity is all about, and to exploit it as a way of discovering the role that language plays in our everyday cognition.

Elena Lieven’s principal areas of research involve: usage-based approaches to language development, the emergence and construction of grammar, the relationship between input characteristics and the process of language development, and variation in children’s communicative environments.

Eva Lindström’s research is largely centered on the language Kuot, spoken in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea. She has conducted long-term fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, mainly in the village of Bimun on the west coast of New Ireland.

Ulf Liszkowski is interested in the origins and development of human social interaction, cognition and communication. He approaches development from 3 lines: phylogenetic, ontogenetic and socio-historic/cross-cultural. His current research focuses on infants’ gestural communication, prelinguistic infants’ social-interactional experiences across different cultures, infants’ understanding of mental states, and infants’ expectations of and motivation for joint collaborative activities.

Friederieke Lüpke’s research interests include verbal argument structure, Jalonke and Mande linguistics with a focus on syntactic and semantic typology, the influence of cognition, culture and contact on language and the use of non-Roman scripts for West African languages. She has also developed a strong interest in the methodology of language documentation and description, concentrating on issues of data collection and analysis.

Asifa Majid’s research investigates the nature of categories and concepts in language, in non-linguistic perception and cognition, and the relationship between them. She adopts a large-scale cross-cultural approach in order to establish which aspects of categorisation are fundamentally shared, and which language-specific. Her work is interdisciplinary, combining standardised psychological methodology, in-depth linguistic studies and ethnographically-informed description.

William McGregor is a specialist in the languages of the Kimberley region of the north-west of Australia. He has a range of interests in other areas of linguistics, including grammatical theory, typology, narrative, history of linguistics, historical linguistics, cognition, origins and evolution of languages, and ethnomathematics. More recently he has begun research on Shua (Botswana).

Sérgio Meira is a linguist with expertise in Tiriyó and other Cariban languages spoken in the Amazonia. He has an interest in grammar, semantics and language contact.

Bhuvana Narasimhan’s research examines how language relates to cognition and how children learn languages. As she is interested in both universal and language-particular phenomena, much of her work is from a crosslinguistic perspective. She has conducted fieldwork in Hyderabad, Chennai, and New Delhi, India.

Elizabeth Norcliffe’s research is concerned with the relationship between grammar, cognition and patterns of usage in language. She bridges the research traditions of typological, historical, functional and psycholinguistics. Her empirical work focuses mainly on indigenous languages of Meso- and South America, especially Yucatec Maya, a Mayan language spoken in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, and Guambiano (also called Namtrik), a Barbacoan language spoken in the Andes in southwestern Colombia.

Asli Özyürek’s research investigates the relations between meaningful bodily actions, language, cognition, and communication. The underlying question is to what extent our bodily actions interact with or shape language, its processing, and use in communication. She uses an interdisciplinary approach and a combination of methods and techniques to study these issues.

Eric Pederson’s research interests can be covered under the general concern for the relation of language and language processing to general cognition. He has a strong commitment to cross-linguistic and cross-cultural investigation and has expertise as a descriptive linguist as well. Much of his descriptive and experimental data is collected first-hand in rural South India.

Jan de Ruiter’s research interests include the cognitive foundations of communication and the evolution of language, multimodal interaction, including the study of gesture, turn-taking in human conversation as well as human-machine interaction.

Dorothé Salomo has studied the acquisition of language, in particular the production of multiword utterances. She has conducted cross-cultural research on caretaker-infant social interaction, with a particular focus on gestures.

Lila San Roque works with speakers of a language called Duna (or Yuna), which is spoken in the Southern Highlands/Hela Province of Papua New Guinea, towards the western edge of the Highlands evidentiality area. Her work is mainly descriptive, with a focus on bound morphology that relates to knowledge and perception.

Disa Sauter studies emotions, particularly the use of non-verbal vocal and facial signals in communicating emotional states. She studies the role of auditory learning in affective vocalizations, the phylogenetic continuity of emotional sounds, and the conceptual space underlying categories of emotions across languages.

Frank Seifart’s research interests include Amazonian languages, language contact and language history, language documentation theory and practice and linguistic typology.

Gunter Senft is a specialist in Austronesian languages, especially Kilivila, the language of the Trobriand Islanders. His central interests are Austronesian and Papuan languages, nominal classification, conceptualisation of space, semantics and pragmatics, typology, anthropological linguistics, language-culture-cognition and endangered languages.

Mark Sicoli’s research investigates intersections between speech and social processes. The majority of his work has been with indigenous languages of Mesoamerica with a focus on Zapotecan languages. He has conducted documentary fieldwork in Mexico since 1997, producing research in linguistic anthropology and linguistics rooted in an ethnographic methodology, and working with speakers of endangered languages for preservation and revitalisation.

Miriam van Staden is a trained linguist and language consultant. She has a longstanding experience in teaching research and writing skills for academic and professional purposes, both in English and Dutch. She is an expert in Tidore, a language of Papua New Guinea.

Tanya Stiver’s research attempts to uncover the underlying structures of conversation using recordings of spontaneous naturally occurring social interaction. Her primary methodology is conversation analysis but she also uses statistical methods for comparative work whether the interest is race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, developmental or differences in language and culture.

Tricia Striano researches early social cognition in infancy, using brain and behavioural measures. Researching the development of social cognitive skills is essential to understanding the ontogenetic pathways that give rise to both typical and atypical social cognitive functioning such as in autism.

Sylvia Tufvesson’s research interests include semantic typology, language and perception, expressives/ideophones, as well as language documentation and description. She studies Semai (Austroasiatic, Mon-Khmer), spoken on Peninsular Malaysia. Her research focusses on the word class of expressives and the linguistic encoding of sensory perception.

David Waller’s research aims to understand how people perceive and remember spatial information about large-scale environments. He is also interested in how spatial perceptions and memories are transformed by mental processes in the service of important behaviours such as navigation, and how people differ in their ability to perform such transformations. Much of his work involves the use of computer-simulated (“virtual”) environments, which offer unprecedented experimental control over spatial stimuli.

David P. Wilkins’s major research interests are ethno-semantics, lexical semantics, ethno-pragmatics, semantic changes, aphasiology and Australian Aboriginal languages. He has done extensive fieldwork on Mparntwe Arrernte (Central Australia) and has published widely on topics related to language, culture and cognition.