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Regular version of the site
The many facets of agreement

Caha P., Kasenov D., Starke M. et al.

Muenchen: Lincom Europa, 2023.

Book chapter
GroundHog: Dialogue Generation using Multi-Grained Linguistic Input

Chernyavskiy A., Ostyakova L., Ilvovsky D.

In bk.: Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Computational Approaches to Discourse (CODI 2024). Association for Computational Linguistics, 2024. P. 149-160.

Working paper
Grammar in Language Models: BERT Study

Chistyakova K., Kazakova Tatiana.

Linguistics. WP BRP. НИУ ВШЭ, 2023. No. 115.

István Kecskés at the School of Linguistics

On September 13, an eminent Hungarian and American linguist, Professor István Kecskés (State University of New York) visited HSE University with an open lecture "The effect of salience on shaping speaker’s utterance in the socio-cognitive approach to pragmatics". We asked Prof Kecskés to share some thoughts on his research and his impression of HSE.
— Could you please give a brief overview of your talk? What did you focus on during this lecture?

— Actually what I talked about is something that i’ve been working on for several years. I've introduced a relatively new approach to communication and pragmatics. I labelled that approach as socio-cognitive approach. The main idea is that I tried to combine the cooperation-based approach with the cognitive-psychological process of egocentrism, which means, as far as cooperation is concerned, that is the social side of communication, but we have to take into consideration also what and how the individual evaluates from his/her personal point of view the communicative situation or how he\she actually reacts to the actual situation context. So I use the idea of cognitive psychologists who emphasize that the initial face of communication actually we do not have recipient design but salience effect, what we produce, and that is a subconscious automatic process based on our private experience and private knowledge.

So, what I tried to do today is to demonstrate to the audience how two things are intertwined and how they work. And I tried to find situations where I could demonstrate that, as far as the recipient design processes are concerned, it is more like an inductive process, while the salience effect results usually in a deductive process of communication. But, of course, you can never find these two purely demonstrated in a actual situation or context but both of then I present in a various degree. So the important thing is that nowadays the obvious talk about context is not the obvious talk about this socio-cognitive effect or not communicative process which is more like a top-down thing. And we’re often forward about the other side and a matter which is a problematic thing. Since I am interested in an intercultural communication and I actually noticed that this problemal thing happens there most of the time, since we can not rely on the actual situative context. The way we do when we have a special communicative situation: we have the common grounds, shared knowledge and all kinds of thing that make sense of what you said in some situations.

As far as intercultural communications is concerned, this is not a sort of casebook because it is the most important question is “what’s context?”, “should we rely on it?” and if a Russian speaker of English, Chinese speaker of English or German speaker of English would talk to each other? And they can not be sure how much common ground tie to the talked language they share. So what’s they usually have to do is a kind of build up there understanding each other in the communicative process so even pragmatics doesn’t work top-down as it does in the first language but it’s more like co-constructive process where several factors participate in creating meaning.

— Was this a theoretical talk or have you analyzed some specific case studies, some specific languages?
— It is more like a theoretical talk because I gave them when they mailed me i gave them like 7–8 topics to choose from and that’s the topic they decided to go with, so I talked about that and actually this issue is the material for my next book that i’m gonna publish with Springer about the socio-cognitive approach to communication and pragmatics, where i describe this theory  and, of course, the application of this theory. So here I did not demonstrate any case studies, I used a lot of examples that to demonstrate exactly what i mean by cooperation and egocentrism, by recipient design and salience effect, and how this kind of theory can be made into operation.

— What are possible connections to other disciplines, to other research traditions, where do you get your inspiration from?
— Yeah, the important thing is that when I was educated, actually I was educated as a generative linguist, so I studied the one and only generative grammar of russian. Probably nobody else created that my former perseverance spot in the 70’s and I studied the general grammar of Russian, in fact, and the generative grammar of English. So, later I studied a kind of pay attention to more like pragmatics because this was only one side of language, so I wanted to be familiar with all sides of the language. And at the same time I am quite lucky because I was educated in not only the western school of linguistic but the russian school of linguistic and they are quite different because Russian is a highly inflectional language, so morphology and lexicology is very strong. In Russia, as well as the Western type of linguistic is concerned, we have more like the based kind of syntactic approach to language, so I think that the combination of the two is the right way to go. So I am linguist myself, I consider myself more like a linguist and, of course, as far as pragmatics is concerned, i was more like in the linguistic approaches in pragmatics. And at the same time, as I said, I was interested in intercultural communication, where I want actually establish the new field of inquiry: this is the intercultural pragmatics.

— What’s your overall impression from your visit and specifically from your visit to our department, and your impression about our colleagues?
— So my point is that, as i hear in this linguistic school, there is a very strong formal approach to language and pragmatics, which is good, and also, as I briefly talk to the colleagues, I have the idea about what their interest is. And I also know one of the researchers here: Valentina Apresjan. I met her father Yury Apresjan many years ago and I actually studied his books as well. And Valentina published an article in my journal, Intercultural Pragmatics, several years ago. She published the article.
Actually, for 30 years I hadn’t been to Moscow. Last time I was here in 1988, that was a long time ago. And, of course, everything has changed. And I know much less about present day russian linguistics than I used to know, because I knew big names like Zaliznyak, Apresjan, Paducheva and others personally, in the 80’s. Since I’ve lost contact with them and with Russian linguistics. So I am trying, you know, build up some contacts right now to make bridges. I am glad that I’m back in Russia and I’m try to work with some russian colleagues I knew. I have been working internationally very much with China, South Africa, European countries and Russia was missing. Right now Russia is on my map as well. 

Interview by Andrian Vlakhov. Original style preserved.