While many take language to be
'real', I regard this as misleading. Instead, it is traced to
a meshwork of dynamical processes, imagination and our how we
use heterogeneous artefacts. Language, like mind, is a social
product. Thus, as children, we come to take a language stance.
Rejecting the tradition of idealizing language away from behaviour,
I distinguish the dynamics of human dialogue from the second-order
cultural constructs (words and meanings) emphasised in structuralist
traditions. Language, on this view, is triply grounded: it connects
embrained bodies, cultural processes and first-person phenomenology.
My interests thus fall under three main headings:
- Infant development in different
- Social robotics
Theoretically my work links an
extended views of cognition to first-order linguistic events.
By starting with an interest in distributed cognitive systems,
I emphasise continuities between talk and other vertebrate communication.
Accordingly, I treat communication and cognition as depending
on how we integrate activities in and across time. In published
work, I focus on (a) distributed language; (b) how the 'phonetics
of conversation' shape talk and (b) developmental effects of living
in a world where infants (and embryos) are immersed in the affective
dynamics of talk.
I also co-ordinate the Distributed
Language Group. Of its members, my closest collaborators are Nigel
Love (University of Cape Town), Jesper Hermann (University of
Copenhagen), Alex Kravchenko (University of Irkutsk) and Paul
Thibault (University of Kristiansand)..
Infant Developement in different
A distributed approach to language
can only be pursued bottom-up. Since 2000, therefore, I have carried
out micro-investigations of infant (and child) development. This
research has been conducted with Dr. Jane Kvalsvig at the University
of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. At KZN, we have been studying
the effects of iron deficiency anemia in infant-caregiver dyads
in Pemba, Tanzania. At the same time, alongside the medically
oriented work, we ask how caregiver beliefs (and culture) impact
on infant development. In pursuing such issues, I have published
widely on early development.
Bottom up thinking about cognition
leads one to consider both cultural and bio-cultural mechanisms.
In turning to the latter, I collaborate with designers of interaction-oriented
robots. This has allowed me to use my experience with infants
in studying human-robot interaction to open up new issues in how
language dynamics extend human cognitive powers. Among the most
important are ones concerning whether androids -machines that
behave and look like humans -elicit human responses that bear
significant resemblances to those a baby uses in learning to talk.
My principal collaborators are
Karl MacDorman (Indiana University), Hiroshi Ishiguro (Osaka University)
and Takayuki Kanda (ATR, Kyoto).