Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


HSSLU — Result In Brief

Project ID: 240853
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Germany

The study of everyday conversation across languages and cultures

Is informal conversation practiced by all language speakers worldwide? An EU initiative set out to provide answers.
The study of everyday conversation across languages and cultures
This and other related questions are central to understanding language use and conceptualising human sociality – a special intelligence designed to manage interpersonal relationships in large, complex social groups. However, conversational interaction has been largely ignored in research literature.

To address the issue, the EU-funded HSSLU (Human sociality and systems of language use) project aimed to develop a novel systematic approach in order to compare language use.

Through fieldwork, project partners gathered video data of conversations from social interactions in Western Europe, Africa, Australia (indigenous populations), Papua New Guinea, Russia, South America and Southeast Asia. They coded, analysed and compared data from very diverse languages and cultural contexts. This was done to test the hypothesis that implies ways in which languages are used in social life should be very similar across cultures.

The HSSLU team examined principles for tackling issues concerning attention, perception and understanding during social interaction. Results show that these principles are very similar in various linguistic and cultural settings. It also studied principles for getting others to assist in daily interaction. Findings reveal that extremely similar principles are kept across languages and cultures.

Overall, outcomes indicate that in spite of the wide variety of structures and meanings encoded in languages globally, human social interaction mostly has a universal fundamental cognitive and social foundation. This implies that the principles by which vastly different meanings and structures are used in the flow of social interaction are very similar.

HSSLU successfully demonstrated that systems of language use abide by fundamental principles which arise from universals of human sociality. It showed that language is indeed a window into the social mind.

Related information


Conversation, human sociality, conversational interaction, HSSLU, language use
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