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Final Report Summary - MULTISCALEDYNAMICS (Multi-scale dynamics in the explanation of linguistic phenomena)

This project’s goals were specified on theoretical, empirical and organizational level. Their achievement was planned as steps towards developing a more encompassing, novel approach to study language, which is compatible with the embodied and distributed theories of cognition that have recently grown in popularity. Language is seen primarily as a social coordination system that sculpts existing interpersonal dynamics into functional wholes (see Vygotsky, 1971; Rączaszek-Leonardi & Kelso, 2008; RączaszekLeonardi, 2012; Fusaroli et al., in press).

1) On the theoretical level: In the earlier work of the Fellow (performed within the EIF MC Fellowship), on the basis of the approach to information in biological systems (Pattee, 1969, 1982) we developed a view of linguistic symbols as constraints on dynamics (in contrast to the dominant “symbols as containers for meaning” approach) (Rączaszek-Leonardi & Kelso, 2008 and Rączaszek-Leonardi, 2009). One of the main goals of ERG was to integrate this novel approach with the modern cognitive science, and especially with the new and promising trends of embodied cognition and distributed cognition. This involved propagating the original work by Howard Pattee and linking it to the theoretical and methodological developments in the cognitive sciences. The goal was realized through a book co-authored by the fellow and Prof. Howard Pattee: “Laws, Languages & Life” (Springer Verlaag, 2012). The book contains original papers by prof. Pattee, his contemporary commentary and an extensive chapter by the Fellow, relating the work of Pattee and his contemporaries to major theoretical problems in modern cognitive psychology, such as symbol grounding and contextual dependence of meaning. It was shown that the view of symbolic structures as replicable constrains on dynamics is a viable third way that has a power to integrate the symbolically- and algorithmically-oriented information-processing approach with purely dynamical approach of the ecological psychology. Both the book and the chapter received enthusiastic comments and currently three reviews are being prepared. The contents of the concluding chapter motivated several research institutions to invite the fellow as a keynote speaker (University of Aarhus, Denmark) or an opening-conference speaker (University of London, Goldsmith College). Besides the book, the above theoretical considerations were the topic of the paper in Interactive Studies (IF=1.1), co-authored with Prof. Stephen Cowley (2012) and a paper by the fellow “Types of Integration in the theory of language” in Psychology of Language and Communication (2012). To propagate and develop further these ideas, the fellow organized a large international conference devoted to Language as Social Coordination (Warsaw, 2010), with 8 renowned key-note speakers from 6 countries and 40 other presentations from 16 countries.

2) On the empirical level the project consisted of studies motivated by the theory developed above. In such a theoretical framework, in which dynamical processes play a key role in determining linguistic behavior and emergence of language structures, it is crucial to carefully operationalize the theoretical concepts and find novel methods of gathering and analysis of time-dependent data. The first study was devoted to this. We recorded quasi-natural conversations in which topics were either neutral or emotionally engaging. At the end of each interaction participants rated their subjective feelings about the conversation. The aim was to find statistical and dynamic properties of conversations that could predict the subjective quality and comfort in interaction. We analyzed mainly the patterns of turn-taking. We estimated usefulness of the traditional descriptive methods as well as novel dynamical measures, such as: recurrence quantification analysis (RQA), cross-recurrence quantification (CRQ), Bayesian description of states dynamics, and entropy assessment methods.

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