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Conference Information

Full Title: Universality and Empirical Validity in Pragmatics

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Start Date: 12-Jul-2013 - 12-Jul-2013
Contact: Marina Terkourafi
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: In a recent article, Heinrich et al. (2010) argued that a disproportionate amount of behavioral research is conducted using subjects from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) populations, who are frequent outliers even within their own societies and not representative of humanity at large. This is said to seriously undercut the generalizability of the conclusions reached based on the behavior of these subjects and the universality of the theoretical explanations ultimately proposed. This one-day workshop at the 2013 LSA Summer Institute will address the implications of these claims for the field of linguistic pragmatics.

Our aim is to bring together experts working on different pragmatic phenomena (including but not limited to: implicature, deixis, presupposition, reference resolution, speech acts, conversational structure, and information structure), to address a set of related questions such as:

- In your view, has research in your area of pragmatics been limited by a bias toward WEIRD populations of researchers and populations studied?
- If so, how has this bias affected the topics studied and the conclusions reached?
- What phenomena, if any, have been left out in your particular area of pragmatics, and, conversely, when non-WEIRD populations have been studied, what (new) phenomena have potentially been discovered?
- If a bias is indeed present, how do you think it could be methodologically and institutionally addressed?

Workshop invited speakers include:

Thomas Holtgraves (Ball State University)
Stephen Levinson (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)
Benjamin Spector (Institut Jean Nicod)
Judith Tonhauser (Ohio State University)

For information about hotels and travel to Ann Arbor, please see the Institute Visitor Information page:

Workshop Organizers:

Marina Terkourafi, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Philippe De Brabanter, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Yoshiko Matsumoto, Stanford University


Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). ‘The weirdest people in the world?’ Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33: 61-135.
Linguistic Subfield: Cognitive Science; Pragmatics; Psycholinguistics
LL Issue: 24.809

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