LINGUIST List 31.2853

Mon Sep 21 2020

Calls: Applied Ling, Disc Analys, Pragmatics, Socioling, Text/Corpus Ling/Switzerland

Editor for this issue: Lauren Perkins <>

Date: 21-Sep-2020
From: Theodossia-Soula Pavlidou <>
Subject: Topicalizing (non)understanding across languages and contexts
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Full Title: Topicalizing (non)understanding across languages and contexts

Date: 27-Jun-2021 - 02-Jul-2021
Location: Winterthur, Switzerland
Contact Person: Theodossia-Soula Pavlidou
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics; Discourse Analysis; Pragmatics; Sociolinguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics

Call Deadline: 25-Oct-2020

Meeting Description:

Topicalizing (non)understanding across languages and contexts

The aim of the panel is to investigate the pragmatics of (non)understanding across different situational contexts and languages with contributions from different frameworks, e.g. conversation analysis, interactional linguistics, discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, etc.

From the perspective of conversation analysis, understanding and, by extension, intersubjectivity, is achieved in a way inherent in the organization of interaction (cf. Moerman & Sacks (1988 [1971]). It is tacitly ratified with every ‘next’ turn (cf. e.g. Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson 1974, Schegloff 1992, Koschmann 2011, Mondada 2011). If problems in the understanding of prior talk arise, these are dealt with by means of other-initiated repair practices (cf. e.g. Schegloff, Jefferson & Sacks 1977, Kitzinger 2013, Hayashi, Raymond & Sidnell 2013). One consequence is that understanding comes to the fore basically as ‘non-understanding’ and not when everything runs smoothly; another, that (non)understanding does not have to be named as such.

Recent work in CA and/or interactional linguistics, however, has also taken an interest in the explicit display of understanding through the employment of the verb ‘to understand’ in several languages (e.g. Deppermann 2011, for German; Lindwall & Lymer, 2011 for Swedish; Polak-Yitzhaki & Maschler 2016, for Hebrew; Pavlidou 2019a, 2019b, for Greek). These studies suggest that a) the verb ‘to understand’ is not necessarily used to indicate a (change in) cognitive state, b) certain forms of this verb tend to become grammaticalized in particular constructions – notably the interrogative second person singular and the negative first person singular – that function as discourse/pragmatic markers, c) the interactional import of the verb’s use depends on the situational context (e.g. educational vs. everyday setting). At the same time, some other studies take an alternative path by pointing to the use of change-of-state tokens (Heritage 1984) as signals of understanding (e.g. Golato 2010, for German; Koivisto 2015, for Finish; Heinemann 2016, for Danish; Seuren, Huiskes & Koole 2016, for Dutch; Weidner 2016, for Polish). But the intricacies of explicit and implicit ways of displaying (non)understanding, and their relationships, are yet to be untangled.

In this context, (some) questions of interest are:
- To what extent is the referential meaning of the verb ‘to understand’ maintained in interaction? Or does it recede in favor of more pragmatic meanings?
- How is this related to particular forms of the verb and constructions in which these forms are involved?
- Are negative constructions (e.g. ‘I don’t understand’) the most prevalent cross-linguistically?
- What actions are performed through the use of this particular verb?
- How does the explicit signaling of understanding through the verb ‘to understand’ relate to alternative ways of indexing it in the same context in a particular language?
- How does the use (and development) of the verb ‘to understand’ relate to that of other cognitive verbs like ‘knowing’ and ‘meaning’?
- In this respect, what can similarities/differences across languages tell us about universal features of interaction?

Second Call for Papers:

Submissions dealing with the above or similar questions are most welcome. If you are interested in presenting a paper in this panel, please send your abstract (min. 350 and max. 500 words) by 15 October 2020 to Theodossia-Soula Pavlidou (

In addition, all abstracts will have to be submitted individually through the IPrA website ( by 25 October 2020. Please prepare your abstracts for submission with a reference to the IPrA Call for papers & Submission guidelines and select the panel “Topicalizing (non)understanding across languages and contexts”.

Page Updated: 21-Sep-2020