I specialize in pragmatics and sociolinguistics, with an emphasis on issues of pragmatic variation and experimental pragmatics. My current focus is on developing a dual research agenda using insights and methodological tools from both fields. This research agenda will also necessarily be an interdisciplinary one, since many of the interesting new directions in sociopragmatics go beyond rationality and cooperation and use the techniques of experimental psychology. Since January 2017, I am professor and chair of sociolinguistics at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics and co-editor in chief of the Journal of Pragmatics.
I joined Leiden University in January 2017 as professor and Chair of sociolinguistics at the Leiden University Center for Linguistics. Prior to that, I worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I was also affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the European Union Center and the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Since January 2017, I am also Co-editor in Chief of the Journal of Pragmatics and sit on the editorial boards of the International Review of Pragmatics, the Journal of Politeness Research, the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, and Lodz Papers in Pragmatics.
My expertise is in pragmatics and sociolinguistics, with an emphasis on issues of pragmatic variation and experimental pragmatics. In my 2002 PhD thesis, I used fieldwork data from Cypriot Greek to argue that politeness is primarily not a matter of indirectness, as previously thought (e.g., Brown & Levinson 1987), but of conventionalization. The choice of expressions which are conventionalized relative to the context of utterance achieves politeness as a by-product of behaving according to participants’ expectations in the situation at hand – that is, in a covert way, explaining why much of everyday politeness passes unnoticed. In this respect, I draw a distinction between generalized and particularized implicatures of politeness, of which the former are triggered by default in appropriate sociocultural contexts conceptualized as frames, while the latter are the result of active inferencing about the speaker’s intentions. Over the years, I have developed this approach by spelling out the nature of frames (as schematic contexts of mutually constraining social dimensions such as class, age, gender, etc.) and conventionalization (a matter of entrenchment), and by linking it to developments in sociolinguistics (acts of identity), construction grammar, and most recently variationist and experimental pragmatics. Since completing my PhD, I have been involved as PI or Co-PI in several collaborative projects funded by European and American agencies (NSF, ESF, UK BA and AHRC, WUN) as well as by intra-mural grants at the University of Illinois, where I worked between 2006 and 2016.
An important development in the areas of sociolinguistics and pragmatics over the past ten years concerns a renewed awareness of variation in pragmatic interpretations and, increasingly, attempts to formalize this theoretically. This is important because it has the potential of aligning research in pragmatics with research in other areas of linguistics (phonology, syntax), where the study of variation has led to significant theoretical breakthroughs. It is also important because it represents an opportunity to use techniques currently gaining ground in experimental pragmatics (eye-tracking, MRI, ERPs) to capture systematically differing pragmatic interpretations across social groups. My current focus is on developing such a research agenda using insights and methodological tools from both fields. This dual research agenda will also necessarily be an interdisciplinary one, since many of the interesting new directions in sociopragmatics go beyond rationality and cooperation, involving the interface with emotions, and use the techniques of experimental psychology.
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