Workshop 3: Generative Linguistics beyond Language: Shared Modules for Rhythm, Narration and Emotion across Domains

11 May 2019

  • Alexander Refsum Jensenius (University of Oslo, RITMO)
  • Pritty Patel-Grosz (University of Oslo, ILN)
Invited Speakers 
  • Caroline Palmer (McGill University)
  • Philippe Schlenker (Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS; New York University)

Workshop Description

In recent years, linguistic methods that were developed in the generative framework have been systematically applied to non-linguistic phenomena. We find generative approaches to the syntax and semantics of music (e.g. Koelsch 2012, Katz 2017, Schlenker 2017), the syntax and semantics of dance (e.g. Charnavel 2016, Patel-Grosz et al. 2018), the semantics of visual narrative (Abusch 2013), and the connection between speech and drumming rhythms (Winter 2014). Crucially, recent explorations that expand linguistic methodology beyond natural language in such a way aim to shed light on the shared properties of different cognitive domains (language, music, dance, silent narratives) that are fundamentally human. This yields new insights into human cognition as a whole, and thus also into the core properties of the human language faculty.

Such groundbreaking new research clearly raises questions at a multitude of levels, including:

[i.] What are the rhythmic properties that human language shares with other modalities (e.g., rhythmic-melodic structure, which can be found both in music/beats and in the prosody of natural languages)? See Ravignani, Honing and Kotz (2017) for a recent editorial on the topic. The role of rhythmic properties also connects directly to issues such as information structure (i.e. can we find notions such as topic or focus outside of human language?) and how it is encoded.

[ii.] How are narrators (particularly in fictional discourse) integrated into the semantics and pragmatics of narratives across the different modalities? This is a topic that has recently gained momentum in the linguistic literature on issues such as truth in fiction (e.g., Altshuler & Maier 2018), but it carries over to an equal extent into modalities such as visual narrative and music.

[iii.] To what extent can it be maintained that language and music share a common cognitive grounding in the form of an identical or analogous generative mechanism of structure building? Such a view has recently been reasserted by Pesetsky & Katz (2009) (and see Patel 2008), but the exact nature of the parallels (and also the exact range of differences) remains to be established.

[iv.] How do investigations at the cognition-emotion interface carry over from one modality to another? This topic has recently taken center stage in linguistic explorations on expressivity, sentiments and emotivity (see, for instance, Potts 2007), but it naturally carries over to other modalities, such as music, as shown in Schlenker (2017). Research that investigates emotional effects often targets areas where language and music overlap, e.g., by studying the emotional effects associated with metrical pattern in poetry (e.g., Obermeier et al. 2013), or a typology of affective/emotional sounds that spans both language (including, in particular, prosody and intonation) and music (e.g., Frühholz, Trost, and Kotz 2016).

Call for Papers

This workshop aims to bring together researchers working at the forefront of research on language, dance, music and visual narrative from a perspective that investigates these cross-modal phenomena.

We invite submissions from all subfields of linguistics that apply formal generative linguistic methodology and formal methodology inspired by general linguistics to one or more of the areas of investigation outlined above. Investigations that cut across these areas will be particularly relevant, e.g. the use of rhythm in speech (emphatic focus) and other modalities for an expressive/emotive effect.

Please submit abstracts via EasyChair (see link and instructions here) no later than November 2, 2018.



Abusch, Dorit (2013). “Applying Discourse Semantics and Pragmatics to Co-reference in Picture Sequences.” Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 17, 9-25.

Altshuler, Daniel, and Emar Maier (2018). “Death on the Freeway: Imaginative resistance as narrator accommodation.” In Festschrift for Angelika Kratzer, I. Frana, P. Menéndez-Benito and R. Bhatt (eds.), to be available at:  

Charnavel, Isabelle (2016). “Steps towards a Generative Theory of Dance Cognition.” Manuscript, Harvard. []

Frühholz, Sascha, Wiebke Trost, and Sonja A. Kotz (2016): “The sound of emotions-Towards a unifying neural network perspective of affective sound processing.” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 68, 96-110.

Katz, Jonah (2017). “Harmonic syntax of the 12-bar blues: a corpus study.” Music Perception 35, 165-192.

Koelsch, Stefan (2012). Brain and Music. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Obermeier, Christian, Winfried Menninghaus, Martin von Koppenfels, Tim Raettig, Maren Schmidt-Kassow, Sascha Otterbein, and Sonja A. Kotz (2013). “Aesthetic and emotional effects of meter and rhyme in poetry. Frontiers in Psychology 4:10, 1-10.

Patel, Aniruddh D. (2008): Music, Language, and the Brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Patel-Grosz, Pritty, Patrick Georg Grosz, Tejaswinee Kelkar and Alexander Refsum Jensenius (2008). “Coreference and disjoint reference in the semantics of narrative dance.” In Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 22, ZAS Papers in Linguistics (ZASPiL), Berlin: Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft.

Pesetsky, David, and Jonah Katz (2009). “The identity thesis for music and language.” Manuscript, MIT.

Potts, Christopher (2007): “The expressive dimension.” Theoretical Linguistics 33, 165-198.

Ravignani, Andrea, Henkjan Honing, and Sonja A. Kotz (2017). “Editorial: The Evolution of Rhyhthm Cognition: Timing in Music and Speech.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 11:303, 1-8.

Schlenker, Philippe (2017). “Outline of Music Semantics.” Music Perception 35, 3-37.

Winter, Yoad (2014). “On the Grammar of a Senegalese Drum Language.” Language 90, 644-668.

This workshop is organized in conjunction with the RITMO centre of excellence:
Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion