College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Cognitive Science

Department of Cognitive Science

Navigation + Search
Home / Colloquia


picture of conversation

Symposium: The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction. Thursday and Friday, 2-3 April 2015, Crawford Hall. Co-organizers: Todd Oakley, Esther Pascual, Sergeiy Sandler.

Thurs April 2: The Cogsci Forum, 612c Crawford, 9am-3pm.

9:00 – 9:10: Welcoming words – Esther Pascual
9:10 – 10:00 – Esther Pascual. “Fictive interaction and the conversation frame: An overview”
10:00 – 10:50 – Krisda Chaemsaithong. TBA
10:50 – 11:10 – Coffee break
11:10 – 12:00 – Ana Margarida Abrantes. TBA
11:50 – 12:40 – Stef Spronck. TBA
12:40 – 2:10pm – Lunch break
2:10 -3:00 pm – Paula Rebelo Fonseca and Pilar Alonso Rodríguez. “Fictive Interaction in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
3:00 – 3:50 pm – Gusztav Demeter. “On discourse-motivated ‘sorries’: Fictive apologies in English, Hungarian, and Romanian”
3:50 – 4:40pm – Sergeiy Sandler. “‘In the beginning there was conversation’: Fictive interaction in the Hebrew bible”

Fri April 3: Crawford 618
9:00 – 9:50 – Linshuang Yao. TBA
9:50 – 10:40 – Christine Versluis. “‘Ta-daa!’: The fictive cartoon. How to tell a story when you are aphasic”
10:40 -11:00 – Coffee break
11:00 -11:50 – “Generic integration templates for fictive communication.” Mark Turner and Cristóbal Pagán Cánovas.
11:50 – 12:40 – Maria Josep Jarque & Esther Pascual. “Pragmaticalization of fictive questions to focus constructions in Catalan Sign Language”
12:40 – 14:10 – Lunch break
2:10 – 3:00 pm– Minjian Xiang. “Who’s reading: Rhetorical questions as intersubjective mixed viewpoint constructions in an Old Chinese text”
3:00-3:20 pm – Coffee break
3:20-4:10 pm. – Aline Dornelas. “Fictive reported speech as communicative strategy by autistic and typically developing children”
4:10-5:00 pm. – Closing discussion: Discussant: Todd Oakley, Moderator: Sergeiy Sandler


Fictive interaction and the conversation frame: An overview
Esther Pascual
In this talk I will define the notion of fictive interaction as the use of the conversation frame in order to structure cognition, discourse, and grammar (Pascual 2002, 2006b, 2014). I discuss how thought (e.g. talking to oneself) and the conceptualization of experience (e.g. “A good walk is the answer to headache”) are partly modeled by the pattern of conversation, and present the kinds of fictive interaction for different functions and on different levels: (i) the discourse (e.g. overt monologues structured as dialogues), and (ii) the language system and its use, at different grammatical levels: (iii) the inter-sentence (“Any questions? Call us”); (iv) the sentence (“Why bother?”); (v) the clause (“They felt, augh!”); (vi) the phrase (“the attitude of yes, I can”); (vii) the word (“forget-me-nots”); and (viii) the morpheme (“Idontknowsexual”).
I also provide a list of its defining characteristics (conversational features, non-actual and non-token interpretation, metonymy), and explain what makes this ubiquitous phenomenon, widespread across languages, discourse genres, and sociolinguistic groups, worth studying, and what its theoretical implications are. In the talk I will provide an overview of earlier work on fictive interaction by myself and others, and briefly refer to talks to be presented at the workshop.
Fictive Interaction in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Paula Rebelo Fonseca and Pilar Alonso Rodríguez
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is an American late night satirical news program that uses a number discourse conventions to mock political actors and obtain a humorous reaction from the audience (Baym 2005). In this paper, we analyze how the host widely uses a cognitive strategy to do this, fictive interaction (Pascual 2002, 2006) within a Cognitive Linguistics perspective (Fauconnier and Turner 1998). The episode about the first debate of the 2012 US presidential election was chosen due to the numerous fictive interactions that occur between Jon Stewart and President Barack Obama. This fictivity is used to present the host’s opinions, beliefs and perspectives camouflaged in humor in order to show viewers that the President could and should have done better.

Generic integration templates for fictive communication
Mark Turner and Cristóbal Pagán Cánovas
In this talk we seek to show that the human mind can create blended discourse, or fictive communication, because it is able to do advanced conceptual blending. Thanks to advanced blending, human beings can integrate unrelated experiences and concepts into new mental wholes with novel properties. We analyze how instances of fictive communication are made possible by generic templates for conceptual blending. Fictive communication is a blending pattern combining several generic templates, most of which were not originated in relation to discourse. Fictive communication inherits the whole structure of fictive interaction, which involves fictivity, compression patterns, and an interaction frame that includes counterfactuality. Complex, classic blended joint attention is added, and the interaction frame selected is the one for communication.

Pragmaticalization of fictive questions to focus constructions in Catalan Sign Language
Maria Josep Jarque & Esther Pascual
This paper deals with the multifunctional use of the question-answer sequence, which constitutes a prototypical conversational and intersubjective structure, in Catalan Sign Language. In a large number of languages, spoken and signed, polar and content questions, and their subsequent answers, is used for the expression of non-information-seeking functions, namely topicality, conditionality, focus, connection, and relativization. Specifically, we examine fictive questions to express focus in own-data from informational and opinion TV and vlogs addressed to the Catalan Sign Language community and produced by native signers. The analysis shows that this sequence has been grammaticalized and constitutes the unmarked or by-default option to encode these linguistic functions. We argue that the pattern is a highly schematic symbolic unit and that the specific linguistic constructions, which are instances of fictive interaction, form a complex network.

Who’s reading? Rhetorical questions as intersubjective mixed viewpoint constructions in an Old Chinese Text
Mingjian Xiang
This paper deals with rhetorical questions in the entire Zhuangzi. This text is highly interactionally structured, with a large number of non-information seeking questions, such as rhetorical questions used for rhetorical purposes (Xiang & Pascual 2014). Rhetorical questions have interrogative syntax, but the illocutionary force of a strong assertion of the opposite polarity from what is presented as being ‘asked’ (Sadock 1974; Han 2002). As in English, yes-no questions in Classical Chinese can be used as rhetorical questions in certain contexts, lacking grammatical marking and thus being entirely context-dependent. Moreover, there are eight different grammatical indicators (particles, pronouns and lexical items) of rhetorical question usage in Old Chinese texts (Pulleyblank 1995). These are distinguished according to the positive and/or negative polarity of the answer expected. For instance, they may also indicate whether the rhetorical question in general appear with an adjective or is used adverbially (e.g. “You haven’t had it in yourself yet, how can you expect to care for the behaviors of a tyrant?”, ch. 4 Wang 1999: 49) or whether the rhetorical question is used to present either a comment (e.g. “‘But that’s all that can be said for it. How would you succeed in making a new man of him?”, ch. 4 Graham [1981] 2001: 68) or a comparison (e.g. “Even the sages cannot resist the temptations of gains and fames; so how can you?’, ch. 2 Wang 1999: 51).\
My corpus search suggests that there are 405 instances of rhetorical questions in the entirely Zhuangzi text (Xiang & Pascual 2014).These questions should produce either affirmative or negative answers in the reader’s mind, thereby involving a fictive type of interaction with the addressee (cf. Pascual 2002, 2006a, 2014). I regard rhetorical questions as intersubjective constructions (Verhagen 2005, 2008), which do not just involve a conceptual blend of question and assertion but also a viewpoint blend (Dancygier & Sweetser 2012) of the assumed reader’s perspective and that of the writer’s. Moreover, there are also multiple viewpoint blending chains in Zhuangzi when a rhetorical question is produced by a character in the text (e.g. a talking shrine oak tree), which is meant to be conceptually integrated with the writer (Xiang forth.).

‘Ta-daa!”: The fictive comic. Imaginative storytelling with aphasia.
Christine Versluis
Ron (age 31) is an aphasic speaker. Since he had a stroke his capacity to use language is limited. Particularly he has a slow rate of speech, word-finding difficulties, and his utterances lack grammatical elaboration and function words. I present Ron’s personal story about the event of his stroke, which shows a highly strategic use of interactive structure. I explore the assumption that his story is actually structured like a comic with FI-structures setting up a sequence of fictive frames. This strategy enables Ron to represent an evaluative perspective and conceptualize the past event on a fairly abstract level despite his aphasic condition.
On discourse-motivated ‘sorries’: Fictive apologies in English, Hungarian, and Romanian

Gusztav Demeter
Traditional approaches to the study of conversation implied that all participants are present in the interaction. Such approaches viewed the conversation as face-to-face interaction (Goffman 1959) based on turn-taking (Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson 1974), with participants speaking one at a time. However, cognitive approaches to discourse have shown that participants are not always actual, but can also be virtual (Langacker 1999), and can therefore participate in fictive interactions (Pascual 2002, 2006). In line with such approaches, speech acts can also occur in fictive interactions as fictive speech acts (Pascual 2002; Demeter 2011; Pascual 2014). This presentation discusses the forms and functions of fictive apologies as a manifestation of fictive interaction with examples from three languages: English, Hungarian, and Romanian.
The analysis is carried out from a usage-based perspective with examples from several corpora containing both spoken and written discourse. In terms of form, fictive apologies are instantiations of a construction containing an explicit expression of apology and a noun of address, which marks the fictive interaction in the conversation frame and a role shift from bystander or audience to addressee. To illustrate the phenomenon of a fictive apology, consider this example from an editorial on environmental issues published before a world climate conference in 2009: “Hansen and his team have shown that we could actually burn most of the oil in our wells (but sorry Canada, not the tar sands)” (Davies 2008). In this example, the apology is addressed to Canada, which is not an actual participant in the conversation between the writer and the reader, but rather a fictive one. In turn, the reader becomes what Goffman (1963) termed a bystander. Both the pragmatic offense and the apology are therefore fictive, as well. Fictive apologies perform multiple functions, such as disagreement, irony, refusal, accusation, humorous insult, and empathy. This presentation reports on the first extended study of fictive apologies that contributes to a more integrated account of the conversation frame.


Previous Colloquia

Renata Geld

Renata Geld. Wednesday, 18 March 2015, 4:00-5:30pm. Crawford Hall, room 618. Title: Multimodality in second-language offline processing.  Renata Geld is a professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zagreb.

Abstract: Learning implies engagement. Even though there are two rather distinct types of learning – implicit and explicit – it is literally impossible to acquire the conceptual complexity behind a particular word without a certain degree of conscious attention being directed to its properties and relations. The issue of engagement becomes even more significant if we know that retention of what has been learnt is greatly affected by the depth of processing that takes place while learning. Marketing experts seem to have learnt this fact very well. A great number of images selected to advertise new products or services have moved to engaging interplay between the visual and the verbal that tricks potential consumers into thinking, relating, re-thinking, making sense, guessing, inferring. The process is generally based on compressed blends (Turner 2006), which transforms knowledge into structures suitable to human-scale understanding. The ultimate goal, at least its first step, is long-term retention. However, this kind of wise cognitive manipulation, unfortunately, does not happen too often in other areas of life. For example, foreign language textbooks are loaded with images whose main purpose is to attract students’ attention, which significantly contributes to the affective side of their learning. However, does it help cognitively? Students often remember an attractive photo of a beach on the Pacific Coast but still fail to remember the vocabulary introduced on the same page in the unit. We suggest that one of the reasons why this happens is lack of meaningful and motivated semantic anchoring and reinforcement. The images selected fail to provoke and support the analysis of the conceptual structure and content provided in the text; in other words, they are not conducible to compression. This is especially evident in teaching demanding linguistic structures such as particle-verb constructions or tenses. Still, research into cognitive learning strategies has shown that experienced language learners activate a variety of processes and develop various abilities that mirror general cognitive processes described as aspects of construal within the cognitive linguistic theoretical framework (Geld and Letica Krevelj 2011, Geld and Maldonado 2011). In other words, learners’ strategic construal often goes beyond what we have called “verbal and visual paraphrase” and instantiates cognitively motivated links, both within the structure in question and between the structure and its pictorial representation. We argue that this realization can be included into textbooks by employing the emic approach, based on a corpus of student-provided illustrations of figurative senses of phrasal verbs.


Geld, Renata and Stela Letica Krevelj. 2011. “Centrality of space in the strategic construal of up in English particle verbs”. In Space and Time in Language. Edited by Brdar, Mario; Omazić, Marija; Buljan, Gabrijela; Bagarić, Vesna; Gradečak-Erdeljić, Tanja. Frankfurt / New York: Peter Lang Verlag, pp. 145-166.

Geld, Renata and Ricardo Maldonado. 2011. “Strategic construal of in and out in English PVs.” Language Value, 3 (1), Multiword patterns: considering phrasal verbs and their underlying semantic systems. Servei de Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I: Castelló, Spain, pp. 76-113.

Turner, Mark. 2006. “Compression and Representation.” Language and Literature 15 (1): 17–27. doi:10.1177/0963947006060550.






Mark Turner

Pre-colloquium introduction to possibilities for research in the Distributed Little Red Hen Lab.  Mark Turner.  Wednesday, 28 January 2015, 4:00-5:00pm Room 206.  Clark Hall. 11130 Bellflower Road.

Colloquium: Mark Turner. Wednesday, 28 January 2015, 5-6pm. Room 206, Clark Hall. 11130 Bellflower Road. Title: Viewpoint Blends. Mark Turner is Institute Professor and Professor of Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University.

Abstract: A participant in any scene of communication is embodied, and so has a viewpoint. An individual person is in a particular spot, in a particular time, with a particular perceptual focus and attention. If I say, “I can help you now with that by looking here,” what I have said is unintelligible unless you understand something about my viewpoint, and accordingly what I might mean by “I,” “you,” “now,” “that,” and “here,” words that could mean many different things in different situations, depending on the viewpoint of the person who says them. All languages have many expressions for expressing viewpoint, but they also have plenty of expressions for expressing blends of viewpoint. “I will come to your party” takes the “I” from the viewpoint of the speaker but the “come” from the viewpoint of the addressee. Literary texts frequently use pyrotechnic constructions of blended viewpoint. This talk will present types of blended viewpoint in language, literature, and media.

This event is sponsored by the Department of Classics and the World Literature Colloquium and is free and open to the public.