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Special Collection

The Language of Perspective

Collection launched: 06 Aug 2020
Guest Edited by: Corien Bary Radboud University Nijmegen Kees Thijs Radboud University Nijmegen Leopold Hess Jagiellonian University

The intensely social lifestyle of our species entails that we are constantly trying to see the world through other people’s eyes, by adopting their perspective. Small wonder therefore, that perspective taking is crucial to the interpretation of language, too. Languages are equipped with a wide range of linguistic means to anchor utterances to their contexts, such as pronouns, tenses, evaluative expressions and particles. While such elements are mostly used from the perspective of the speaker, they can also be used from the perspective of someone else. The perspectival behaviour of many individual linguistic classes has been studied in linguistics, but the perspectival complexity of natural languages raises many questions which remain unanswered.

This complexity becomes even greater and more prominent in narrative discourse. For one thing, in such discourses we typically have a (linguistically constructed) narrator in addition to the (flesh-and-blood) author. What’s more, the anchoring time can be dissociated from the narrator’s actual now (as in the historical use of the present tense), and, even more fascinatingly, we sometimes seem to be ‘within another person’s consciousness’. No wonder then that in recent years narrative perspective, originally the domain of text linguists and narratologists, has increasingly come into focus of researchers in many other disciplines concerned with language, including cognitive linguistics, (formal) semantics, philosophy of language, and psycholinguistics.

This Special Collection brings together some key insights but also challenges formulated by these different strands of research. It is edited by Prof. Dr. Corien Bary, Dr. Leopold Hess and Kees Thijs (MA). Their work is supported by the EU under FP7, ERC Starting Grant 338421-Perspective.