Alignment as the Sensorimotor Basis of the Evolution of Conversation

Alessandra Chiera



Abstract. Recent considerations on the nature of language recognize conversationas the central unit of analysis. Some approaches give a definition of conversationas parallel with that of cooperative action, with conversational success taking place when individuals converge to achieve a common goal. The present challenge of psycholinguistic is identifying the cognitive mechanisms underlying the process of convergence in conversation. Among these, interactional alignment, i.e. accommodation at many levels in dialogue, has received growing attention. In this paper, I will propose that, when it comes to the evolutionary issue, alignment might be considered a good candidate to account for some early strategiesused by individuals keen to communicate in the absence of a full-fledged code. Thefocus on mechanisms of low-level alignment paves the way for a sensorimotor and protoconversational account of language evolution.


language evolution; conversation; alignment; sensorimotor cognition; pragmatics

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