Human language and interaction
Spring 2023: CHDV 23100, LING 21150, PSYC 23120, EDSO 23101
Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30am-10:50am Chicago time
Language may be learned by individuals, but we most often use it for communication between groups. How is it that we manage to transmit our internal thoughts to others’ minds? How is it that we can understand what others mean to express to us? Whether we are greeting a passerby, ordering a meal, or debating politics, there are a number of invisible processes that bring language to life in the space between individuals. This course investigates the social and cognitive processes that enable us to successfully communicate with others. The theories we cover are built on observations of adult language use and child development in multiple cultural settings, taking inspiration also from non-human animal communication.
It is expected that, by the end of the course, students will be able to explain the limitations of language for communication and will be able to elaborate on a number of social and other cognitive processes that critically support communicative language use.
Instructor: Marisa Casillas (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Dr. Casillas: Book online here in Rosenwald 318A or Zoom (please indicate in your online booking)
- Jenny Haizhao Bo: Wednesdays 1–2pm in Rosenwald 318E or Zoom (email, or by appointment at Calendly
- Ben Morris: Mondays 2–3pm in Kelly 206 or Zoom (email), or by appointment (email)
- Most required readings will be drawn from Herbert H. Clark’s text Using Language.
- The other required readings include a few separate chapters/articles on:
All other course materials will be available online on Canvas and the ChatterLab course webpage.
Students enrolled in this course will be graded on the following basis:
Mini papers (45% of grade)
Over the course of the quarter, students will submit three mini papers (up to 15% each; 2500 words max). Mini papers typically engage with real data of some kind. Papers will be evaluated based on their (a) thoroughness and attention to detail with respect to the data/prompt, and (b) quality of discussion relating the data to course materials. We strongly discourage students from centering their responses on personal anecdotes or pure critique. Responses should instead make specific, clear connections to relevant course concepts, and critical commentary should be accompanied by integrative and/or constructive framing.
Note: There are four opportunities to submit mini papers—students can choose which three they would like to submit (students may NOT submit a fourth paper for extra credit or for a ‘redo’ of a previous paper).
Participation (10% of grade)
Students are generally expected to come to class and actively participate in discussion. The participation grade reflects the range from no attendance (0%) to near-full attendance and active participation at every session attended (10%). Please stay in touch with your TA about any limitations you have regarding in-person participation.
Scientific report (45% of grade)
We will replicate some of the classic findings reported in Schober & Clark’s (1989) paper. Your final assignment will be to submit a scientific report of our class findings that also proposes and motivates an original, but incremental followup study. This scientific report will depend on several components whose deadlines are over the quarter as follows:
- Read and review the original paper (in class, led by Dr. Casillas)
- Data collection and annotation: matchers and directors (15% of grade)
- Data collection and annotation: overhearers (5% of grade)
- Review of results (in class, led by Dr. Casillas)
- Scientific report (due Tuesday of finals week, 4000 words max; 25% of grade)
We will spend some time on learning the basics of scientific report writing.
You may earn up to 2 points of extra credit by participating in an ongoing experiment in the Chatter Lab. If you are interested in participating, contact lab manager Kennedy Casey (email@example.com) to schedule an appointment.
Module 1: Introduction
Tuesday, 21 March 2023 (1.1): Introduction and syllabus
- Pre-class reading: None!
Thursday, 23 March 2023 (1.2): Language use
- Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 1
Module 2: Foundations
Tuesday, 28 March 2023 (2.1): Joint activities
- Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 2
Thursday, 30 March 2023 (2.2): Joint actions
- Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 3
Tuesday, 4 April 2023 (3.1): Common ground
Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 4
Mini paper 1 due today: Choose a complex joint activity that has NOT been discussed in the book or in class. Describe the activity you have chosen. Using Clark’s concepts, demonstrate what its component parts and other qualifiers are that make it a good example of a joint activity. Include at least one figure mapping out its component parts and their relations (e.g., roles, layers, nested/sequential actions). [2500 words max; rubric]
Thursday, 6 April 2023 (3.2): Introduction to Conversation Analysis
- Pre-class reading: Sidnell, J. (2016). Conversation Analysis. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. and Stivers, T. (2013). Sequence Organization. In J. Sidnell and T. Stivers (Eds.), The Handbook of Conversation Analysis (pp. 191–209). Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Tuesday, 11 April 2023 (4.1): The Human Interaction Engine (Ben Morris)
Mini paper 2 due today : Devise a Schelling game (linguistic or non-linguistic) and run it on 4–6 of your friends. Describe how you set up your game, why, what you expected the outcome to be, and what the actual outcome was. Discuss your reported findings in a way that engages directly with big ideas from the course for full credit [2500 words max; rubric]
Module 3: Communication, language, and action
Thursday, 13 April 2023 (4.2): Experiment preparation
Participation: Prepare two questions before class: one clarification question and one critical or theoretically engaged question about the Schober & Clark reading before class.
Tuesday, 18 April 2023 (5.1): Grounding
Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 8
Due today for the scientific report: Find two participants for the matcher-director portion of data collection, establish a testing time BEFORE end of day on Wednesday, April 19th, and send your participants the session information. Cc your TA to confirm that you have done this.
Thursday, 20 April 2023 (5.2): Understanding intentions and signaling
Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 5 + UL Chapter 6
Due today for the scientific report: Upload your experiment recording with the matcher and director to Box (we will provide the link).
Tuesday, 25 April 2023 (6.1): Multimodal interaction
Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 9 + Holler, J., & Bavelas, J. (2017). Multi-modal communication of common ground: A review of social functions. In R. B. Church, M. W. Alibali, & S. D. Kelly (Eds.), Why gesture? How the hands function in speaking, thinking and communicating (pp. 213-240). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Mini paper 3 due today : Describe the difference between signal meaning and speaker (producer) meaning. Give three real examples (cite accessible sources) demonstrating ways in which these two types of meaning can diverge. For each example, describe how we as analysts can know there is a difference in the meaning and what recipients need to know/do in order to recover the producer meaning from the signal [2500 words max; rubric]
Module 4: Discourse, narrative, and joint projects
Thursday, 27 April 2023 (6.2): Joint projects
- Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 7
Tuesday, 2 May 2023 (7.1): Joint commitment (Jenny Bo)
Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 10
Due today for the scientific report: Upload your annotations and transcriptions of the matcher-director data (upload link in your instructions document), together with a screenshot showing that you have passed the online annotation checker. Grades for this portion will be allocated as follows:
- Up to 3% for data collection
- Up to 12% for data annotation (the TAs/Dr. Casillas will spot-check your annotation files and recording for high quality segmentation and annotation)
Thursday, 4 May 2023 (7.2): Conversation
Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 11
Due today for the scientific report: Find one participant for the overhearer portion of data collection, establish a testing time BEFORE end of day on Monday, May 8th, and send your participant the session information. Cc your TA to confirm that you have done this.
Mini paper 4 due today : Find an example of a conversation “in the wild” (e.g., spontaneous conversations, interviews, and the like on youtube, tiktok, etc.) in which two or more of the talkers use multiple depictive gestures. Unscripted content is strongly preferred but not required if you have a particularly interesting scripted example in mind. Provide a link where we can access the example. Describe, in detail, three of the gestures and their meanings (make sure to tell us precisely when in the conversation each gesture occurs). For each gesture, describe how it relates to other ongoing verbal and non-verbal signals by that same talker and also how it relates to the ongoing discourse context between the talkers engaged in the interaction. As part of your description of each gesture, make an argument using course concepts and your own observations about the intended function of that gesture in that particular context. [2500 words max; rubric]
Tuesday, 9 May 2023 (8.1): Layering
Pre-class reading: UL Chapter 12
Due TODAY for the scientific report: Upload your experiment recording with the overhearer to Box (we will provide the link).
Due TOMORROW for the scientific report: Upload your annotations and transcriptions of the overhearer data (upload link in your instructions document), together with a screenshot showing that you have passed the online annotation checker. Grades for this portion will be allocated as follows:
- Up to 1% for data collection
- Up to 4% for data annotation (the TAs/Dr. Casillas will spot-check your annotation files and recording for high quality segmentation and annotation)
Thursday, 11 May 2023 (8.2): Presentation of replication findings + how to write a scientific report
- Pre-class reading: None!
Tuesday, 16 May 2023 (9.1): Studying Language and Culture in Cross-Cultural Context (Jenny)
- Pre-class reading:
Thursday, 18 May 2023 (9.2): Guest lecture from Ben Morris
- Pre-class reading:
Final deadline (Tuesday, 23 May 2023)
Scientific report due, including: Study 1 on our class replication of Schober & Clark (1989) and Study 2, a motivated, original, incremental follow-up study proposal with predicted findings (4000 words max; rubric).
Office: Rosenwald 318A
Office hours: Book online here in Rosenwald 318A or Zoom (please indicate in your online booking)
If you require any accommodations for this course, as soon as possible please provide your instructor with a copy of your Accommodation Determination Letter (provided to you by the Student Disability Services office) so that you may discuss with him/her how your accommodations may be implemented in this course. The University of Chicago is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs. If you have a documented disability (or think you may have a disability) and, as a result, need a reasonable accommodation to participate in class, complete course requirements, or benefit from the University’s programs or services, you are encouraged to contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible. To receive reasonable accommodation, you must be appropriately registered with Student Disability Services. Please contact the office at 773-834-4469/TTY 773-795-1186 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website at disabilities.uchicago.edu. Student Disability Services is located in Room 233 in the Administration Building located at 5801 S. Ellis Avenue.