Research

Free download: Dirk Geeraerts (2016) on my research: “Grammar in the context of intersubjective usage”.

The December 2016 issue of the journal Nederlandse Taalkunde/Dutch Linguistics, published by Amsterdam University Press, contains a great series of papers on various aspects of my research of the last 30 years. It includes an insightful, comprehensive, and simultaneously succinct (13 pages) overview by Dirk Geeraerts (Leuven University). This article is freely available, and can be downloaded here.

Broadly, my present research interests involve the following four domains and perspectives. Many studies actually also concern the connections between them.

  1. The expression of causality.
    I have been investigating this topic both at the level of verbs and clauses (causative constructions) and on the level of discourse (causal conjunctions). Major publications include Kemmer & Verhagen 1994, Verhagen & Kemmer 1997, Stukker, Sanders & Verhagen 2008, 2009 (see also Ninke Stukker’s 2005 dissertation).
  2. Intersubjectivity.
    This area concerns an integrated cognitive linguistic approach assigning a central role to intersubjectivity (encompassing several phenomena previously seen as manifestations of subjectivity), both in human cognition in general and in grammar in particular. The major publication is my monograph Constructions of Intersubjectivity (OUP 2005, extended paperback edition 2007). The book sparked several responses, including an extensive commentary and discussion (Cognitive Linguistics 19, 2008: 107-143). A special page on this topic can be found through the drop down menu above.
    A recent interest growing out of this project is research on stylistics, in particular on the representation and use of utterances and thoughts of others, especially in dialogues (both actual and fictive interaction) and in narratives (“Speech and Thought Representation”). The major publications so far are a volume co-edited with Barbara Dancygier and Wei-lun Lu (2016) and my contributions to it (Verhagen 2016, Lu & Verhagen 2016); see also Van Duijn et al (2015) and Max van Duijn’s 2016 dissertation.
  3. Construction grammar.
    I apply this approach to the grammar of Dutch and to (allegedly) abstract syntax (such as complementation and long-distance Wh-movement), while also attempting to strengthen its conceptual foundations. Major publications include Verhagen 2003c, 2005 (in Dutch, an invited contribution to a special issue of Nederlandse Taalkunde), 2006a, 2007b, 2009b, 2010b. Joint work with Barend Beekhuizen and Rens Bod (2014) addresses the issue of the acquisition of grammar in a usage-based approach (see also Barend Beekhuizen’s 2016 dissertation, awarded with the award for best linguistic dissertation in February 2017).
  4. Evolutionary linguistics.
    Originating in the study of diachronic aspects of semantic phenomena (in the domain of causality) and grammatical constructions, I am developing Darwin’s algorithm (for the interaction between variation, selection, and replication) into a comprehensive conceptual framework for the study of both linguistic usage and linguistic systems, as instantiations of cultural evolutionary phenomena. This research also extends to the issue of the biological evolution of language (i.e. of conventional, symbolic behaviour). Major publications include Verhagen 2002; Chapter 1 of Verhagen 2005; Verhagen 2008d, 2010c; Zuidema & Verhagen 2010a; Landsbergen, Lachlan, ten Cate & Verhagen 2010 (see also Frank Landsbergen’s dissertation from 2009).
    On July 12, 2011, Jordan Zlatev (Lund University) and I organized a theme session “Language Evolution: Biological, cultural and bio-cultural” at the 11th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference in Xi’an (China). See under News for the slides of my introductory talk and my presentation on conventionality in the perspective of “Tinbergen’s 4 why‘s”.