If you know of material not mentioned on this page, please let me know (

Constructions of Intersubjectivity web page

This page will be updated as new materials become available (latest update: 7 August, 2009)

Paperback edition 2007.

Hardback edition 2005.


Gerd Fritz (2006) Pragmatics and Cognition 14 (2006), 589-597. [ pdf]
Barbara Schlücker (2007) Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 26 (2007), 143-145. [ pdf]
Steve Nicolle (2007) SIL Electronic Book Reviews 2007-006. [link; pdf]
Barbara Dancygier (2008) Linguistics. [ pdf]
Marina Terkourafi (2008) Journal of Pragmatics. [ pdf]


Wolfram Hinzen & Michiel van Lambalgen (2008) Comment on Verhagen, Constructions of Intersubjectivity. Cognitive Linguistics 19 (2008). [ pdf]
Arie Verhagen (2008) Intersubjectivity and explanation in linguistics – a reply to Hinzen & Van Lambalgen. Cognitive Linguistics 19 (2008). [ pdf]

In 2005, Constructions of Intersubjectivity was published by Oxford University Press. In 2007, a somewhat extended paperback edition was published (with addition of “Further reading” section and new references).

Publisher’s description
  • New theory of human communication
  • Integrates insights from linguistics, discourse studies, biology, psychology, and evolution
  • Treats pragmatics, semantics, and syntax in parallel
  • Clearly written and comprehensible to non-linguists
Constructions of Intersubjectivity shows that the meaning of grammatical constructions often has more to do with the human cognitive capacity for taking other peoples’ points of view than with describing the world. Treating pragmatics, semantics, and syntax in parallel and integrating insights from linguistics, psychology, and studies in animal behaviour, Arie Verhagen develops a new understanding of linguistic communication. In doing so he shows the continuity between language and animal communication and reveals the nature of human linguistic specialization.

Professor Verhagen uses Dutch and English data from a wide variety of sources and considers the contributions of grammar to the coherence of discourse. He argues that important problems in semantics and syntax may be resolved if language is understood as an instrument for exerting influence and coordinating different perspectives. The grammatical phenomena he discusses include negative expressions, the let alone construction, complementation constructions, and discourse connectives.

This powerfully argued and original explanation of the nature and operation of communication will interest a wide range of scholars and advanced students in linguistics, cognitive science, and human evolution.

Readership: Linguists, cognitive scientists, evolutionary and behavioural biologists, psychologists, and philosophers interested in discourse, pragmatics, and the cognition of language, plus their advanced students.

1. Intersubjectivity – Mutual management of cognitive states
2. Negation and virtual argumentation
3. Finite Complements – Putting conceptualizers on stage
4. Discourse connections – Managing inferences across perspectives
5. Concluding remarks
– Further reading [in paperback edition only]
– References [extended in paperback edition]
– Index

Follow the links above to go to the respective pages on OUP’s website.

Below I list some other publications of mine that address specific issues in the domain covered by CoI.


a T.b.a.


2008 Intersubjectivity and the architecture of the language system. In: Jordan Zlatev, Timothy P. Racine, Chris Sinha, Esa Itkonen (eds.), The Shared Mind: Perspectives on Intersubjectivity. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 307-331. [link; pdf]

Based on the 2005 book, I discuss the character of the theoretical notion ‘intersubjectivity’, as it should apparently be construed given the way it is manifested in the structure and use of language. The discussion focuses on evolutionary implications, and the similarities and differences between animal and human communication, again: based on the linguistic analyses in the book.

2007 Construal and perspectivisation. In: D. Geeraerts and H. Cuyckens (eds.), Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 48-81. [link]

An overview of applications of the concept ‘construal’ in cognitive linguistics, integrating intersubjectivity into the overall picture.

2006 On subjectivity and ‘long distance Wh-movement’. In: Angeliki Athanasiadou, Costas Canakis & Bert Cornillie (eds), Subjectification: Various Paths to Subjectivity. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 323-346. [link]

In chapter 3, on complementation, there is a discussion of the phenomenon that, in traditional terms, a question phrase (‘Wh-phrase’) sometimes seems to be positioned in a higher clause than the one it is a constituent of. For example, in “How do you think he solved the problem?”, “How” asks about the manner of finding a solution, not about thinking. Especially in the generative tradition, this has been taken as important evidence for general properties of grammatical structure, or even of the supposedly innate Universal Grammar. On the basis of corpus evidence, however, I argue that such utterances are licensed by an independent, relatively concrete template, having a specific function in the domain of intersubjective coordination; thus it has no implications for properties of complementation in general. This paper provides a separate discussion of this argument and the evidence, with a brief overvierw of the main theoretical points.

2003a Semantics, Inferential Cognition, and Understanding Text. In: Ellen van Wolde (ed.). Job 28. Cognition in Context (Biblical Interpretation Series, Volume 64). Leiden: Brill, 231-252. [ pdf]

Discusses the way the argumentative approach to (especially) the semantics of negation and of connectives may be related to problems of interpretation and translation.

2000a “The girl that promised to become something”: An exploration into diachronic subjectification in Dutch. In: Thomas F. Shannon & Johan P. Snapper (eds.), The Berkeley Conference on Dutch Linguistics 1997: the Dutch Language at the Millennium. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 197-208. [ pdf]

Explores the historic development of the ‘epistemic’ or ‘evidential’ uses of the Dutch verbs ‘beloven’ (to promise) and ‘dreigen’ (to threaten), as in ‘The debate threatened to get out of hand’.

1995b Subjectification, syntax, and communication. In: Dieter Stein & Susan Wright (eds.), Subjectivity and subjectivisation: linguistic perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 103-128. [ pdf]

This is the first paper in which I demonstrate that argumentativity enters into the explanation of structural grammatical properties of clauses. There is a relation between word order (the two possible positions of the verbs ‘beloven’ and ‘dreigen’ wrt non-finite verbs) and the possibility of the verb allowing an epistemic sense, but this relation is asymmetrical (one order only allows one interpretation, the other order allows both), which I relate to a hypothesis about a fundamental asymmetry in semantics: all elements contribute to the argumentative value of an expression, while not all elements have to contribute to its descriptive content.

Below are two publications in Dutch that cover a few of the central notions of CoI.

2002b Retorica en cognitie. In: Theo Janssen (red.), Taal in gebruik. Een inleiding in de taalwetenschap. Den Haag: Sdu Uitgevers, 97-110. [ pdf]

Een inleidende beschouwing over de inherente argumentativiteit van taal, gebaseerd op de benadering van Anscombre en Ducrot, in combinatie met de ‘Mental Space’-theorie van Fauconnier e.a., zoals die m.n. ook in hoofdstuk 1 (en gedeeltelijk in hoofdstuk 2) van CoI uiteengezet wordt.

2000 Achter het Nederlands. Over interacties tussen taal en achtergrondcognitie. Rede uitgesproken bij de aanvaarding van het ambt van hoogleraar Nederlandse Taalkunde aan de Universiteit Leiden, 24 maart 2000. [ pdf]

Bevat o.a. een demonstratie van de algemene relevantie van het begrip ‘subjectiviteit’ en de ‘Mental Space’-benadering, aan de hand van een gedeeltelijke analyse van een gedicht van Judith Herzberg, en van de interactie tussen ontkenning en enkele connectieven (‘daarom’, ‘dus’, e.d.).