Esther Pascual


Esther Pascual

School of International Studies
Zhejiang University


The conversational nature of language: From cognition and grammar to expert communication and language pathology

Stemming from the assumption that social interaction is an essential aspect of human existence, I argue that there is a conversational basis for thought and language. Specifically, I discuss the latest research on what I call fictive interaction (Pascual 2002, 2014), that is the use of the frame of ordinary conversation as a means to structure: the conceptualization of reality (construing dance as a conversation), discourse (monologues organized as dialogues), and grammar (“why me? attitude”). I suggest that fictive interaction is a fundamental cognitive phenomenon, a ubiquitous discourse-structuring devise, a possibly universal linguistic construction, and an effective communicative strategy in both expert communication and language pathology. To support this claim, I present a cross-linguistic study involving a wide variety of unrelated languages (spoken and signed, with and without a written code) and modes of communication (oral, written, visual). The communicative data discussed ranges from literature (and literary translation), legal argumentation in high-profile criminal trials and marketing (i.e. advertisement and branding) to language pathology (i.e. conversations by adults suffering from Broca’s aphasia and children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder). I hope to show that the intimate relation between language and interaction is reflected in cognition, discourse, and grammar.

Esther Pascual (PhD VU Amsterdam, 2003) is currently a senior researcher and lecturer at Zhejiang University in China under the ‘Hundred Talents’ program. She is mainly working on what she has labeled ‘fictive interaction’, as in her book Fictive Interaction: The Conversation Frame in Thought, Language, and Discourse and her co-edited volume The Conversation Frame: Forms and Functions of Fictive Interaction (both published by John Benjamins). She has received prestigious research grants to study the phenomenon from the Fulbright foundation and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). She’s also a founding Co-editor-In-Chief of the peer-reviewed international journal Language Under Discussion.

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