Recent & Upcoming Talks

2019

The presentation will discuss the use of Corpus Assisted Discourse Studies (CADS) as an interdisciplinary methodology in order to explore how identity of individuals and groups is generated in digital environments, with a focus on how trust is established through digital interaction among individuals that operate extra-judicially. Two case studies are selected to this end: selling drugs on the Dark Net and sexually grooming children online. Whilst clearly different in terms of the illegal activities performed, both contexts centrally involve efforts to generate trust discursively. In crypto-drug markets, vendors seek to enhance their reputation within a highly competitive environment by, for instance, offering advice about avoiding being scammed by other users / providers (Lorenzo-Dus and Di Cristofaro 2018). Similarly, sexual groomers of children invest considerable discursive effort in projecting self-identities as trustworthy adults (for they do not necessarily pretend to be minors), who ‘genuinely care’ about the children they prey on (Lorenzo-Dus et al 2016; Chiang and Grant 2018; Lorenzo-Dus, Kinzel and Di Cristofaro, forthcoming). In addition to presenting the key results of the case studies, the presentation will reflect upon the role that trust plays in strategies of inclusion and exclusion in both online and offline communities.

Dalle fonti alla rigenerazione - il Villaggio Artigiano di Modena Ovest e il processo di rigenerazione innescato da OvestLab ed il Collettivo Amigdala.

The presentation discusses AFOr (Archivio di Fonti Orali, ‘archive of oral sources’), a multimodal archive on the history of the Villaggio Artigiano (‘artisans’ village’) neighbourhood in Modena, Italy. Funded by the region Emilia-Romagna, and conducted by OvestLab in collaboration with Istituto Storico di Modena, the archive is an open collection of materials from the last 50 years, including newspaper articles, official documents, as well as interviews (both in video and text-transcribed format) to the inhabitants of the Villaggio Artigiano. It is structured to allow for multidisciplinary researches and purposes (i.a. linguistic/economic/historical analyses, artistic performances/renditions). As a case study we investigate the language features that have characterised the neighbourhood, from its creation (1953) up to the present day. Through Corpus Linguistics, GIS (Geographic Information System), and Public History we focus on identifying how the Villaggio Artigiano has been represented and “narrated” throughout the years by its inhabitants, the media, and the historiographic community. The results are then used to analyse the relations between the language of the community and the places in a diachronic dimension. Subsequently the linguistic data is used to create a graphical visualisation that maps the network of relations (among people and places) that the archive materials outline. The collaboration and reciprocal ‘hybridisation’ of the disciplines involved constitutes a distinctive trait of this project, one that allows to respect one of the cornerstones of oral history: the inseparable relation between space and memory 3 . The digital archive is not in fact a mere collection of stories as told by the neighbourhood inhabitants: through the integration with linguistics, digital tools and maps it becomes an analytical tool allowing researchers to interpret and understand the history of Villaggio Artigiano.

This study tackles the preemptive dimension of interactional exchanges. Dialogues are not merely characterised by speech acts underpinning actual interaction. They are also constantly informed by preemptive attempts to address potential reactions to what is said. We argue that the preemptive dimension of interactional exchanges intersects with intersubjectivity (i.a. Schwenter & Waltereit 2010; Tantucci 2017a, 2017b) and constitutes an important trigger of semantic and pragmatic reanalysis. The notion of preemptive interaction draws on the so-called pragmatic turn in cognitive neurosciences, whereby cognition is observed as being inherently “enactive” (Engel et al. 2014). From this angle, cognitive processes tend to foreground and prescribe possible actions rather than merely representing present states of the outside world. We provide a multifactorial, corpus-based study centred on the semasiological change of the [there is no NP] construction in Middle English, originally being used as a bare assertion (there is no truth in you EEBO/I.B./1581), yet progressively acquiring a new function of preemptive refusal (there is no reason in the world that you should adde any one thing that is false CED/Trial/1678). We combine a number of machine learning models, including conditional inference trees, multiple correspondence analysis and Markov chains in order to identify multifactorial tendencies that concur to the illocutionary shift from on-going, to preemptive interactional usages of [there is no NP]. We finally compare our results with corpus-based data centred on the CHILDES database of first language acquisition. We distinctively focus on the ontogenetic shift from real to preemptive functions of [there is no NP] as a mechanism hinging on intersubjective reasoning and Theory of Mind.

2018

In this presentation we will describe a research programme that uses Corpus Assisted Discourse Studies (CADS) as an interdisciplinary methodology in order to explore how individuals and groups generate trust in digital environments that operate extra-judicially. Two case studies are selected to this end: selling drugs in the Dark Net and sexually grooming children online. Whilst clearly different in terms of the illegal activities performed, both contexts centrally involve attempts at generating trust discursively.

The relation between architecture and place mapping has not yet been fully developed by researches on oral history. Mapping is a powerful tool to represent and describe a place; however it often lacks a diachronic dimension that can provide an insight into the dynamics of transformative processes. In order to overcome this issue, we propose the inclusion of a diachronic linguistic dimension in the mapping process. We present AFOr, a digital archive of documents on Villaggio Artigiano (lit. Artisan Village), located in Modena (Italy). The archive contains materials from the last 50 years, including newspaper articles, official documents, as well as transcriptions of interviews to the inhabitants of the Villaggio Artigiano. Through corpus and cognitive linguistics methods and theories, we investigate the language features that characterize the area; in particular we focus on identifying how the Villaggio Artigiano has been represented and “narrated” throughout the years by its inhabitants, the media, and the historiographic community. The results are then used to analyse the relations between the language of the community and the places in a diachronic dimension, and allow for a graphical mapping of the network that the archive outlines.

The use of terminology - or of specialized language - in the fields of architecture and urban-related disciplines (i.a. urban planning, urban morphology) poses a set of issues that concern both bi-lingual and mono-lingual settings (cf. Kropf 2011). As words are used, they undergo changes that lead to both predictable behaviour and new creative variations (Tantucci, Culpeper and Di Cristofaro:2017). Among the most ‘immediate’ changes, the emergence of ambiguities is arguably the one that deteriorates the function of specialized terms the most - i.e. as standardized “tools of communication” (cf. Faber 2012:13). In addition, ambiguities and a lack of standardization can impair the dissemination of research, and render the theoretical frameworks from which the terms are derived unintelligible. Understanding how specialized terms are used in real language settings appears therefore crucial to identify how the terminology changes, and to comprehend how these changes impact meaning(s) and connotation(s). We analyse how a set of English and Italian specialized terms related to the concepts of transformation, public, context, neighborhood, and experimental are used in Tactical Urbanism texts. The sources of the data are i) documents in English published by dsni.org, parkingday.org, and teambetterblock.com; ii) documents in Italian published by perifericofestival.it; iii) interviews collected by the authors during the 2017 edition of Periferico Festival (Modena, Italy). By adopting a linguistic-oriented perspective on real data, firstly we describe how each term is used in each dataset by looking at each term’s occurrences through the analysis of its collocates (i.e. words that occurs within the neighbourhood of another word). Then we conduct a Behavioural Profile Analysis (Gries 2011) to identify semantic similarities and differences in the analysed terms across the two languages (English and Italian) and across two registers (Italian texts and Italian interviews). The results - both in textual and graphical form - are twofold: first, they will provide a “map” of how specialized terms are synchronically similar/different across both bilingual and monolingual settings. Second, they will shed light on the their uses and how these affect meanings and connotations of the analysed terms.

This paper draws on the evolutionary model of linguistic acts as overt influence attempts (OIA) and co-act proposals (CAP) (cf. Reich 2011, Tantucci 2016, 2017b) to observe the semasiological change (cf. Traugott & Dasher 2002) of the construction [there is no NP P] in British and American English. CAP theo ry draws on the new enactive view of social cognition, which is primarily grounded “in joint action (including, e.g. synchronised movements)’’ (cf. Engel et al., 2014:9). CAPs are ‘interested’ forms of ‘‘joint projects’’ (cf. Clark, 1996; Bangerter and Cla rk, 2003) which are inherently goal - oriented either at the physical or the epistemic level. Corpus - based data from the Corpus of Early English Books Online (EEBO) and the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA) show that [ there is no NP P ] originates as an existential construction (e.g. Fillmore 1968; Lyons 1975) expressing the objective impossibility of achieving some project: there is not a viable way to achieve p. It will then acquire an immediate intersubjective (I – I) meaning (cf. Tantucci 2013, 2 017a, 2017ab) expressing Sp/w's volitional stance based on what s/he expects Ad/r may ask his/her performing: I am preventively letting Ad/r know that I will not be persuaded to take part to the project p. In a subsequent phase of semasiological change, th e construction develops a new extended intersubjectified (E-I) usage, expressing a deontic meaning impinging on what any social persona would agree upon: no one would deny that the project p should not be pursued. Contrary to what the traditional Austinian - Searlean model would suggest (cf. Austin, 1962; Searle, 1969; Searle & Vanderveken, 1985), through each stage of reanalysis Sp/w’s utterances are not merely aimed at informing Ad/r. Rather, they occur as overt influence attempts in which Ad/r is expected to acknowledge p in the form of a co - action. The present case-study aims at shedding light on the enactive nature of linguistic acts, and the crucial role that the per - locutionary effects of utterances play throughout semantic-pragmatic reanalysis of a con struction. This is a completely novel approach to semantic change, as the ‘interested’ nature of the perlocutionary dimension is finally taken into account as a decisive element of reanalysis. This ‘enacted’ turn in semasiological studies has the advantag e of accounting for meaning as an ‘interested’ dimension rather than a merely symbolic one.

In this presentation we will describe a research programme that uses CADS as an interdisciplinary methodology in order to explore one of the most widely debated and complex questions of our digital society: how do individuals and groups seek to generate trust in digital environments? Two case studies are selected to this end. The first is selling and buying drugs in the Dark Net, specifically in the flagship crypto-drug market Silk Road. The second is promoting extreme far-right values via Facebook and Twitter by the groups Reclaim Australia and Britain First. Whilst clearly different in terms of the activities performed and the digital platforms used, both case studies centrally involve attempts at generating trust discursively. In crypto-drug markets, users seek to enhance their reputation within a highly competitive, extra-judicial environment by, for instance, offering advice about avoiding being scammed by other users. Similarly, the extreme far right groups Britain First and Reclaim Australia use social media posts to mobilise a range of themes across domains as varied as food certification and vaccines in order to inculcate and create a sense of trustworthiness in their values, while delegitimising those of their perceived enemies. In addition to presenting the key results of our case studies, our talk will include a (self-) critical reflection of what working with digital corpora entails from a technical and analytic perspective. Language data from digital environments are tied to the ‘structure’ of the platform through which they are published on the web. Creating a corpus of such data involves understanding this structure, which differs from platform to platform and which has a direct influence on both how the corpus tools can be used and on the language analysis itself. Through our case studies, we will reflect on how corpus linguistics methodologies may overcome the complexities of digital datasets as well as the current limitations faced. Finally, our presentation will reflect upon the challenges and opportunities of integrating CADS methods and policy-making and law enforcement practical needs.

Quanto è inscindibile il racconto della propria vita dal luogo in cui essa è (stata) vissuta? Da questa domanda trae spunto la ricerca effettuata sul Villaggio Artigiano di Modena Ovest, primo esempio in Italia di tale modello. Frutto dell’intuizione dell’allora sindaco Alfeo Corassori, il progetto rappresentò una vera e propria scommessa fondata sulla volontà di ricercare un nuovo immaginario da parte degli operai licenziati nel passaggio di produzione delle fabbriche modenesi dopo la seconda guerra mondiale. In pochi anni - tra il 1953 e il 1968 – l’area acquisita dalla pubblica amministrazione divenne la sede di 73 nuove aziende, che formarono la comunità del Villaggio Artigiano. Nella combinazione stessa delle due parole “Villaggio” e “Artigiano” risiede la sua unicità, espressa dal connubio materiale e linguistico “casa-laboratorio” - segno di una tipologia edilizia che rispondeva alle necessità lavorative ed abitative dei nuovi residenti. La forte caratterizzazione degli elementi architettonici - costruiti e poi modificati dagli artigiani stessi in funzione alle esigenze produttive - e di elementi comunitari quali l’esperienza lavorativa e la storia personale dei singoli ha dato vita ad una comunità legata dai forti principi valoriali, ed ha reso il Villaggio Artigiano un esempio virtuoso che ancora oggi - nonostante la crisi e la dismissione seriale dei laboratori - vive nei suoi abitanti. Sulla base dell’esperienza maturata durante le passate edizioni del Festival Periferico tenutesi all’interno del Villaggio Artigiano, questa ricerca si propone quindi di approfondire quella relazione tra spazio ed esperienze degli abitanti che ha dato vita al “luogo” Villaggio Artigiano.

2016

This paper critically explores how notions deployed in the theorisation of (im)politeness (a) are currently deployed or reflected in studies of intersubjectivity or intersubjectification, or (b) might have potential in the study of intersubjectivity or intersubjectification. We will examine in particular three areas. The first is ‘face’. Discussions of language change have drawn on the traditional politeness model Brown and Levinson (1987). It has been suggested that politeness oriented to positive face promotes language change, whereas politeness oriented to negative face retards language change (Wheeler 1994). However, the categories positive and negative politeness have been criticised for including within them disparate elements (cf. Jucker 2008, 2011; Leech 2014) (see also: Beeching 2007, linking aspect of face to propagation/innovation in semantic change, and Traugott & Dasher 2002: 228, on the semasiology of honorific social deictics in Japanese). Moreover, they ignore the ‘intersubjectivity’ captured in Goffman's (1967) original definition of face. The second is reciprocity. The notion of reciprocity in social interaction perhaps evolves from Gouldner (1960), a social psychologist. Reciprocity has been somewhat u nderplayed in studies of politeness, but its importance is acknowledged (cf. Culpeper 2011; Leech 2014). Put simply, a speaker who produces an utterance in a particular context with a certain level of politeness puts the addressee under pressure to reciprocate in kind. A diachronic approach to reciprocity can be operationalized by looking at the ‘resonance ’ of constructions of politeness throughout a speech event. In dialogic syntax, resonance is intended as the catalytic activation of constructional affinities across utterances (cf. Du Bois & Giora 2014). We will explore the potential of this model for incorporating the crucial role played by reciprocity in the study of politeness within a usage-based framework to language change. The third is the role of conventionalised politeness expressions. Although there is some debate about whether politeness can be inherent in language, most researchers accommodate the idea that particular expressions become at least semi-conventionalised for certain politeness values in specific contexts. Watts (2003) refers to this as ‘politic behaviour’; Terkourafi (e.g. 2001, 2005 ) accounts for such expressions in her ‘frame-based’ theory of politeness. The important point here, as Terkourafi (e.g. 2001) points out, is that the usage of such expressions demonstrates to others knowledge of community norms. During our discussion we will draw examples and mini-case studies from historical English data, especially the diachronic 1.6 billion word Hansard Corpus (British Parliament), 1803-2005.

This presentation is based on a study aimed at characterising the discourse of ‘ordinary citizens’ who become influential in Twitter. The study is motivated by two gaps in knowledge. Firstly, social network science research has shown that open web systems develop in ways whereby small groups of users (10% - 20%) attract inordinate levels of attention (Cha et al 2010). The discourse features of these influential users, however, remain largely unknown.

In analysing and modelling the Tuscany regional system of innovation “poles”, we first analysed the network of agents in which the poles were engaged in the three years of their start-up phase of activity. By examining systematically all available information on websites we then focused on two objectives: (i) to analyse the variety of language and content that characterize the poles in their online activities; (ii) to examine the extent poles refer to the same institutions, enterprises, organizations, projects, and among these, organizations / or activities directly related to them (such as the companies managing the poles laboratories, incubators, the adherents), what we can call their “virtual network”.

2014

2013

The notions of chunking and collocational networks are central to linguistics (e.g. Bybee 2010; McEnery 2006, 2012); chunking has been described as follows: “When two or more words are often used together, they […] develop a sequential relation, [… known] as ‘chunking’ […]. The strength of the sequential relations is determined by the frequency with which the two words appear together. […] The frequency with which sequences of units are used has an impact on their phonetic, morphosyntactic and semantic properties.

2012

This paper focuses upon research aimed at providing a more detailed definition of dysphemisms and euphemisms in the context of a constructional approach to language (e.g. Goldberg 2006). In the last decades increasing attention has been devoted to taboo language, swearing and impoliteness, with a focus on so-called swearwords (also dysphemisms) and euphemisms - (e.g. Allan and Burridge 2006; McEnery 2006). To provide an understanding of how taboo language works, I propose a constructional approach centred on dysphemisms and euphemisms.

This paper focuses upon research aimed at providing a more detailed definition of dysphemisms and euphemisms in the context of a constructional approach to language (e.g. Goldberg 2006). In the last decades increasing attention has been devoted to taboo language, swearing and impoliteness, with a focus on so-called swearwords (also dysphemisms) and euphemisms - (e.g. Allan and Burridge 2006; McEnery 2006). To provide an understanding of how taboo language works, I propose a constructional approach centred on dysphemisms and euphemisms.

This paper focuses upon research aimed at providing a more detailed definition of dysphemisms and euphemisms in the context of a constructional approach to language (e.g. Goldberg 2006). In the last decades increasing attention has been devoted to taboo language, swearing and impoliteness, with a focus on so-called swearwords (also dysphemisms) and euphemisms - (e.g. Allan and Burridge 2006; McEnery 2006). To provide an understanding of how taboo language works, I propose a constructional approach centred on dysphemisms and euphemisms.