Philippe SCHLENKER: LLC Lecture 2019 (and one more talk the day before)

The LLC Lecture 2019 will be held by Philippe SCHLEKER on Thursday 5 December 2019 (all details below).


Prof. SCHLENKER will also give a talk on Wednesday 4 December (16-18) on What is supersemantics? This talk will be in Aula di Antica (Palazzo Nuovo, second floor), included in the MA course in Philosophy of Language held by Prof. Matteo Plebani.



LLC Lecture 2019


5 December 2019

15.00 – 17.00


Sala Lauree Terracini

Palazzo Nuovo (ground floor)

via Sant'Ottavio 20, Torino



Philippe SCHLENKER (Institut Jean Nicod Paris and NYU)


Meaning in sign, in speech, and in gestures


Contemporary linguistics has established three results. 1) Sign languages, used by deaf communities throughout the world, are full- fledged languages that share typological properties among themselves and also with spoken languages. 2) Sign languages have the same “logical spine” as spoken languages, but sometimes they make the logical structure of sentences far more explicit than in the case of spoken language. A salient case concerns logical variables, which are covert in spoken language but are realized overtly in sign language by way of positions in signing space. 3) But in addition, sign languages have rich iconic possibilities, including at their logical core. For instance, logical variables can simultaneously function as simplified iconic representations of their denotations. By contrast, iconic possibilities exist but are limited in the spoken modality. Should we conclude (from 2 and 3) that sign languages are more expressive than spoken languages, since they have the same logical spine but richer iconic possibilities? For the comparison to be complete, one must re-integreate into spoken language semantics the study of co-speech gestures, which have rich iconic capabilities. But we will argue that even when sign language is compared to speech-plus-gestures, sign languages have an entire class of expressive possibilities that spoken languages mostly lack.




Philippe SCHLENKER is a senior researcher at CNRS (Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris) and a Global Distinguished Professor at New York University.  He was educated at École Normale Supérieure (Paris), and obtained a Ph.D. in Linguistics from MIT, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from EHESS (Paris). He has taught at École Normale Supérieure, Paris, at the University of Southern California, at UCLA, and, since 2008, at NYU. P. Schlenker’s early interests included semantics, pragmatics, the philosophy of language and philosophical logic. He has conducted research on indexicals  and indirect discourse, intensional semantics, anaphora, presuppositions, as well as semantic paradoxes. In recent work, he has advocated a program of 'super semantics' that seeks to expand the traditional frontiers of the field. He has investigated the semantics of sign languages, with special attention both to their logical structure and to the rich iconic means that interact with it. In order to have a point of comparison for these iconic phenomena, P. Schlenker has also investigated the logic and typology of gestures in spoken language.  In collaborative work with primatologists and psycholinguists, he has laid the groundwork for a 'primate semantics' that seeks to apply the general methods of formal linguistics to primate vocalizations. And in ongoing research, he has advocated the development of a detailed semantics for music, albeit one that is very different from linguistic semantics.