RUB » Department of Philosophy » Philosophy of Language and Cognition

PhD position in Reserach Training Group Situated Cognition (65% TV-L 13, 3 years)


Effects of enacted communication on meaning: Co-speech gestures and non-verbal signaling (Project 11)

Project Leader

Markus Werning


Application deadline: 10 February 2020

Start: 1 June 2020


According to the received view, the meaning of a sentence is compositionally determined by its syntactic structure and the lexical meanings of the words that figure therein (Werning, 2005). In face-to-face communication, however, meaning is often enacted. How the listener interprets the speaker’s communicative intentions also depends on co-speech gestures and non-verbal signaling. Their contributions to meaning may regard different linguistic levels: (i) the lexicon: e.g., uttering “John is sitting on an article” + wiggling up and down with fingers lets us interpret the verb sit on as typewriting (Dick et al., 2009); (ii) syntax/logical form: e.g., headshaking accompanying a sentence is interpreted as negation; (iii) information structure/focus: eyebrow raising or pitch accent on a word raises logical alternatives (Krifka, 1995). Enactment directly feeds into sentence meaning composition and immediately affects truth conditionss (Cosentino et al., 2017). Using an established correlation between surprisal and the N400-component in the event-related potential (Kuperberg and Jaeger, 2016), we will develop predictions of a Bayesian model of linguistic enrichment (Werning, Unterhuber and Wiedemann, 2019), test them in a series of EEG experiments and adjust our theory accordingly.

Project category

philosophy of language (40%), empirical study on language comprehension (60%)

Formal title:

Dr. phil. or PhD in philosophy


Very good master in Philosophy, Cognitive Science, Linguistics, or Psycholinguistics
The candidate should have very good competence in at least two of the following areas: philosophy of language, semantics/pragmatics, neuro-/psycholinguistics (e.g., EEG, eye-tracking)

How to apply & more information