Virtual Seminar (II): First-Order Languaging Dynamics and Second-Order Language: The Distributed Language View of Agency

Paul J. Thibault

Paul J. Thibault

When: Tuesday April 2, 2013, 8:30–9:30 pm Hawai’i time.

Paul J. Thibault
Faculty of Humanities and Education,                      University of Agder, Dept. of Nordic and Media Studies

As part of SLS 750, Social media, agency, and languaging (Course site:; Instructor: Dr. Dongping Zheng),  a virtual guest lecture will be provided by Paul Thibault. Those interested may attend the lecture and participate in discussion virtually by logging in to a virtual room in Blackboard Collaborate.In case your computer does not have Java installed, you can download it from (it works best if you run this java download first)

First-Order Languaging Dynamics and Second-Order Language:
The Distributed Language View of Agency

This talk articulates some aspects of an emerging perspective shift on language: the distributed view. According to this view, languaging behavior and its organization is irreducible to the formal abstracta that have characterized the focus on a de Saussure-type system of formal regularities in mainstream linguistics over the past century. Language, in the distributed view, is a radically heterogeneous phenomenon that is spread across diverse spatiotemporal scales ranging from the neural to the cultural. It is not localizable on any one of them, but it involves

complex interactions between phenomena on many different scales. A crucial distinction is thus presented and explained, viz. first-order languaging and second-order language. The former is grounded in the intrinsic expressivity and interactivity of human bodies-in-interaction. Second-order patterns emanate from the cultural dynamics of an entire population of interacting agents on longer, slower cultural-historical time-scales. The talk also engages in a dialogue with Gibson’s (1966/1983, 1979/1986) ecological theory of perception-action. An analysis of a video-recorded interaction illustrates some aspects of the integration of scales involved in the whole-body sense-making that is talk. This talk also extends Systemic Functional Linguistics and accentuate agency and consciousness in the extended human ecology

Paul J. Thibault is professor in linguistics and communication studies in the Faculty of Humanities and Education, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway. He also currently holds the posts of Honorary Professor in the School of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Beijing Normal University and Honorary Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Hong Kong. He has held full-time appointments in the University of Hong Kong (2009-2012), Lingnan University, Hong Kong (2002), the University of Venice (1994-2005), the University of Padua (1992-1994), the University of Bologna (1984-1986, 1990-1992), and the University of Sydney (1986-1988), and Murdoch University (1982-1983). He completed his Ph.D., which was supervised by Professor M. A. K. Halliday and Professor Roger Fowler, at the University of Sydney in 1985. He is the recipient of various honours and awards, including, most recently, a University of Cambridge/University of Hong Kong Doris Zimmern research fellowship at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge (2011). He is on the Editorial Boards of the following journals:  Language Sciences, Language and Sociocultural Theory, Social Semiotics, and Text & Talk. He was a member of the international Organizing Committee of the 1st International Conference on Interactivity, Language and Cognition (CILC2012) held at the University of Southern Denmark, Odense campus, 12th-14th September 2012.  He is co-editor (with Anthony Baldry) of the book series English Linguistics and ELT, published by Equinox, London. His research interests include: distributed language and cognition, discourse analysis, functional grammar and semantics, educational linguistics, language development, multimodality and multimodal corpora, social theory, the bodily basis of cognition and semiosis, narrative theory, and philosophy of mind. His published books include: Social Semiotics as Praxis (Minnesota, 1991), Re-reading Saussure (Routledge, 1997), Discussing Conversation Analysis: The work of Emanuel A. Schegloff (ed., Benjamins, 2003), Language and Interaction: Discussions with John J. Gumperz (ed., Benjamins, 2003), Brain, Mind, and the Signifying Body: An ecosocial semiotic theory (Continuum, 2004), Agency and Consciousness in Discourse: Self-other dynamics as a complex system (Continuum, 2004), Multimodal Transcription and Multimodal Text Analysis (with Anthony Baldry) (Equinox, 2006) together with articles and book chapters. He is currently working on two new book-length projects: (1) Language, Body, World: A critical rereading of Hjelmslev; and (2) Distributed Language: The extended human ecology.

Contact Information:

Faculty of Humanities and Education,

University of Agder,
Dept. of Nordic and Media Studies,
Building E, Room 2.054,
Postboks 422,
NO-4604 Kristiansand S.,
tel. +47 38141058 (work)


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