Martina Wiltschko

Martina Wiltschko

Universitat Pompeu Fabra


In my graduate education at the University of Vienna, I was trained in theoretical linguistics with an emphasis on syntactic theory as well as interface-issues (syntax-morphology, syntax-semantics, and syntax-pragmatics). My primary language focus was on Germanic. After completing my graduate work I joined the department of linguistics at  the University of British Columbia first as a postdoctoral researcher (1996-2001) and later as a faculty member (2001-2019). During this time I expanded my language specialization to include Upriver Halkomelem (Salish), Blackfoot (Algonquian) and Ktunaxa (aka Kutenai). Thus, I became a field-worker.  I have published extensively on typological issues viewed from the angle of theoretical linguistics. During this time I also founded the "eh-lab", a research group exploring the language of interaction. My relocation to ICREA and UPF in 2019 marks a turn towards a more cognitively-oriented research agenda.

Research interests

I explore the building blocks of human language and how they relate to more general cognitive capacities. My empirical focus is on aspects of language that are restricted to conversational interaction, such as constructing common ground and regulating of turn-taking. My research has revealed that interactional language is as much part of our human-specific language capacity as representational language is, thus answering a classic question that has divided linguists for centuries. Language is an instrument for thought AND for communication. I now explore interactional language from a variety of different angles: Its acquisition; its place in the architecture of the human mind (including its relation to the construction of emotions); and its role in human-machine interaction. Thus, my research links to neighbouring fields, including philosophy (referential semantics, pragmatics), sociology (conversation analysis), and psychology (theory of mind), and artificial intelligence.

Selected publications

- Dingemanse M, Liesenfeld A, Rasenberg M, et al. 2023, 'Beyond Singleā€Mindedness: A Figureā€Ground Reversal for the Cognitive Sciences', Cognitive Science, 47(1), e13230.

Selected research activities

-I started work on my MINECO grant on "The role of interactional language in human-machine interactions. What can we learn from mindless interactants" (INTERACT).
-I was invited to teach at LOT (Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics with a week-long course on "The syntax of Talking heads".
-I started to disseminate my research results for a general public in the form of blogposts published on Medium.