Lecture by Per Linell

Senior Professor in the Department of Education, Communication and Learning at Gothenburg University, Sweden

Wednesday, April 15 at 7:00 pm. Confer Hall 127

The issue of individualism vs collectivism has been legion in the human and social sciences for centuries.5107dw8sraL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ In this presentation I would like to discuss the case of human (”natural”) language. Is language a property of individuals or a collective phenomenon?

One way to pose the question is to ask who or what determines the structure and shape of utterances: individual agency, or impersonal systems or processes? I will show that the answers have vacillated over time within linguistics and the language sciences. Yet, I I will argue that none of these alternatives is workable in isolation. Instead I suggest that the solution must be provided by interactionism or – more precisely – dialogism.

This solution rests on the assumption that primacy is assigned to languaging (language use) rather than to an underlying language system. At least two arguments for this stance will be outlined. One of them focuses on the self–other interdependencies that permeate languaging and sense-making. The second one deals with developmental aspects (from non-language to language).

The initial problem (individuality vs collectivity) is related to the relation between subjectivity vs objectivity. Here too I suggest that intersubjectivity is more basic than the latter two. But intersubjectivity in turn presupposes interactivity.


Linell, Per. 2009. Rethinking Language, Mind, and World Dialogically: Interactional and contextual theories of human sense-making. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

The visit of Professor Linell is sponsored by de Departments of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Scandinavian Studies, English, Communication Studies and the Provost Office.


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