ERC Starting Grant 2019

Formal Models of Social Meaning and Identity Construction Through Language (SMIC)

The role of colloquial expressions in the construction of personal identities

You probably know that using common forms of expressions like "drinkin" instead of "drinking" can influence how you are perceived. But do you know how the listener’s brain makes such an assessment? The idea that society influences the way we perceive and present ourselves is one of the most powerful of the last 25 years, and language plays a critical role in the process. Although identity construction through language is a fundamental notion in the humanities and social sciences, we do not yet have a precise picture of how the mechanism operates in our brains.

Dr Heather Burnett based her research project on the idea that the brain uses processes that are similar to other kinds of linguistic communication. She will formalise current sociolinguistic theories using game theory and will design a way to analyse the subtle information gathered from in the speaker's use of a particular expression and its role in the construction of personal identities. Dr Burnett's research result could unite diverse lines of research across the social, cognitive and information sciences and help advance the understanding of the relationship between social meaning and identity construction.

Dr Burnett achieved her PhD degree at the University of California, Los Angeles in the US. Since then she has held different postdoctoral positions in Canada, France and the US. In 2016, she joined the “Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle” at the CNRS where she works as a research scientist.

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