Research interests | Research statement | Interviews | Invited talks

Research interests

Fictive Interaction (the intersection of language, interaction, and cognition), Cognitive Linguistics (mental spaces and conceptual blending), Discourse Studies, Argumentation (in litigation, philosophy), Language pathology (autism, aphasia).

Research statement

I am mostly interested in the interrelation between language, interaction and cognition. If human babies learn to interact long before they learn to speak, and if face-to-face conversation is the original and the most common form of communication, I am interested in the question: how is the structure of interaction reflected in language structure and language use? That is, what forms does the basic interactional pattern of turn-taking take in grammar and discourse? In addition, I’m interested in the communicative functions and effectiveness of interactional structures embedded in discourse. Are discursive and grammatical structures that mimic talk-in-interaction more communicative effective?


What I have called ‘fictive interaction’ (Pascual 2002, 2006, 2014; Pascual & Sandler eds. 2016) is a conceptual phenomenon that reflects the turn-taking pattern of ordinary conversation as the primary ground for language. In discourse and grammar, fictive interaction becomes manifest in non-information-seeking questions and question-answer pairs (e.g. “Any questions? Call our customer service”) and non-actual quotations (‘“I do” ring’; “hand-me-downs”). Little as it has been studied, fictive interaction is widespread across unrelated languages (spoken and signed) and probably a linguistic universal. It can also be used as successful communicative strategy in professional communication (marketing, political satire, legal argumentation) and in language pathology (aphasia, autism).


Overviews of fictive interaction can  be found in the introductory chapter with Sergeiy Sandler to our 2016 volume (here) and a chapter with Todd Oakley in the 2017 Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics (here).


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Universiteitskrant, University of Groningen, 2012

Nieuwsbrief Faculteit der Letteren, University of Groningen, 2010

– Newsletter Faculty of Arts (in Dutch), VU University Amsterdam, 2008


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Invited talks (selection)

– Plenary: “Una profesora en Marte: Estrategias pedagógicas de adaptación cultural a la enseñanza del español en China” [A professor on Mars: Pedagogical strategies for cultural adaptation to the teaching of Spanish in China] (online), international theme panel ‘Enseñar español en Asia: Subjetividad e interculturalidad’ [Teaching Spanish in Asia: Subjectivity and interculturality] (chairs: Á. Ascasubi and E. Romano), in the expert workshop ‘Interculturalidad, movilidades y lenguas” [Interculturality, Mobilities and Languages]. CLAS (Culture and Language Academic Services), Argentina and the Faculty of Spanish for Non-Spanish speakers (FENHI), Confucius Institute, University of Havana, Cuba, 29 Oct 2021. [Talk & debate]


– (with P. Fonseca and T. Oakley). “Enacting imagined conversations as multimodal strategy in satire.” International Multimodal Communication seminar, University of Oxford (online), 14 May 2021.


– “Interactional Cognitive Linguistics: Fictive speech at work”, Plenary lecture at the 11th China Cognitive Linguistics conference, Beijing International Studies University, Beijing, 2-3 November 2019.


– “Functional echolalia as adaptive communicative strategy in children with autism and young controls: A naturalistic study”, Plenary lecture at the 3rd Symposium on Discourse and Neurological Mechanisms of Special Speakers and Multimodal Research, Beijing Technology and Business University, Beijing, China, 18-20 Oct 2019.


– “Literacy and cognition: Effects on grammar and discourse”, Plenary lecture at the international Language and Cognition symposium, Dalian University, Dalian, China, 15-16 Jun 2019.


– “Autism: Diagnosis, treatment, and the road ahead”, ‘Green Apple Children Therapy Center’, Hangzhou, China, 30 Mar 2019.


– “The grammar of orality”. Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany. 6 Feb 2019.


– “Fictive interaction metaphors: Conversation as Source Domain in Thought and Language”, Plenary lecture, International Forum on Cognition, Metaphor and Thought, School of Foreign Studies, Jiangsu Normal University, Xuzhou, China, 29 Dec 2018.


– “Conversational structures in languages with and without writing”, Dept. of Social Sciences, Pablo de Olavide University, Sevilla, Spain, 26 Feb 2018.


– “Fictive interaction constructions: Finding intersubjectivity in grammar”. Dept. of Modern Philology, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Ciudad Real, Spain, 9 Feb 2018.


– “Tricks and treats for surviving and thriving in academia”, ‘Young Researchers’ Workshop, satellite event to the 7th international Conference on Language, Culture and Mind (LCM 7), Hunan University, Changsha, China, 30 May 2016.


– “A link between detail-oriented vision and speech? Two elicitation studies of Brazilian and Chinese children with autism”, 4rth Attentive Listener in the Visual World (AttLis) expert workshop, Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, Pilani, K K., Goa, India, 3-4 March 2017.


– “The Conversation Frame as driving force in language structure and use”, School of English Studies (SES), Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), Shanghai, China, 11 Dec 2017.


– “Linguistic meaning as emerging from talk-in-interaction”, 68th Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series, School of Foreign Languages, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, 15 May 2017.


“How Language Mirrors Conversation: A cross-linguistic study”, Plenary lecture, Yearly Conference of the Zhejiang Province Foreign Languages Association, Taizhou University, Taizhou, China, 28 Oct 2016.


– “The conversational nature of language: From cognition and grammar to expert communication and language pathology”, Plenary lecture at the 2nd Conference of the International Association for Cognitive Semiotics, Marie Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin, Poland, 20-22 June 2016. [Abstract]

– “When ‘Alô!’ means telephone: Non-constructed speech for non-reports by children with autism”, expert workshop ‘Between Direct and Indirect Speech’, University of Groningen, the Netherlands, 19 February 2016.

– “The conversational basis of grammar: From non-written languages to language pathology”, keynote address, ‘Yearly senior academic forum of the School of International Studies’, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, 18 December 2015.

– “Conversations within conversations: Fictive interaction in discourse, grammar and language pathology”, job talk, School of International Studies at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, 22 May 2015.

– “The conversational mind: Fictive interaction in everyday, professional, and aphasic discourse”, Dept. of Cognitive Science, Hunan University, Changsha, China, 16 May 2014.

– “‘Says who?’: Fictive interaction as communicative strategy in language for specific purposes”, Foreign Language School of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, 13 May 2014.

– “‘Say it with a conversation’: Fictive interaction as cognitive, communicative and linguistic phenomenon”, School of International Studies at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, 6 May 2014.

– “A ‘do-it-yourself’ construction: Forms and functions of fictive interaction across languages and discourse genres”, School of International Studies at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, 5 May 2014.

– “‘The What?’: The conversation frame in thought, grammar, and discourse”, ‘Grammar and Cognition’ group, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands, 11 Sep 2013.

– “When direct speech is not reported speech (or thought): An overview”, ‘Quotation and Depiction in Interaction’ Workshop, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, 8 Mar 2013.

– “The Conversation as a frame in language, discourse and cognition”, Dept. of Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, U.S.A.), 18 Apr 2011.

– (with R. Groenewold) “Deze is van ‘hee hier ben ik hoor, zie je me nog wel?’” Fictieve interactie in (semi-)spontane taal van afasiepatiënten” [“This is like ‘hey here I am, do you see me yet?’ Fictive interaction in (semi)spontaneous speech of aphasic patients”], STAK Foundation Aphasic Therapy Amsterdam (SAA), Haarlem, the Netherlands, 15 Jan 2011.

– “Mendigo o pordiosero?: Interacción fictiva en español” [“Beggar or ‘byGoder’: Fictive interaction in Spanish”], Dept. of Translation and Language Sciences, University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain, 24 Nov 2010.

– “Talk within talk: Fictive interaction as a simplex blend”, Blending and Discourse workshop, Centre for Social Practices and Cognition (SoPraCon), University of Southern Denmark, 1 Mar 2010.

– “Discours au tribunal: La production par le procureur du témoignage de la victime” [Discourse in court: The prosecutor’s presentation of the victim’s testimony], Dépt. des sciences de la société, University of Friburg, Switzerland, 13 Nov 2007.

– “(Aan)sprekende metaforen van vanzelfsprekend bewijs: Interactie en argumentatie in Amerikaanse, Vlaamse en Nederlandse strafrechtzaken” [“Telling metaphors and evidence that speaks for itself: Interaction and argumentation in American, Flemish and Dutch criminal trials”]. Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Documentatiecentrum (WODC), Ministry of Justice, The Hague, the Netherlands, 10 Oct 2006.

– “Text for context, trial for trialogue: Studying legal discourse through following a prosecutor around,” Panel ‘The pragmatics of institutional discourse: A panel honoring the work of Aaron V. Cicourel,’ chaired by Prof. Ch. Briggs, 9th International Pragmatics Conference. Riva del Garda, Italy, 12 Jul 2005.

– “Tips voor het schrijven van een proefschrift” [Tips for writing a PhD dissertation], Proefschriftendag [PhD day], VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 8 May 2003.

– “On a blend type: Fictive interaction networks across the literature and as manifested in judicial settings,” ‘The Blending Workshop,’ Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België (KVAB), Brussels, Belgium, 1 Apr 2003.

– “Fictive interaction or the intersection of language, interaction, and cognition”, Linguistics seminar, Department of Linguistics, University of Wales at Bangor, United Kingdom, 5 Feb 2003.

– (with M. Poblet) “Problemas de comunicación en los Tribunales de Justicia: Análisis de interrogatorios” [Communication problems in Courts of Justice: Analysis of witness questioning], Workshop on ‘Oral communication techniques’, Spanish General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Madrid, Spain, 6 Oct 1998.

– (with M. Poblet) “Preguntes retòriques i inferències als Tribunals de Justícia” [Rhetorical questions and inferences in court], Workshop on ‘Sociology of law: Interaction, organization, profession,’ Institut de Ciències Polítiques i Socials, Barcelona, Spain, 22 Sep 1998.

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Fictive interaction

    FI-egs Instances of fictive interaction© M. Holder