Marieke Schouwstra's website

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In November 2013, I joined the LEC, University of Edinburgh as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, with my research project Simulating conventionalisation in the lab. See my research overview.

The programme for the British Academy sponsored workshop Understanding the Nature of Human Language: New Methods can be found here. Note that this is an invitation-only event.

A pre-print version of our Cognition paper The semantic origins of language (co-authored with Henriette de Swart) can be found here. The actual article can be found here.

My dissertation is available here (see number 312 in the series), or here (pdf).


I was a PhD student for Cognitive Artificial Intelligence at Utrecht University, based at the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics (UiL OTS). The title of my dissertation is 'Cognitive structures, communicative strategies and the emergence of language', and it studies exactly that: the interplay between cognitive structures and communicative strategies in the early stages of the emergence of language, and meaning in language in particular.

I study the emergence of language by looking at 'simple language' in 'improvisation situations', most recently in lab experiments where people are asked to communicate about simple events by using only gesture and no speech. My aim is to show that semantic structures play a role in the emergence of early forms of syntax.

At the same time, I am interested in conceptual issues that come up when the emergence of human language is discussed. What is language? Is language uniquely human? What is meaning? What is the relation between linguistic meaning and mental representation in individuals?

Research topics I am interested in are:

  • Evolution of language
  • Natural language semantics
  • Philosophy of language
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Tense and aspect
  • Philosophy of mind


On December 19, 2011, my son Gijsbert was born. Here are some photos.

[this site is (permanently) under construction]
[but which website isn't?]