John W. Du Bois


Office Location

South Hall 3520


Discourse and grammar; sociocultural linguistics; referential pragmatics; grammaticization and emergence; complex adaptive linguistics; corpus linguistics; transcription; Mayan languages


One of the things that keeps me coming back to language is the way it combines so many different levels of organization into one integrated unit. A simple exchange of utterances between two speakers contains a virtual microcosm of meaning, structure, prosody, pragmatics, interpretation, interaction, cognition--all the issues that linguists have found interesting enough to build disciplines and theories around. Understanding the organization of complexity in language provides deep intellectual challenges. I find it interesting to ask how grammars coordinate different layers of function--expressing semantic relations and managing information, for example--as they co-exist and compete for control of the organization of linguistic structures, like the clause. I see grammar as resolving competing motivations in systematic ways, thus driving the self-organization of grammatical systems and the emergence of complexity in linguistic structure--a really exciting new perspective for linguistics today.

Recently I've been interested in what happens when participants in conversation build off each other, reusing words, structures and other linguistic resources just used by a prior speaker. In dialogic syntax, as I call it, parallelism of structure across utterances foregrounds similarities in function, but also brings out differences. Participants notice even the subtlest contrasts in stance--epistemic, affective, illocutionary, and so on--generated by the resonance between juxtaposed utterances. The theories of dialogic syntax and stance are closely related, and I’m currently working on exploring this linkage--one more example of figuring out how language works on multiple levels simultaneously, uniting structure, meaning, cognition, and social interaction.


1981 Ph.D, University of California, Berkeley

Current Projects


2014 Du Bois, John W. “Towards a Dialogic Syntax.” Cognitive Linguistics 25(3): 359–410.
2014 Du Bois, John W., Hobson, R. Peter & Hobson, Jessica A. “Dialogic resonance and intersubjective engagement in autism.” Cognitive Linguistics 25(3): 411–441.
2014 Du Bois, John W. & Giora, Rachel. “From cognitive-functional linguistics to dialogic syntax.” Cognitive Linguistics 25(3): 351–357.
2014 Giora, Rachel and John W. Du Bois, eds. Dialogic Resonance: Activating Affinities Across Utterances. (Special Issue) Cognitive Linguistics 25(3).
2014 Du Bois, John W. “Motivating competitions.” In MacWhinney, Brian, Malchukov, Andrej L. & Moravcsik, Edith (Eds.), Competing motivations in grammar and usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 263-281.

2012 Du Bois, John W. & Kärkkäinen, Elise. “Taking a Stance on Emotion: Affect, Sequence, and Intersubjectivity in Dialogic Interaction.” Text and Talk 32(4): 433–451.

2012 Hobson, R. Peter, Jessica A. Hobson, Rosa M. García-Pérez, & John W. Du Bois. “Dialogic Linkage and Resonance in Autism.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 42(12): 2718-2728.

2011 Du Bois, John W. “Co-Opting Intersubjectivity: Dialogic Rhetoric of the Self.” The rhetorical emergence of culture, eds. Christian Meyer and Felix Girke, 52-83. Oxford: Berghahn.

2009 Du Bois, John W. “Interior Dialogues: The Co-Voicing of Ritual in Solitude.” Ritual Communication, ed. by Ellen B. Basso and Gunter Senft, 317-340. Oxford: Berg.

2007 Du Bois, John W. “The Stance Triangle.” Stancetaking in Discourse: Subjectivity, Evaluation, Interaction, ed. by Robert Englebretson, 139-182. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

2006 Du Bois, John W. “The Pear Story in Sakapultek Maya: A Case Study of Information Flow and Preferred Argument Structure.” Haciendo Lingüística: Homenaje a Paola Bentivoglio, eds. Mercedes Sedano, Adriana Bolívar and Martha Shiro, 191-221. Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela.

2000-2005. Du Bois, John W., Wallace L. Chafe, Charles Meyer, Sandra A. Thompson, Robert Englebretson, and Nii Martey. Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English, Parts 1-4. Philadelphia: Linguistic Data Consortium.

2003 Du Bois, John W., Lorraine E. Kumpf, and William J. Ashby, eds. Preferred Argument Structure: Grammar as Architecture for Function. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

2003 Du Bois, John W. “Argument Structure: Grammar in Use.” Preferred Argument Structure: Grammar as Architecture for Function, ed. by John W. Du Bois, Lorraine E. Kumpf, and William J. Ashby, 11-60. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

2003 Du Bois, John W. “Discourse and Grammar.” The New Psychology of Language: Cognitive and Functional Approaches to Language Structure, Vol. 2, ed. by Michael Tomasello, 47-87. London: Erlbaum.


  • Linguistics 124: Discourse Analysis     
  • Linguistics 130: Language as Culture           
  • Linguistics 170: Language in Social Interaction
  • Linguistics 212: Discourse Transcription                             
  • Linguistics 217: Discourse and Grammar     
  • Linguistics 228: Discourse Practice and Social Interaction
  • Linguistics 253A-B: Seminar in Semantics and Pragmatics
    - Recent seminar topic: Referential Pragmatics
  • Linguistics 254A-B: Seminar in Discourse
    - Recent seminar topics: Dialogic Syntax, Stance and Evidentiality in Interaction
  • Linguistics 258A-B: Seminar in Sociocultural Linguistics
    - Recent seminar topics: Authority and Ritual Language; Stance and Intersubjectivity: Epistemic and Affective Alignment in Interaction