Pritty Patel-Grosz is Professor of Linguistics and heads the Super Linguistics Research Group at the University of Oslo. Her early interests include the syntax-semantics-pragmatics interface and psycholinguistics. She has conducted research on individual variables, agreement and anaphoric presuppositions. P. Patel-Grosz’s current research aims for a precise, rigorous, and predictive semantic theory of meaningful body movement. In collaboration with musicologists and primatologists, she has explored the semantics of narrative dance, and illustrated its similarities to linguistic semantics; this research is now being extended to non-human primates. Patel-Grosz was educated at University College London, and obtained a PhD in Linguistics from MIT.
Recent years have witnessed the application of formal linguistic methodology to objects of study that transcend language, such as music and visual representation. At the intersection of the abstract properties of music and the medium of visual representation, we find dance, a type of potentially meaningful body movement, which avails different tools to a dancer intending to communicate meaning. Novel findings from exploratory motion capture studies on Bharatanatyam dance (South Indian classical dance) reveal how movements and positions in space can be utilized to convey meaning. One of our conclusions is that dance may incorporate expressions that we find in language (such as reference tracking through designated positions in space), in addition to more abstract meanings. Extensions to music raise the question of whether dance/body movement that accompanies a given musical melody also inherits the same abstract meaning inferences.