This article promotes a point of view on human interaction in terms of dialogical systems. The approach draws on recent, so-called third wave, developments in cognitive science. After an introduction to three waves in cognitive science, and their counterparts in linguistics, the article is placed in a tradition that is ecological, embodied and distributed. Its specific take on human interaction pursues these perspectives by claiming that language can neither be reduced to social rules in the micro-sociological domain, nor to biological properties of the individual being. As an alternative to these two positions, a theory of dialogical systems is developed, on the basis of current thinking within the enactive program (e.g. De Jaegher and Di Paolo, 2007), the distributed language movement (e.g. Cowley, 2011b), and values-realizing theory (e.g. Hodges, 2009). Dialogical systems are systems of co-present human beings engaged in interactivity that bring forth situated behavioural coordination (or a communicative, structural coupling). Dialogical systems, however, have emergent properties irreducible to individual actions or microsocial norms. Among the emergent properties one find a tendency to establish and uphold equilibriums that balance between various, at times opposing, values and tensions. This approach is exemplified through an analysis of a real-life conversation between a mother and a health visitor.
Language Sciences, 2012, Vol 34, Issue 5, p. 513-531