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Pawel Sickinger, Dipl. trans., Research assistant

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Phone:+49 (0)228 73-7308

Office hours summer term 2017

### On Wednesday 21.06., the office hours will start at 12am (one hour early) and only run for 45 minutes - please plan accordingly if you intend to come by!###

Also please note: I will be out of office from the 22.06. to the 21.08. on parental leave. For most of this time period, I will also be unable to respond to emails. In urgent matters, contact BAEL ( or one of my colleagues to see if they can help you or get into contact with me.

Research interests

My research interests include:

  • Semantics, cognitive semantics, cross-cultural semantics
  • Language processing, experimental methods in psycholinguistics
  • Pragmatics, pragmatic competence, speech act analysis, experimental pragmatics, pragmatics and game theory
  • Translation studies, cognitive translation studies, models of translation processing

PhD thesis


Mental Models across Languages

Baldness terms in German, English and Japanese

Cognitive linguistics, as part of the overarching project of the cognitive sciences, has been making attempts to redefine our general theory of language and thought for decades. A common theme to these new approaches to linguistic meaning is their intent to describe language in the mind in a way that is compatible with what we have learned about human cognition, respects limitations brought about by this knowledge, that is open to empirical verification and that provides a realistic picture of how linguistic processes can be instantiated in human brains and bodies.

While the present thesis does not directly add to this line of research, it builds upon theories and models derived from it and attempts to construct a theory of translation compatible with and informed by it. Specifically, the traditional problem of translational equivalence is readdressed from a cognitive perspective. This new approach to translation processes is based on a model of language as an alternative activation route for conceptual contents that uses parameterized cues to perform perceptual simulation (largely based on work by Lawrence Barsalou, Rolf Zwaan, Jerome Feldman and George Lakoff). I suggest that when applied to translation processing, this entails that equivalence between texts is established through mental simulation of the respective cognitive effects on readers, crucially involving theory of mind capacities. Translators, or at least so I argue, base their intuitive judgments of success in finding equivalent target language counterparts in translation work on this kind of internal simulation of reception.

The second part of the thesis presents an empirical study that tries to further investigate this phenomenon from a cross-linguistic perspective. Using the concept BALDNESS as an exemplary case, I assume that cognizers have access to a perceptual simulation of visual representations of BALDNESS independent of specific linguistic forms lexicalized for this conceptual domain. In an experiment that is a methodological inversion of William Labov’s famous cup experiment, I asked informants to design visual representations matching linguistic stimuli from a lexical field that I call baldness terms. This design process takes place in the controlled environment of an online computer program specifically created for this purpose. The resulting pairs of terms and visual representations serve as a corpus from which mental ‘maps’ for the concept in each respective language are constructed. The overall structure of these maps as well as interesting individual phenomena are then compared across languages.

Given that the general assumptions behind my approach can be defended, the empirical findings offer a new way of comparing and delineating concepts across languages, e.g. providing a visual-conceptual metric for determining denotative equivalence for pairs of terms. The results are seen as contributing to the overall project of grounding lexical semantics in a cognitive-psychological perspective. At the same time they are intended to demonstrate that translation studies can tremendously benefit from a cognitive perspective on both translating as a linguistic activity and lexical meaning in general.

Further information and press coverage:

German summary of the thesis


Summer 2013

  • Language Processing (Übung)

Winter 2013/2014

  • Language Acquisition (Übung)

Summer 2014

  • Cognitive Approaches to Language and Communication: Blending, Relevance and Conceptual Metaphor

Winter 2014/15

  • Language Acquisition (Übung)

Summer 2015

  • B.A.: Language in the Mind: The Mental Lexicon
  • M.A.: Language Processing (Übung)

Winter 2015/16

  • M.A.: Translation Studies
  • M.A.: Language Acquisition

Summer 2016

  • M.A.: Language Processing

Winter 2016/17

  • M.A.: Applied Linguistics: An Overview
  • M.A.: Language Acquisition
  • B.A.: Analysing Formal and Functional Features of Texts



  • Sickinger, Pawel (2012): Mental Models and Linguistic Cues: Investigating the interface between language and mental representation across cultures. In: Cognitive Psycholinguistics: Bilingualism, Cognition and Communication (LAUD Linguistic Agency)


  • Sickinger, Pawel & Schneider, Klaus P. (2014): Pragmatic competence and the CEFR: Pragmatic profiling as a link between theory and language use. Linguistica 54/1, 113-127.


  • Sickinger, Pawel (forthcoming): “Medium, tool or breeding ground? A cognitive linguistic perspective on the role of language and literature in countercultural thought” to appear in issue 4 of "Cultural Encounters and Transfers", Königshausen und Neumann
  • Sickinger, Pawel (forthcoming): "Aiming for Cognitive Equivalence: Empirically mapping visual representations and linguistic items across languages" to appear in a special issue of "Research in Language, De Gruyter
  • Sickinger, Pawel (in preparation): "Mental Models across Languages - Baldness terms in German, English and Japanese", to appear as a monogaph in the series "Human Cognitive Processing", John Benjamins



  • 28-01-2012: "Linguistic Relativity - A pragmatic perspective" at Pragmatics and Beyond (First Bonn Applied English Linguistics Conference), Bonn
  • 27-03-2012: "When in Rome, think as the Romans do: The role of cultural cognition in a model of pragmatic competence" with Professor Klaus P. Schneider at 35th International LAUD Symposium, Landau
  • 27-03-2012: "Mental Models and Linguistic Cues: Investigating the interface between language and mental representation across cultures" at 35th International LAUD Symposium, Landau


  • 08-02-2013: "Pragmatic Competence, Pragmatic Profiling and Cultural Cognition" with Elisabeth Hampel at English Profile Seminar no. 14, Cambridge
  • 21-05-2013: “Doing things with linguistics: Applications of pragmatic research outside the ivory tower”, roundtable with Ilka Flöck, Sabine Jautz and Susanne Strubel-Burgdorf, BAELc2, Bonn

  • 07-11-2013: “Translation, simulation and theory of mind: A perception-based model of decision making in translating”, Forum Linguistik, Bonn


  • 21-05-2014: “Wann ‚beherrsche‘ ich eine Sprache? Pragmatische Kompetenz in Spracherwerb und Sprachevaluation” with Hannah Aengenvoort at Dies Academicus, Bonn University
  • 06-06-2014: “Medium, tool or breeding ground? A cognitive linguistic perspective on the role of language and literature in countercultural thought”, workshop "Mightier than the Sword", FSP Kulturelle Begegnungen – Kulturelle Konflikte, Innsbruck
  • 01-11-2014. “The Root of all Meaning: Embodied, simulated meaning as the basis of translational equivalence." at Translata II, Innsbruck
  • 03-12-2014:"Schule und Sprachwissenschaft - Zwei Welten ohne Berührungspunkte?" with Elina Loewen at Dies Academicus, Bonn University


  • 19-02-2015: "Bilinguales Handeln im kognitiven Prozess des Übersetzers: Ein empirischer Versuch zur Frage der Bedeutungskonstanz zwischen Sprachen." at Kolloquium zur Mehrsprachigkeitsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
  • 20-05-2015: “Measuring Pragmatic Phenomena: What is there to gain by importing experimental methodology into pragmatics?” at BAEL Research Day, Bonn University
  • 24-07-2015: “Lexical Variation and Conceptual Representation across Languages: Exploring the structure of lexical fields from an embodied perspective” at ICLC-13, Newcastle
  • 02-12-2015:"Experimental Pragmatics and Game Theory: Initial considerations" at BAEL Research Day, Bonn University


  • 10-05-2016: "The Value of 'Cheap Signals' - Where and why game theory needs linguistics" at BAEL Research Day, Bonn University
  • 28-09-2016: "Challenges for EFL speakers in multinational organisations: Focussing on idiomatic language use." with Terry Haggerty, Gaby Axer and Elisabeth Hampel at the GAL Kongress 2016, University of Koblenz-Landau
  • 28-09-2016: "Assessing Pragmatic Competence in EFL Users: A perception study on differences between native speakers and learners of English" with Klaus P. Schneider and Katrin Renkwitz at the GAL Kongress 2016, University of Koblenz-Landau
  • 06-10-2016:"Divergence and Congruence in Distributed Conceptual Models: The case of BALDNESS in German, English and Japanese" at the 7th DGKL Conference, University of Essen

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