Questioning ventriloquism


  • John A. Barnden University of Birmingham



fiction-based models, language pragmatics, metaphor, ventriloquism


Cooren (2014) argues that a ventriloquism metaphor for communication can provide a unified perspective on seven traditions in the study of communication. This Discussion Note does not argue for or against the idea that a suitably deployed and motivated ventriloquism metaphor can do this. Instead, the Note expresses some concerns about whether Cooren does suitably deploy, motivate, and support ventriloquism as a metaphor for communication. The concerns are about whether ventriloquism as opposed to a simpler personification-based view should be used, and whether two different notions of ventriloquism are being adequately considered. I also point to a complication that should be embraced in how one should analyse back-ventriloquism, i.e., people being ventriloquized by their own dummies, as suggested by Cooren. None of the concerns are fatal to Cooren’s enterprise, but rather point to the need for a more refined untangling of issues.

Author Biography

John A. Barnden, University of Birmingham

Professor of Artificial Intelligence

School of Computer Science




How to Cite

Barnden, J. A. (2015). Questioning ventriloquism. Language Under Discussion, 2(1), 35–40.