Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Bar-On

The Expression, Communication, and the Origins of Meaning (ECOM) Research Group is an interdisciplinary research group founded by Professor Dorit Bar-On (Philosophy) in 2010 at UNC-Chapel Hill and moved with her to UConn in 2014. The group has both faculty and graduate student members from a number of different departments at UConn, including linguistics, psychology, cognitive science, and philosophy.


The research aim of the ECOM Research Group is to investigate the origins – both developmental and evolutionary – of distinctively human capacities and practices, such as linguistic communication, social mindedness, and morality.

As an interdisciplinary research group, ECOM is committed to promoting ties among scholars across departments within UConn and beyond. To date, ECOM has held 4 successful workshops at UConn (with generous support from IBACS, UCHI, CLAS and Philosophy):

  • “What’s the Point?” (on pointing and gestural communication), March 2015
  • “Expressive Language: Semantics, Pragmatics, and Origins”, November 2015
  • “What’s in a Word?” (on the theoretical linguistic and psychological significance of the category of words), December 2016
  • “Human and Nonhuman Animals: Minds & Morals”, May 2017
  • In April 2018, ECOM will hold a workshop titled “Emotions and Expressions”.
  • ECOM is currently planning a major UConn interdisciplinary conference for next year on Expression, Music, and Language, which we hope will result in an edited volume.

ECOM workshops bring together nationally and internationally known researchers from a number of related disciplines, as well as earlier career researchers (including graduate students). In addition, ECOM has an annual speaker series, and regular group discussions. With these regular activities ECOM is able to provide a structured forum for conducting in-depth discussions that introduce students and faculty from several departments to cutting-edge research on ECOM-related topics, and a platform for sharing results and disseminating work in academic venues. ECOM members regularly give talks and publish papers (some co-authored) on ECOM-related topics. At present, the group is exploring ways to obtain external funding for the purpose of establishing internships that would support UConn-based cross-disciplinary collaborative work (with special emphasis on collaborations between the sciences and humanities.)

ECOM goals are threefold:

  • Project-specific: to identify, articulate, and analyze major themes in contemporary investigations across a number of disciplines (both within philosophy and in other disciplines) that center on centers on ECOM-related themes
  • Exemplary: to exemplify the creation of a formal humanities-friendly structure for sharing and discussing broad-based research, as well as for planning and implementing collaborative work among professors and students whose research
  • Visionary: to lay a foundation for a future interdisciplinary program using as models existing programs (such as the Center for Language Evolution at the University of Edinburgh)

Dorit Bar-On (ECOM Director):

Dorit Bar-On received her BA in Philosophy and Linguistics from Tel Aviv University, and her MA and PhD from UCLA. She joined the UConn Philosophy faculty in 2014, after serving on the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill for many years. In addition to numerous articles in major philosophical journals and volumes, on topics such as meaning and interpretation, conceptual relativism, deflationism, self-knowledge, introspection, and ethical expressivism, Bar-On published an influential book titled Speaking My Mind: Expression and Self-Knowledge (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2004). More recently, she has been working on the topic of continuities between linguistic and non-linguistic communication and expressive behavior. Since joining the faculty at UConn Bar-On has given more than 50 talks and presentations in 11 countries on ECOM-related topis. She has received an NSF grant for collaborative research and has been a fellow at the National Humanities Center and the Wissenschaftskollege in Berlin. Next year, Bar-On will be a fellow at the UConn Humanities Institute, where she will be working on a book manuscript titled Expression, Communication, and the Origins of Meaning (under contract with Oxford University Press).