Christine Sievers, MA

Academic Background:

After studying Linguistics at the Háskóli Íslands in Reykjavik/Iceland, I wrote my BA in Philosophy at the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen between 2006 and 2009.

From 2010 onwards I studied for an MA at the University of Erfurt and submitted my thesis "The Theory of Definite Descriptions and Speaker's Reference" in February 2013. My supervisor was Alex Burri.

Research Areas:

  • Animal Minds / Philosophy of mind
  • Philosophy of Language / Philosophy of Communication
  • Evolutionary origins of language and communication / Evolution of cognition

Current Research:

I am currently writing my PhD dissertation on "Intentional communication in non-human animals".

There I defend the thesis that empirical data of animal communication is best interpreted by focusing on flexibility in signal use and interactions between individuals in order to evaluate potential situations of intentional communication in non-human animals.

In defending this thesis I focus on elaborating the following points:

  • Verifying intentional communication in nonhuman animals by looking at potentially flexible uses of signals by the producer and receiver in specific contexts (e.g. travel initiations, food, consortship) to achieve their goals.
  • The semantics-pragmatics distinction
  • What does it mean for a communicative signal to be conventionalized?

Supervisors:  Markus Wild (Universität Basel) and Klaus Zuberbühler (Université de Neuchâtel)

Empirical Research

I investigate the use of 'travel hoo' vocalizations in chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest, Uganda.

(Article on my work in the field and my project: pdf [PDF (166 KB)] )


Exercise "Introduction to logic" (2012/13)

Proseminar "Sagen und Meinen: Die Sprachphilosophie von H.P. Grice" (Frühjahrsemeseter 2014)

Proseminar "Thinking animals: An introduction to the Animal Minds-Discussion" (Herbstsemester 2014)

Master-Seminar "What is culture?" jointly with Rebekka Hufendiek (Herbstsemester 2016)

Proseminar "Theory of mind in human and nonhuman animals" (FS 17)

Proseminar "Intentionality: from Brentano to naturalistic approaches" (FS 18)


Sievers, C., Wild, M. and Gruber, T.  (in press). Intentionality and flexibility in animal communication. In: Andrews. K. and Beck, J.(2017). The Handbook of the Philosophy of Animal Minds. Routledge. 

Sievers, C. and Gruber, T. (2016). Reference in human and nonhuman primate communication:  What does it take to refer? Animal Cognition. [PDF (234 KB)]

Townsend, S. W. and Sievers, C. (2015). Commentary on T. C. Scott-Phillips’ “Nonhuman Primate Communication, Pragmatics and the Origins of Language”. Current Anthropology 56: 72-73. [PDF (115 KB)]