ICCA2018: Panel – Non-lexical vocalisations in interaction

Keevallik and Ogden organized a panel of 11 presentations on different non-lexical vocalisations at ICCA2018.

In order of presentation, the panel included:

Samu Pehkonen. Vocalising (dis) affiliation with a running buddy:h(h)uh huh prefaced turns in Finnish

Edward Reynolds. “When I heard the O! I was like ooh ooh”: the phonetics of flooding out

Elliott Hoey. Waiting to inhale: On the placement of sniffing in talk-in-interaction

Elisabeth Reber & Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen. On the sound object “whistle” in English everyday conversation

Inga-Lill Grahn et al. Vocalisations of pain & effort – phonetical patterns, sequential emergence & action ascription

Saul Albert & Dirk vom Lehn. Vocalizations as evaluative assessments in a novice partner dance workshop

Heike Baldauf-Quilliatre. “Pff” in German & French interactions. Cross-linguistic analyses of a voiceless sound object

Leelo Keevallik. The social organisation of strain grunts

Xiaoting Li. Clicks in Mandarin interaction

Emily Hofstetter. Non-lexical ‘moans’: response cries in board game interactions

Richard Ogden. Non-lexical vocalizations in interaction: an interactional linguistic perspective

Ogden’s talk summarized and reviewed the preceding talks, discussing possible future trajectories for this research. In particular, he highlighted how incredibly diverse the sounds were that presenters exhibited, including many tokens that were in no way vocal, despite being interactionally meaningful (e.g. whistles, inhalations). We continue to be amazed by the ways in which humans are able to create action with their bodies, what tokens come to be interactionally useful, and what components are designed into conversational turns.

Ogden’s abstract, though not his verbal summary, is below:

As far as we know, non-lexical vocalisations occur in all languages. However, much remains to be discovered about how much they vary from language to language, or to what extent they are conventionalised either in their form, their sequential positioning, or their meaning/function. Some such vocalisations are describable using conventional phonetic terminology. One such example is grunts that display effort, which tend to be initiated with a glottal stop and consist of vowel sounds made in the pharynx or the back of the vocal tract (Esling 2005); or clicks (Ogden 2013), which are consonant sounds that occur lexically in a small number of languages, and serve other functions in English and other languages such as expressions of affective stance, and aspects of the management of talk (such as initiating a new sequence, marking incipient speakership or displaying trouble in a word search). Other vocalisations, like whistles or sniffs, are less speech-like, and are therefore less amenable to being produced or represented as speech-like events. In all cases, an important question is: how do such vocalisations come to make and display meaning, and to what extent are they a part of our social, interactional and linguistic repertoire?

Non-lexical vocalisations are outwith the usual remit of linguistics, but they do exhibit some of the characteristics of conventional linguistic signs. Among these are some arbitrariness of the [form : meaning] mapping – even though their semiosis may be grounded in indexicality or iconicity. They also exhibit aspects of distribution which are not merely instantaneous or visceral responses, but are sequentially and positionally sensitive: in other words, position in turn and sequence are crucial elements of semiosis for such vocalisations.

Because of this rather marginal linguistic status, I will argue, such vocalisations are a key phenomenon in understanding the relationship between language and interaction and boundaries of language. I will argue for an account of non-lexical vocalisations that is grounded in the fact that speech is one bodily activity among others; that the methods for making and interpreting their meaning are grounded in interaction; and that they help us to understand more precisely the nature of spoken language as an inherently social and embodied phenomenon.



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