New chapter: Keevallik – Multimodal ‘noun phrases’

Keevallik has an upcoming chapter in: The ‘Noun Phrase’ in Everyday Interaction across Languages, T. Ono & S. Thompson (Eds.). Typological Studies in Language. John Benjamins.

Multimodal “noun phrases”

In co-present interaction, participants’ bodies are continuously available for sense-making. Linguists, however, have generally analyzed grammatical patterns, such as noun phrases, separately from the rest of human behavior. This chapter looks at a collection of cases in Swedish, English, and Estonian, where the speaker initiates a noun phrase but completes it with an embodied demonstration. A typical instance involves the speaker having uttered a predicate and initiating the noun phrase with determiner or other non-head element, and then closely fitting an embodied demonstration right after it. Other participants treat this multimodal structure as complete and comprehensible. Building on earlier research on syntactic-bodily units (Keevallik 2013, 2017) this study calls into question the analytic boundary between language and the body and argues that grammatical projection cross-cuts modalities even within the assumedly robust “noun phrase”.

Keywords: syntactic-bodily units, multimodal “noun phrase”, Swedish, English, Estonian, dance instruction, interactional linguistics, determiner, preposition, embodiment