IPrA 2019: Panel – Grammar-body interface in social interaction

Leelo Keevallik & Simona Pekarek-Doehler are organising a panel at the upcoming IPrA conference in Hong Kong, concerning how the body and grammar are intertwined.


During the past two decades, the increased focus on naturally occurring language use, facilitated through the availability of audio and video recorded data for linguistic analysis, has led to fundamental reconceptualizations in the field of language sciences. Grammar is no longer dominantly seen from a bird’s-eye view (cf. Hopper 2011) as an autonomously structured inventory of items and abstract combination rules, but is understood as a usage-based, temporal, and ever-adaptable resource for interaction. As such, grammar is increasingly studied in its natural habitat, i.e. social interaction. Yet, it is only recently that the workings of grammar have started to be systematically related to the complexly structured multimodal ecology of social interaction (but see Goodwin’s 1981 seminal work on the issue).

A few recent studies in interactional linguistics and conversation analysis (CA) have shown how speakers’ use of grammar is inextricably intertwined with other, namely embodied, semiotic resources, such as gaze, gesture and bodily movements (Keevallik 2013; Mondada 2014; Stoenica 2018) and how the real-time production of an utterance’s syntactic trajectory may be affected by such embodied conduct (Mondada 2009; Sorjonen &amp; Raevaara 2014). Such evidence paves the way toward more holistic understandings of the functioning of language within the complex ecology of social interaction.</p><p>In this panel we bring together studies that scrutinize how grammar interfaces with bodily conduct as a resource for social interaction.  The studies embrace well-established methods in CA and interactional linguistics by analyzing speaker use of grammar in light of the sequential organization of social interaction (Schegloff 2007) and of temporally emerging and negotiable turn-constructional units (Sacks et al. 1974). At the same time, they draw on the recent “embodied turn in research on language and social interaction” (Nevile 2015) by targeting the emergence of grammar as affected by body movements – such as gaze, posture and gesture –, both locally and in the form of routinized structures. The studies cover a range of grammatical constructions at different levels of granularity and abstractness (from grammaticalized discourse markers through complex syntax to abstract constructional schemata), across a number of languages stemming from a variety of language (sub) families (Indo-European, Finno-Ugric, Semitic, and Sino-Tibetan). Based on the cumulative evidence provided by the studies, the panel seeks to contribute to a better understanding of how embodied behavior should figure in our description of grammar.

Preliminarily confirmed participants:

Elwys deStefani (Belgium)

Anne-Sylvie Horlacher (Switzerland)

Leelo Keevallik (Sweden)

Tiina Keisanen (Finland)

Xiaoting Li (Canada)

Yael Maschler (Israel)

Simona Pekarek Doehler (Switzerland)

Mirka Rauniomaa (Finland)

Ioana-Maria Stoenica (Switzerland)

Jürgen Streeck (US)

Sandra Thompson (US)