IPrA2021: Non-lexicals and multisensoriality panel

Hofstetter and Keevallik have organized a panel at IPrA2021 on non-lexical vocalizations and how they are used to do sensory work, “Nonlexical vocalizations and the sensing body”, IPrA, June 27-July 2, Winterthur, Switzerland.

We are joined by the following experts and their research presentations:

Emily Hofstetter. Interactionally situating the power scream: Analyzing bodily motivated vocalizations

Heike Baldauf-Quilliatre & Cordula Schwarze. Vocal-bodily displays of hesitation in interaction

Yotam Ben-Moshe. Hebrew stance-taking gasps between language and the body.

Agnes Löfgren. Non-lexical vocalizations as local words during multimodal instructive sequences in opera rehearsals

Misao Okada Yanagimachi. Is this time to attack or defend?: some uses of repetitions in boxing instructions

Iris Nomikou. Sensing one’s own body via another person’s voice: Mother’s grunts as displays of infants’ agentivity.

Marina Cantarutti. ‘Crash, boom, bang!’ Responsive animations in English interaction.


Language and the body have increasingly been demonstrated to be intertwined, from body movements being integrated in syntax (Keevallik, 2018) to the coordination of multiple communicative modalities into action gestalts (Mondada, 2019). The renewed interest in sensoriality (Mondada, 2018) opens the possibility of investigating how bodily sensations are managed in interaction, extending our focus beyond the verbal-visual traces of the body (Streeck, 2003) and moving towards a full appreciation of the body’s role in linguistic encounters. In this panel, we provide a forum for discussing how sensory phenomena are managed using nonlexical vocalizations. We define nonlexical vocalizations, or liminal signs (Dingemanse 2020) inclusively: across the papers in this panel, we will see not only response cries such as ‘whoops’ or ‘ow’, but also sighing, moaning, and other tokens that defy lexical/nonlexical classification.

Several nonlexical vocalizations have historically been linked to bodily experience ‘flooding out’ into public display. As tokens, many of them regularly are interpreted as if revealing mental and bodily phenomena for co-participants (Keevallik & Ogden, 2020). While cognitive and physiological studies of nonlexical vocalizations have treated this relationship as self-evident, we are yet to address the social accountability involved in producing such sounds in naturalistic activities.

Moreover, little attention has been given to nonlexical vocalizations’ constraints and affordances, from phonological options to syntactic placement, and to how they relate to  embodied actions occurring at the time of production. Although the vocalizations individually are not typically conventional tokens, as a whole they offer a set of related affordances, such as easy modification of form (prolongation, reduplication, vowel quality) to suit situated action while still being recognizable as an instance of ‘a strain grunt’, ‘a sensation of pleasurable taste’, or ‘a pain cry’. Thus, nonlexical vocalizations are a site for especially creative solutions to achieving situated action, yet they have not received significant attention.

This panel will develop both interactional research into the display and organization of sensation (smell, kinesthesia, pain…) in everyday interaction as well as linguistic research into the boundaries of language. The papers aim to advance an integrated, embodied, and multisensory understanding of language that inclusively accounts for liminal signs.

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