IPrA2021: Löfgren: Non-lexical vocalizations as local words during instructive sequences in opera rehearsals

With the non-lexicals and multisensoriality panel, Löfgren presented “Non-lexical vocalizations as local words during instructive sequences in opera rehearsals”


This paper explores sequences where non-lexical vocalizations are recycled in instructive tellings during scenic opera rehearsals that target the combination of music and dramatic action. During the rehearsals depictive (Clark, 2016) non-lexical vocalizations are frequently used to illustrate physical features of the world (such as a perceptible object), or emotional displays of a character. Even though they occasionally go unnoticed, orientations to these non-lexical vocalizations vary from active displays of understandings through confirmatory tokens such as ‘yeah’ and implicit displays of understanding through non-lexical vocalizations, to embodied responsive receipts or verbal reformulations. This paper focuses on the latter instances in sequences that follow a pattern where 1) the director illustrates a feature of the performance through a non-lexical vocalization 2) a performer displays a tentative understanding of the non-lexical item 3) the director dismisses the understanding through verbal reformulation and iteration of the non-lexical item. Through these multimodal sequences, aesthetic properties of the developing opera performance are established. Although the non-lexical vocalizations that are re-used in a sequence may vary in form, the paper shows that they are conceptually linked, as evidenced by their sequential proximity, relational similarity and the similar embodied behavior that accompany them. The paper argues that the participants establish the non-lexical vocalizations as local words with variable phonetic forms that can be recycled in the interactional context. It is thus demonstrated how the sensing body gives rise to items with lexical potential in real time, thus providing possible insights to the local phylogenesis of words.


Clark, H. (2016). Depicting as a method of communication. Psychological Review, 123:3

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