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The role of the body in coordinating minds and utterances in interaction [invited talk]


Holler,  Judith
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Holler, J. (2016). The role of the body in coordinating minds and utterances in interaction [invited talk]. Talk presented at the International Workshop on Language Production (IWLP 2016). La Jolla, CA, USA. 2016-07-25 - 2016-07-27.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-A09B-C
Human language has long been considered a unimodal activity, with the body being considered a mere vehicle for expressing acoustic linguistic meaning. But theories of language evolution point towards a close link between vocal and visual communication early on in history, pinpointing gesture as the origin of human language. Some consider this link between gesture and communicative vocalisations as having been temporary, with conventionalized linguistic code eventually replacing early bodily signaling. Others argue for this link being permanent, positing that even fully-fledged human language is a multi-modal phenomenon, with visual signals forming integral components of utterances in faceto- face conversation. My research provides evidence for the latter. Based on this research, I will provide insights into some of the factors and principles governing multimodal language use in adult interaction. My talk consists of three parts: First, I will present empirical findings showing that movements we produce with our body are indeed integral to spoken language and closely linked to communicative intentions underlying speaking. Second, I will show that bodily signals, first and foremost manual gestures, play an active role in the coordination of meaning during face-to-face interaction, including fundamental processes like the grounding of referential utterances. Third, I will present recent findings on the role of bodily communicative acts in the psycholinguistically challenging context of turn-taking during conversation. Together, the data I present form the basis of a framework aiming to capture multi-modal language use and processing situated in face-to-face interaction, the environment in which language first emerged, is acquired and used most.