Research Topic

The Grammar-Body Interface in Social Interaction

About this Research Topic

Human communication rests on a complex ecology of multiple resources that are orchestrated, both synchronously and sequentially, for collaborative meaning-making and coordination of social action. A long tradition of linguistic research has enabled us to better understand the nature of verbal resources and their role in communication, while another line of inquiry has advanced our knowledge of how gesture, posture, and gaze are implicated in that process. These lines of investigation, however, have largely developed independently from each other. Today, it is time to bridge the gap and explore how verbal and bodily conduct work in concert with each other as the keystone of human interaction.

Our aim in this Research Topic is to analyze and discuss how grammar and the body interface in naturally occurring interaction. We know from work in conversation analysis, interactional linguistics, multimodal construction grammar, and related fields that verbal and bodily conducts are intricately intertwined: they may be variably synchronized or de-synchronized, they may mutually elaborate each other in the accomplishment of social actions, or they may accomplish distinct actions (quasi) synchronously. We also have initial evidence for how participants’ verbal-bodily conducts may be mutually adjusted on-line, in the very course of their production. Yet, systematicity in how language and body interface in the course of communicative interaction still remains largely unexplored, and empirical analyses of how a given (type of) grammatical construction is recurrently coupled with specific embodied conduct is scarce. Therefore, our primary interest lies in presenting collection-based analyses of grammar-body assemblies: recurrent (simultaneous or successive) combinations of grammatical constructions with observable embodied conduct. Thereby, we aim to uncover regularities in the co-occurrence of multiple modalities and to ultimately demonstrate the methodic character of such grammar-body assemblies. Among the questions addressed are the following:
• How do precise grammatical constructions and bodily conduct work together in recurrent ways to perform specifiable actions and to deal with fundamental interaction-organizational issues such as projection, completion, or backlinking?
• What can multimodal analysis contribute to our understanding of the structure and function of grammatical constructions?
• Is there evidence for the routinization of grammar-body combinations, i.e., multimodal social action formats?
• In what ways are such formats contingent upon the material and spatial coordinates of the local interactional context?
• How are the boundary phenomena between linguistic and bodily expressions, such as non-lexical vocalizations, involved in these formats?
• What consequences ensue for our understanding of some of the basic units of social interaction, such as the turn or the sequence?

The contributions to this Research Topic will advance our knowledge of basic functional principles of human communicative interaction, such as projection and its correlate, anticipation. They will provide novel insights into the complex temporalities of different semiotic systems in use and the differential deployment of the corresponding modalities. Furthermore, they will demonstrate how analyzing language use in its full local ecology has the potential of deepening, if not revising, our very understanding of language. We welcome contributions of various types, including original research papers, opinion pieces, and reviews.


Keywords: multimodality, grammar, turn-taking, projection, grammar-body interface, social interaction


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Human communication rests on a complex ecology of multiple resources that are orchestrated, both synchronously and sequentially, for collaborative meaning-making and coordination of social action. A long tradition of linguistic research has enabled us to better understand the nature of verbal resources and their role in communication, while another line of inquiry has advanced our knowledge of how gesture, posture, and gaze are implicated in that process. These lines of investigation, however, have largely developed independently from each other. Today, it is time to bridge the gap and explore how verbal and bodily conduct work in concert with each other as the keystone of human interaction.

Our aim in this Research Topic is to analyze and discuss how grammar and the body interface in naturally occurring interaction. We know from work in conversation analysis, interactional linguistics, multimodal construction grammar, and related fields that verbal and bodily conducts are intricately intertwined: they may be variably synchronized or de-synchronized, they may mutually elaborate each other in the accomplishment of social actions, or they may accomplish distinct actions (quasi) synchronously. We also have initial evidence for how participants’ verbal-bodily conducts may be mutually adjusted on-line, in the very course of their production. Yet, systematicity in how language and body interface in the course of communicative interaction still remains largely unexplored, and empirical analyses of how a given (type of) grammatical construction is recurrently coupled with specific embodied conduct is scarce. Therefore, our primary interest lies in presenting collection-based analyses of grammar-body assemblies: recurrent (simultaneous or successive) combinations of grammatical constructions with observable embodied conduct. Thereby, we aim to uncover regularities in the co-occurrence of multiple modalities and to ultimately demonstrate the methodic character of such grammar-body assemblies. Among the questions addressed are the following:
• How do precise grammatical constructions and bodily conduct work together in recurrent ways to perform specifiable actions and to deal with fundamental interaction-organizational issues such as projection, completion, or backlinking?
• What can multimodal analysis contribute to our understanding of the structure and function of grammatical constructions?
• Is there evidence for the routinization of grammar-body combinations, i.e., multimodal social action formats?
• In what ways are such formats contingent upon the material and spatial coordinates of the local interactional context?
• How are the boundary phenomena between linguistic and bodily expressions, such as non-lexical vocalizations, involved in these formats?
• What consequences ensue for our understanding of some of the basic units of social interaction, such as the turn or the sequence?

The contributions to this Research Topic will advance our knowledge of basic functional principles of human communicative interaction, such as projection and its correlate, anticipation. They will provide novel insights into the complex temporalities of different semiotic systems in use and the differential deployment of the corresponding modalities. Furthermore, they will demonstrate how analyzing language use in its full local ecology has the potential of deepening, if not revising, our very understanding of language. We welcome contributions of various types, including original research papers, opinion pieces, and reviews.


Keywords: multimodality, grammar, turn-taking, projection, grammar-body interface, social interaction


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 January 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 January 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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