Multimodality: Language & the Body - LAN00066H

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  • Department: Language and Linguistic Science
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Richard Ogden
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2017-18

Module summary

Most of our language use and acquisition happens through face-to-face interaction, which gives us access not only to what we and others say, but also how we use our bodies in interacting with others. A growing area of research explores how language is connected to gesture, facial expression and eye gaze: how are multiple channels of information like lexical choice, syntactic structure, intonational structure, and other aspects of linguistic production connected to the use of the body as we talk? How do we interact with one another and with objects in a physical world? How does this shape our language, and how does our language reflect the demands of being human beings in bodies, and in a physical world? In this module, we explore language as a multimodal phenomenon, grounding our work in everyday interactions, and using the methodological resources of conversation analysis, gesture studies, and phonetics.

Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2017-18 to Summer Term 2017-18

Module aims

Most of our language use and acquisition happens through face-to-face interaction, which gives us access not only to what we and others say, but also how we use our bodies in interacting with others. A growing area of research explores how language is connected to gesture, facial expression and eye gaze: how are multiple channels of information like lexical choice, syntactic structure, intonational structure, and other aspects of linguistic production connected to the use of the body as we talk? How do we interact with one another and with objects in a physical world? How does this shape our language, and how does our language reflect the demands of being human beings in bodies, and in a physical world? In this module, we explore language as a multimodal phenomenon, grounding our work in everyday interactions, and using the methodological resources of conversation analysis, gesture studies, and phonetics.

Module learning outcomes

At the end of this module you will be able to:

  • Recognise the different modalities that are relevant for language use in spoken face-to-face interaction, including: facial expression, manual gestures, phonetic production, eye gaze
  • Use appropriate software to study visible bodily actions, including gesture and speech
  • Be able to annotate and transcribe spoken and visible/gestural behaviours using standard transcription methods
  • Write about a problem in face-to-face interaction, drawing on technical skills, and showing an appreciation of some of the debates around the topic

You will know:

  • Various ways in which speakers use language and the body together as resources for meaning and action in face-to-face interaction
  • Major theories developed to account for specific modalities such as facial expressions, manual gesture, speech and eye gaze
  • Important empirical studies conducted on specific modalities and their coordination with language production

Module content

Practical stream

The practicals will cover the following topics:

  • ELAN (software for the analysis and annotation of video data)
  • Making suitable data extracts
  • Making collections of comparable extracts for the purposes of analysis
  • Practicalities and house-keeping while working with digital data: making video clips, file formats, saving data, etc.
  • Annotation of data in ELAN and Praat; importing/exporting between these programs and others, including annotation files
  • Transcription of data for presentation, using standard schemes for conversationaldata: Mondada’s scheme for multimodal transcription, GAT2 for prosodic features

Content

The content in the spring term will cover important topics in the analysis of face-to-face spoken interaction. The precise content will vary from year to year, but is likely to include:
1. Foundations of multimodality (including the relations between spoken and signed languages, and the place of gesture)
2. Gaze: its alignment to other events in interaction, its use in turn construction and the formation of social actions
3. Manual gesture: its alignment to other events in interaction, its internal structure, and its relation to language production and processing
4. Facial expression, including relations with prosodic features in the construction of turns at talk

In the summer term, we will focus on final projects, with activities that support students’ independent research. These will vary depending to the needs of the group but are likely to include:
1. An essay planning session
2. Critical thinking and writing exercises to support essay-writing
3. “Shut up and write!” sessions
4. Exploring relations between data and theory
5. One-to-one meetings with the module tutors

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
3000 Word Project Report
N/A 50
Essay/coursework
Exercise 1
N/A 20
Essay/coursework
Exercise 2
N/A 30

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
3000 Word Project Report
N/A 50
Essay/coursework
Exercise 1
N/A 20
Essay/coursework
Exercise 2
N/A 30

Module feedback

Feedback will be given within two weeks of submission of the first two pieces of work. Submission will be online, to enable us to guarantee timely submission and retain a record of submitted work. The whole portfolio will be submitted in the Summer term, for second marking and sending work to the external examiner.

Indicative reading

(More specific reading will be provided in the module.)
Bavelas, J. B., Chovil, N., Lawrie, D. A., & Wade, A. (1992). Interactive gestures. Discourse Processes, 15, 469-489.
Enfield, N. J. (2009). The Anatomy of Meaning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kendon, A. (2004). Gesture. Visible Action as Utterance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mondada, L. (2016). Challenges of multimodality: Language and the body in social interaction. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 20(3), 336–366. http://doi.org/10.1111/josl.1_12177



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.