While there is some initial recognition that the body may sometimes perform actions without language, prior interactional research has largely viewed talk as organizationally fundamental and body behavior temporally and sequentially organized with respect to it. On the other hand, a great deal of work has been done on linguistic structures in the sequential organization of social interaction. But very little work exists of the complex relations among grammatical form, sequential organization and embodiment.

The project examines talk and body behavior together as complementary aspects of talk-in-interaction, and how exactly different modalities may work together to constitute coherent courses of action. On this view, language is not an autonomous (grammatical) system, but a set of practices and resources within the sequential organization of social interaction.

A central theoretical and practical starting point for the project is the concept of ‘social action formats’ (Fox 2000, 2007). By these we understand the recurrent linguistic routines, conversational patterns, turn-constructional formats, and formats for enacting particular activities that originate in the interactional needs of participants in talk-in-interaction.

Research questions

At the level of individual turns-at-talk, we aim to uncover some of the most common social action formats in the spoken English and Finnish data, and examine them in view of how speakers deploy the grammatical, lexico-semantic, prosodic, and embodied practices such as gestures, head shakes, gaze and the body, in combination with the sequential organization of talk, in the moment-by-moment construction of these formats. Secondly, we will examine how the concurrent verbal and non-verbal practices enter into action construction and turn projection at the level of extended multi-unit turns. Thirdly, we aim to describe how these practices figure at the level of sequences of turns in paired actions such as question–answer sequences and other types of adjacency pairs.


The data will consist of 30–40 hours of video recordings of naturally-occurring interactions representing different degrees of task-orientation (from task-oriented to non-task-oriented) and planning (from non-planned mundane conversation to more planned public and institutional speech events). The main principle in data collection is that the interactants are involved in various everyday and more institutional activities, including making use of objects and artifacts in their surround (e.g. mobile phones, books, kitchen utensils, tools).

Data are collected in Oulu (both in Finnish and English, for example, among exchange students), the United States and Australia.

Last updated: 12.12.2016