Languaging, Language and Interactivity in Playing a Card Game – a Multimodal Event Analysis

Extending Research Horizons in Applied Linguistics - Between Interdisciplinarity and Methodological Diversity - Hadrian Aleksander Lankiewicz

Grzegorz Grzegorczyk [+-]
University of Gdańsk
Grzegorz Grzegorczyk, PhD in linguistics and currently an assistant professor at the Department of Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies of the University of Gdańsk, Poland. His scientific interests focus on interactivity, dialogicality and languaging as emerging in educational, therapeutic and coaching conversations. His current research is in two domains, dialogically constructed learning spaces in academic tutoring and agency and linguistic interactivity in coaching. He chooses video ethnographic methods to collect data for multimodal analysis where he observes how interbodily dynamics and languaging contribute to speakers co-ordinate in their communicative and sense-making activities. Inspired by Love’s concept of two orders of language, Steffensen’s understanding of interactivity and Cowley’s distributed approach to language he concentrates on pico-scale events in interpersonal synergies which constitute talk.


Despite advances in linguistic study and the relational turn which we observe in research and description of the phenomenon of language mainstream research is, as before, (more or less heavily) tinted with Written Language Bias (cf. Linell 2019). Despite perspective shift which occurred in the late 20th century towards spoken and interactional aspect (also referred to by an increasing number of scholars as ‘languaging’) these new approaches adopted the old monologistic paradigm. Communication is viewed as a series of actions exchanged between individuals who act according to their individual intentions and are subject to conditions such as gender, age, background, status, etc. as contextually stable properties. Discourse in monologistic take (even in Discourse Analysis or Conversational Analysis) is understood as a process in which mentally functioning individuals and social structures are autonomous and mutually independent entities (Linell 1998: 7). By placing emphasis on structural organisation of linguistic interaction (‘talk-in-interaction’) monologism overlooks the fact that when individuals language together they display mutual dynamic interdependencies as “actors-in-specific interactions and contexts […] invoked by and emergent with (inter)actions”. (Linell 1998: 8). This is why in this chapter we intend to give more attention to what makes language special: its ontogenetic contingency on interaction between speakers and its essential value as an experiential, enacted and maintained flow that is changed by the real-time activity of interacting human agents. By so doing we will be able to turn towards active situated processes (e.g. conversational interactions or sense-making activities) instead of analysing a set of ‘linguistic products’ or static structures. As a consequence we will follow Rączaszek-Leonardi’s postulate “language must be viewed as radically heterogeneous and as spread across space, time and bodies” (Rączaszek-Leonardi, 2009: 178) and we go to investigate people as they “do language” rather than “use” it. As people connect the past, the present and the future, the different time scales enable their bodies to talk to each other, to listen to talking others (and selves), and to read and write texts. Apart from such obviously “linguistic” activities, human beings also become engaged in language-based activities such as task solving, thinking aloud, doing self-talk, giving and interpreting signs, etc. In short, they “do” language. This also accords with the view that the most important things in human lives happen between persons, rather than within or without them (cf. Sidorkin 1999: 11). If so, it follows that the effectiveness of being an effective communicator is contingent upon how conversing agents create an interactional dialogical space and ‘language’ in it. On this view, we find that the epistemic results conversing agents enjoy are not yielded by the “use” and “processing” of symbolic forms but by their agency, interactivity and languaging. We therefore claim that language is an activity: as such, it is not “a rational item of knowledge that the mind deploys to express inner rationality” (Evans 2018, 10) but, rather, dynamical, embodied (non-abstract), existing on different timescales (multiscalar) (Steffensen and Cowley 2010) and partly non-local (Love 2004; Thibault 2011). Thinking and language emerge through the interactivity, or sense saturated coordination (Steffensen 2013) that couples agents to their social and physical environments. The term ‘languaging’ direct attention to the fact that bodily and situational processes in the here-and-now and their organization across different spatial and temporal scales are fundamental in communication and sense-making (e.g. Love 2017). In order to illustrate these claims we will conduct a series of experiments in which a group of students will be video recorded as they play a board game Codenames whose mechanics is based on linguistic interaction. When analysing the recordings we will be interested in the contingencies the participants hinge on in their dialogical exchanges to build consensual domains in which they establish meanings and strategies for making them explicit to other players. By applying Multimodal Event Analysis we will address the pico-scale of dialogical interactional dynamics of the participants cooperating in a problem space reaching an insight into the nature of a linguistic task. As language is distributed by nature (e.g. Cowley 2011, Steffensen 2016) these dynamics will include the synchrony of physical setting, material artefacts, interbodily dynamics between the participants (especially in relation to gaze and the manual handling of objects), and verbal patterns that prompt them to simulate themselves and each other towards the satisfactory outcome. Our interest will be in the way the players as languaging agents organise their interactivity (sense-saturated coordination) and how languaging as prompted by the situational conditions of the game facilitates their sense-making processes. Unlike in the game itself, in our study we focus on participant’s efficiency, not effectiveness. In this way the goals of participants in the experiment and those the researcher will be radically different which should allow for fairly objective view of what happens. In this study we aim to put to test Van den Herik’s claim that “linguistic knowledge should be conceived of as practical knowledge – or knowing-how – rather than theoretical knowledge – or knowing-that” (Van den Herik 2019: 60). On a more theoretical level this should find echo in Mulcaster’s 500-year-old insight that “languaging enables us to understand” and, in so doing, enables humans to engage actively with each other.

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Grzegorczyk, Grzegorz . Languaging, Language and Interactivity in Playing a Card Game – a Multimodal Event Analysis. Extending Research Horizons in Applied Linguistics - Between Interdisciplinarity and Methodological Diversity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Feb 2022. ISBN 9780000000000. Date accessed: 13 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.41514. Feb 2022

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