Facial expression as securing shared understanding in sequences involving stance

Johanna Ruusuvuori, Anssi Peräkylä

University of Tampere, Finland, University of Helsinki, Finland

WS167: What can face and gaze tell us about language use in interaction?

Facial expression is a flexible interactional resource that is easily adaptable to the contingencies of a situation. In our previous analyses of facial expression in the context of story-telling we have found that the facial expression of the story-teller seems to be able to stretch the temporal boundaries of the action in question. In this presentation we will focus on cases where facial expression makes some aspect of the ongoing action persist after the turn of talk that has conveyed it has been completed.

We suggest that this temporal flexibility of the face enforces its role as one subtle and easily deployable device in securing shared understanding and affiliation: as a non-vocal means to pursue a relevant response. For example in cases where the response is delayed, through facial expression the participants are able to quickly and unobtrusively hint at an appropriate way to receive the utterance in question and thus avoid a more overt, vocal clarification of meaning.

The instances of interaction that we have analysed involve a fine-grained coordination of language and visual. The study contributes to the developing body of research on the interplay of different modalities of interaction (facial expression, gaze, gesture, surrounding artefacts and space, spoken interaction) in the process of constituting coherent and meaningful courses of action. The method used is conversation analysis.

Session: Workshop
What can face and gaze tell us about language use in interaction?
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 06